64 lightningThere are those special moments when a pithy and cogent explanation of something you’ve experienced many times in life illuminates that life experience.

Usually, like a lightning bolt.

The insight appears, and with it, understanding that serves you the rest of your life.

Much of Proverbs is like that for me. I became Christian in my twenties, at Harvard—a place where some pretty smart people congregate. Well, the wisdom in many Proverbs provided illuminating clarity that changed my perspective on almost all of life.

So too, with the insight I’ll share with you now. A decade ago I was in training to facilitate a series of powerful character development workshops, and a guest speaker had come to share with us.

His name was John and he called it the “Universal Human Paradigm.”

It has changed my life, my coaching, and the leadership of hundreds of pastors I’ve had the privilege to equip since then.

He called it “Universal” because it applies to everyone, everywhere. “Human” because it is the way human beings behave. And “Paradigm” because it is a worldview, an orientation, a way of interpreting and operating in the world.

64 resistance machineJohn startled me with his opening assertion: “Human beings are resistance machines!”


Immediately, I discredited his statement as preposterous: “Look, I don’t know everything, but I studied human ontology in seminary and human beings are not machinesWe are made in the image of God … and we are free to choose all our choices all the time! Who does this guy think he is, anyway, and what are his credentials?? Resistance machines—BAH!!I scoffed.

“Here’s how it works”, John continued, too nonchalantly for such a controversial statement. “When life looks the way we prefer, we engage it. We embrace it; give ourselves to it. We participate. We play… Don’t we?”

“Ummm, yup. I can see that” I thought. “In fact, when life looks good, I don’t even think about myself or my participation. I’m just immersed in it!

64 withholding participationJohn continued: “When life doesn’t look the way we prefer…we resist it… The universal way humans resist life is by withholding their participation from it.”


Again, I thought: “That’s not true!  I do not withhold my participation when I don’t like life! I jump right in and fix it! Solve it! I address what’s wrong with it! That’s what I do!!!” I assured myself.

Doesn’t everyone?



Coaching distinctions #64.doc