Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mad Men and the “Art” of Change

Recently my housemates and I were introduced to a show called "Mad Men" . The show revolves around the lives of certain men and women working at Sterling Cooper, a Madison Avenue Advertising Company, in 1960's New York. Amongst all the charaters, the show particularly focuses on the life of Don Draper, Partner and Creative Director for Sterling Cooper.
Don's life revolves around work, his wife Betty, his children, and his mistresses. This character, played by actor Jon Hamm, has an intriguing and warped view on life, which he sometimes tends to persuade others to follow. Here is a small clip to give you an insight into the life of this 'Mad Man':

This week I began reading Jay Adams’ book “How to Help People Change”, and although I have not gotten too far into the reading, I could not be anything but overwhelmed on the book’s focus on the importance of an inward change. Adams’ states within the introduction that a Christian counselor’s view of change “(…)goes far beyond minimal or incidental modifications in a person’s behavior. The superficial change offered by secular counselors will not do. Substantial change requires the Holy Spirit’s alteration of the heart (one’s inner life known only to God and oneself).”

As I began reading, I thought about two instances in the show were change in a person is approached by two different people, from two different perspectives. Within the show, Don is put in the situation of advising his secretary, Peggy, on a personal matter. She had recently gotten pregnant out of wedlock and had given her baby away, with no desire whatsoever to keep him. His perspective on “change” is much more about the surface and does not involve actual change, but more of a - avoid the issue and move forward pretending all is ok - type of change.

"It'll shock you how much it never happened..." - Don Draper

From a Christian perspective, this type of “advice” about change is incorrect and Jay Adam’s states that “external changes that do not follow an internal change of heart toward God always move a person further away from the Lord.” Our purpose in Christian counseling is to produce lasting change, that will not only change the person’s outside life, but that will also change their inner spiritual life, and thus bring them closer to God , a closer relationship with Him and a deeper understanding of who He is. This type of change is also expressed within the show to Peggy, by her priest, within the first minute of the following clip:

Peggy and the Priest

The priest tries to make Peggy see what her problem is, and tries to make her understand her need for communion with God and others, as well as her need for confession of sin and acceptance of God’s love and forgiveness. From the very beginning and within chapter 4 of the book, Adams’ points out the fact that all counseling reduces to the two main commandments: love God and love others. He also states that “human relationships are a three-way, not a two-way affair. That means that biblically acceptable change takes into consideration one’s relationship to both God and man.”

I believe that within our society today, many people are yearning to produce lasting change in their lives, but find themselves listening to wrong teachings that put them further away from true change that can only occur through the principles set out by God in His word. Thus it is our responsibility as Christian counselors to bring about this change into this mad world.


  1. I totally agree with you. Scripture calls for a renewing of the mind (Cognitive change) and of the heart (Spiritual change). It's sad that so many people view change as being simply alteration of behavior. Someone will change their behavior long enough to appease the individual that wishes the change. Once that individual is out of the picture, it is a good bet that they will continue their previous behavior. This is also evident in scripture with the statement that 'A dog will always return to its vomit,' gross but true. A dog does what it does what is natural. Likewise a non-believer does what they do because their heart and mind is lost in their own sinful existence.

  2. Thanks for posting this. Although I don't agree entirely with all that Jay Adams says about biblical counseling, I absolutely agree that lasting change must come from within, and that substantial change requires the Holy Spirit to work in a person's heart. All of my counseling training has been biblically based, from a Christian worldview, and I have often wondered how secular counseling could ever result in substantial life changes.

  3. While I agree that Draper's view on change, and life, is flawed, and that the Priest takes the correct approach in bringing significant, permanent change about, I don't think the characters would agree that it is in their best interest to take the later approach. Jay Adam's approach to change is the best approach but it is fruitless if the individual does not know Christ and does not understand their need for change. Peggy would be more than willing to take Don's advice because she is seeking to save her career and does not pay much mind to the claims of Christianity. We must be willing to spend the time to bring these individuals to a right relationship with Christ before we can help bring about change in their lives.


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