Renewing the mind: kind to be cruel or cruel to be kind? — Vivienne Schultz

Optimum Human

A monthly column by social entrepreneur and A2B Transformation Group founder Vivienne Schultz.
High volition separates success from mediocrity, failure and dependency.

Dealing properly with human change is never easy — even in the Christian sense. The shifting of a stuck mind to become unstoppable is about building new neural pathways which requires that a human go out of their comfort zone. This is extremely uncomfortable and can cause overt resistance.

The A2B methodology and toolkit has evolved in Africa over the past 24 years and is a tough-love facilitation process to help the human believe in him / herself and move to a state of dominium (responsible leadership). It is God’s blueprint for humans and therefore A2B is satisfied with nothing less.

The opposite is also true. If we constantly provide padding to make others’ lives easier, we rob them of the sense of dignity that comes when a person feels they are in charge of their own life.

Then our kindness is indeed cruel and disempowering.

Let me explain.

Every human being is created with the capacity to lead, to be self-sustaining and to create eco-systems around themselves within which other humans can develop.

If that is the starting point of your ministry or work, it should go without saying that we do not empower humans for the sake of our organisations, ministries or churches. No, we actually empower them to express their dominium in the spheres they feel called to impact.

Here are a few hard questions any organisation should ask:

Do you ever secretly (or not so secretly) express the desire that your beneficiaries should ‘just be grateful for you giving him a chance’?
This is a very hard truth to face.

If we do the work of human empowerment so we can feed off the gratitude of our beneficiaries, it logically means that we are in it for ourselves. We are setting an example of dependency and our beneficiaries will likely mirror our dependency on praise, by being dependent on our so-called kindness.

Perhaps it would be helpful to step back, learn how to optimise your own capacity and discover hardcore tools to help empower others. My privilege, position, compassion or experience does not automatically mean that I know how to empower humans.

Does your programme insist that beneficiaries solve their own problems, regardless of how messy it may seem when they try?
Every time you solve somebody’s problem for them, you have colonised their mind, so to speak. In stead of solving other people’s problems, or giving handouts to make their life easier, the ideal is to create an eco-system overflowing with tools that help them discover solutions themselves.

Use every opportunity to get their anxiety down and their willpower up, so they can problem-solve for themselves.
If you don’t, they will simply exit the programme believing that they were not made for greatness, because you are the real hero in the story (and they will quite possiblY hate you for being so “perfect”).

Is your organisation solely dependent on funding?
Humans are made to respond to challenges — our responsiveness is what makes us unique. If your entire intervention is not pointed at humans solving problems and creating products and processes that can put food on the table, you have only yourself to blame if your beneficiaries become dependent. They stay a dependent extension to your dependency on external handouts.

Any process that does not help a beneficiary become self-sustaining is not contributing to a full expression of human dignity.

If the very organisation is dependent on handouts, why are we surprised when our beneficiaries follow that example and likewise wait for the next food delivery truck to arrive?

If you want to help the unemployed, or people living on the street, or drug addicts  create a self-sustaining, self-funded organisation from the onset where the beneficiary’s every act is part of a value chain that earns a livelihood.

ONLY THIS represents REALITY and restores dignity. Practice practical TRUTH in your walk and talk, and do fewer classes that try to get beneficiaries to agree with a particular set of rules, values or theologies.

What is your answer when beneficiaries ask for help?
No, this is not a silly question. How do you respond when there is a need?
Here at A2B we use two terms a lot — ILOC and ELOC.

If the eco-system in our organisation makes a person believe that he needs help from the outside, we are perpetuating an ELOC system — an External Locus of Control. Simply put, it means the steering wheel of their live is outside themselves, like a remote-control car or a drone.

A drone can do amazing things, but it is controlled by a human who has to monitor its performance while steering it. We do not dignify humans by treating them like drones.

Instead, we should help them discover an Internal Locus of Control. Our friendships and general relationships become dignifying when every contact we have with a human is an opportunity to help them discover that they have the ability to self-direct, problem-solve and self-sustain.

When a human asks for help, don’t give charity. Give them the chance to discover that they can, indeed, solve their own problems and provoke their intrinsic motivation to their own action and state of dominion.

Change always feels threatening; but unless we can deal with the fear, we will never grow.

We have to allow people to find their way themselves.
We have to allow ourselves to enter that sometimes messy space where we are not in control of the choices our beneficiaries make.

Is your organisational system a throughput system or closed?
How do you define success? When and how do you acknowledge growth?
Very often an NGO would work hard for a long time to help humans transform. When an individual responds to the intervention positively, they become the poster boy or girl for the organisation. You may not like the term, but often there is a degree of indoctrination that the values or philosophy of the organisation is the “right” one, and that the best place for the successful beneficiary is to climb the ranks — but not to leave.

We need to build a value exchange where success is not defined by what my singular NGO or ministry accomplishes, but by the way in which people and organisations can collaborate to build human responsiveness.

No single organisation gets everything right. The healthy, empowering way for us to support human change is to intentionally pre-design our organisations with a throughput system. Beneficiaries need to know that they will only have 3 to 5 years to radically empower themselves, with the primary vision to exit the organisation as a partner, an entrepreneur or to work in new, challenging environments with their new skills set.

If we keep them locked in a closed system, our organisation simply becomes a new comfort zone. Humans don’t grow in comfort zones; they become spoilt brats, that exert negative energy, and blame, claim, frame and nail.

Upgrading a beneficiary to the status of an employee simply means that we are putting a big boulder in their way to dominium and success.

Today’s challenge becomes tomorrow’s comfort zone. Unless there is a new challenge, the human will stop growing their responsiveness.

This is a mouthful, indeed.

But to be kind, we need to do what seems like cruelty by insisting on the road less travelled instead of the easy broad highway of charity and handouts.

Solving a problem on behalf of somebody else seems very kind, and receives applause in our society. However, if we could only see the damage it does to the recipient’s ability to believe that they can take ownership and control of their life, we would be shocked.

Please do connect with me at Our toolkits are accepted as an international best practice and we would love to help set up your ministry or organisation so as to support real human transformation.

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