Increasing Agency, and the Healer

May 4, 2011 | 8 comments
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Does winning the lottery increase your agency? In my “Forms of Agency” post, I said yes. After all, the lottery winner suddenly has more resources, which leads to more choices, and isn’t agency about choice? But now that I’ve thought on it some more, I’d like to give a more nuanced response.

Imagine that you are cool dude or dudette (which shouldn’t take too much imagination, since most T&S readers are, in fact, cool dudettes and dudes). You’re witty, well-dressed, and totally hot (as I’m sure you are), and people like you. Now say you win the lottery — suddenly you have several new options available to expand your jet-setting lifestyle! You can get your pilot’s license and an airplane to go with it. Or you can build a theme park in your backyard. Or you can get an all-Prada wardrobe.

Each of these options represents a significant exercise of agency, but they all lead to the same end: increasing your prestige. So, while your options have increased, your values haven’t changed. Now say that, after winning the lottery, you happen upon King Benjamin’s address to his people. Your heart is pricked with a newfound desire to selflessly serve your brothers and sisters. Suddenly a whole sphere of new options opens to you. You can use your lottery winnings to build a vocational school in Detroit to help address chronic unemployment. You can donate your winnings to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and help protect African children from measles. You get the picture.

King Benjamin’s words caused your values to shift. Our values determine which goals we accept as valid, or worthy of our time and effort (etymologically, the words “value” and “valid” come from the same root). So, while increasing resources expands our options marginally, changing values expands our options fundamentally. So winning the lottery increases our agency on one axis, but a change of heart increases agency on another, more profound, axis.

To tie this into my seven “forms of agency” archetypes, before you had read King Benjamin, you were a knight. After reading his words, you also became a healer.

SevenFormsofAgency (1)

Remember that each archetype represents a “sphere” of agency — a set of related values and choices. As I described in the previous post, being a knight is about popularity, leadership, and social power. The healer, in contrast, is about service, health, love, friendship, happiness, and wholeness.

Healer (service, health, love, and wholeness)

Acting as a healer means desiring to fix what’s broken. This isn’t just in the most obvious sense of physical healing, like a nurse or doctor. It’s also about being a friend, offering sympathy, kindness, and a listening ear. It’s about being conscious of nature and living sustainably. It’s about using education as a tool to provide people with the job skills, life skills, and world context needed to function effectively in society. So, professionally, examples of healers include teachers, counselors, environmentalists, stay-at-home parents, and, of course, health service professionals.

Agency is additive. The knight who reads King Benjamin and enters the sphere of healer doesn’t lose his or her agency as a knight. The agency of the healer opens new options while also retaining the previous options. Additionally, a person who can traverse between two forms of agency has additional choices that aren’t available to a person who holds either one of them:

SevenFormsofAgency (1)

Each form of agency is associated with a form of power (because without power, there is no agency). The knight has social power, the ability to influence people. The healer has the power of selflessness or sympathy, the ability to look beyond one’s own limited interests to identify and address the needs of others. Combining these, you have a person who can use social influence to help address the needs of others — a champion, or advocate.

8 Responses to Increasing Agency, and the Healer

  1. Kevin Yang on May 4, 2011 at 2:25 am

    I prefer to be a healer. Nice insights.

  2. Jax on May 4, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Good post…..looking forward to each in the series!

    Glad to see environmentalists and stay-at-home parents in your list of healers! Environmentalists get a bad rap from most conservative LDS, and stay-at-home parents (especially mothers) are always underrecognized for their contributions.

  3. Dave on May 4, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Your paradigm is picking up momentum, Dane. I see a book deal in your future: “The Seven Habits of Highly Affective People.”

  4. Dane Laverty on May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Thanks Kevin and Jax. Dave, I hope your spelling “affective” with an “a” was intentional — that makes for a brilliant pun :)

  5. Adam Greenwood on May 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Cross-class PCs? This won’t end well.

  6. Dane Laverty on May 4, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Well, I’ve got 7 classes outlined, so thats…1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 = 21 two-class combinations. A bit much, but not overwhelming. I could probably name them all, and come up with some sort of distinguishing characteristics for each. Of course, if I get into multi-classing we get…

    7 1-class combinations
    21 2-class combinations
    35 3-class combinations
    35 4-class combinations
    21 5-class combinations
    7 6-class combinations
    1 7-class combination

    for a total of…127 possible combinations. That might get a little trickier :)

  7. Jon on May 5, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Really, when you get right down to it, agency only involves one choice — we can either choose to follow Christ or not to follow Christ. The fact that we are here demonstrates that we chose to follow Him in our first estate. We are now here to see if we will make that same choice based on faith.

  8. Dane Laverty on May 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Jon, so are you saying that choosing a school or a career (or your breakfast cereal) aren’t examples of exercising agency? Or are you saying that choosing to be, say, a computer engineer instead of an accountant in some way represents one’s willingness to follow Christ?