It’s better to light one candle

light-one-candle-quoteIt’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness is like a guiding principle for much of my work and life. At times I do rant and rave about what is wrong with the world, but most of the time I try to do something that makes a difference.

In strengths-based practice we focus on strengths and potential rather than problems and deficits. As Kral (1989) suggests:

If we ask people to look for deficits, they will usually find them, and their view of situations will be coloured by this. If we ask people to look for successes, they will usually find them, and their view of situations will be coloured by this (Kral, 1989).

The idea of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness builds on this approach. Rather than simply complaining about what’s wrong, we can decide to do something to create change. Creating change is often easier when we build on what is already working well or existing strengths.

The reason I joined Transition Newcastle is that, rather than focussing on what is wrong with how we currently do things, we focus on creating the world we want to live in. We aim to create a positive alternative that people will want to join.

In the Alternatives to Violence Project we explore how we can balance respect for self with caring for others, and we encourage people to think before reacting and to expect the best. Rather than simply reacting to provocation, hurt or disrespect, we can do something to stand up for ourselves without escalating the situation.

At times it is easier to complain, and I all too often fall into this trap but, most of the time, I hope I light a candle and help make a difference.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Why I blog
  2. Blogging as an academic
  3. How (and why) I joined the Transition movement
  4. Why I’ve gone rainbow-coloured
  5. 7 principles guiding my work
  6. Social change and strengths-based approaches

This post was prompted by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Candle


Kral, R. (1989). Strategies that work: Techniques for solutions in the schools. Milwaukee, WI: Brieg Family Therapy Center.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Social change and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It’s better to light one candle

  1. Tom Veitch says:

    Hi Graeme,

    I really like this thought – I’m familiar with the phrase, but haven’t considered it in the context that you used it here. I am familiar with Asset Based Community Development from my time working for the Scarman Trust in the UK, but it often seems rare to find projects which work from that basis. Most often the approach is about solving a problem for someone / a group of people, rather than identifying what is already there and can be built on.

    I’ve just watched Cormac Russell’s Sustainable Community Development talk from TEDxExeter ( which is saying the same thing.

    Great to find other examples on your blog here too.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tom,
      I think strengths-based, bottom-up approaches like ABCD are quite hard to put into practice, which is one reason they can be hard to find. At the same time, I think there are many groups (often under the radar) doing amazing work who do capture the heart of ABCD. I suspect if often comes down to a few passionate, motivated people who are willing to put in many hours of hard work.


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