Invitation to Thrive: Transformation Towards Telos

Pamela Ebstyne King Identity, Spirituality and Religion 2 Comments

Pamela Ebstyne King
Excerpts from her installation address
May 5, 2016


The installation address “An Invitation to Thrive”

  • recalled Peter Benson’s tremendous impact—providing a hopeful vision for all young people. He might have encouraged kids to find their spark and adults around them to ignite it—but Peter himself was “a walking blowtorch!”;
  • quoted her own high school graduation speech from 1986 on spiritual life purposes: King feared she hadn’t had a new thought in 30 years, and was grateful for the reframe by her post-doc mentor, Bill Damon, who said, “we call that identity coherence”;
  • reflected on thriving as an invitation and response, a dynamic interaction between Creator and created;
  • pointed out that thriving is not a destination, but it does have a direction, a goal, a telos: God’s purposes for humanity.

These excerpts were first included with the photo gallery from the installation:
“Congratulations Pam King!”

Her address went on to flesh out this invitation to thrive by explaining how she understands this goal for humankind—this “Transformation Towards Telos—in 3 ways:

Telos Slide

Conformity to Christ

First, as Christians we affirm that we are made in the image of God. And the Bible tells us that Christ is the perfect image of God. Becoming like Christ is part of our telos. Being conformed to the likeness of the image of God in Christ is a shared telos among humans. Thus we take on the ways of Christ and grow towards the character of Christ. So in the Thrive Center, we study the virtues—which is very evident in the work of my colleagues Sarah Schnitker and Ben Houltberg.


Second, and although we are called to conformity to the image of God in Christ—that does not mean uniformity with Christ. An element of our telos is to be and become more fully the unique person that God created us to be. So although our telos is to become more like the image of God in Christ, we do that each uniquely—with our own particular gifts and sparks.

Thus, at Thrive our research focuses on understanding what is central to youth as they develop as unique persons. We explore how young people develop a sense of noble purpose, an identity, and their capacity for faith and transcendence. These elements are central to the development of human uniqueness.


As much as we celebrate human uniqueness, thriving is a dynamic—and it insists on relatedness: God created us to be in relationship—with God, humankind, and his creation. As I have been known to say, he created us to become reciprocating selves. We are created to be in mutual relationship with God, one another, and creation: fully formed or forming individuals in full relationship with God, humans, and creation.

We are not renegade selves: developing to our fullest potential without regard to another. Thriving is not individualism run amuck. It is not unbridled humanism. It’s not about “me, me, me.” In fact, it’s the turning “me” on its head to find “we.”

ME-WE Slide

Our telos involves understanding our fit with the people and world around us. Our ongoing relatedness to God, others, and the world leads us to a deepening discovery of our places of contribution.

As such, a distinguishing aspect of thriving is contribution to the greater good. In Peter Benson’s TEDx talk, he exhorts his audience to enable youth to find sparks so youth can help others find their sparks. Thriving is not just doing well—not just living up to one’s own potential—but it is also giving back as we are conformed to Christ.

– Go to the next section, “Transformation Through Transcendence” »