Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Action … or Just Musing About It

Bill Hybels in his wonderful book “Holy Discontent” talks about the things that we observe in the world that burn in our soul so strongly that we feel we MUST do something about them or be consumed by this inner fire.

I’ve been struggling with a holy discontent of my own these days.

My holy discontent is around people in business who will do anything it takes to make their business successful ….. except put ego aside and take collaborative action.

My holy discontent is around people who talk about the power of relationships …. as long as the flow of information, ideas and rewards is one-way (their way).

My holy discontent is around people in the arena of serving the needs of others and who will do whatever it takes to help others …. as long as it fits within their definition of who needs help and how they should be helped (which is so narrow that nobody is being helped).

My holy discontent is around …… <<ah shucks … let’s leave it there.>>  :-)

I have received a lot of advice from people indicating that others will take care of the things that need to be fixed in the world, the things in the world aren’t as bad as people think, we just need to pray about the problems and they will go away, I should mind my own business, I should respect the processes in places (which are not producing any result), etc.

With deepest respect to all of these well-intentioned folks, I disagree with all of this and have often been criticized for standing up to excuses for not getting stuff done.

I do ask difficult questions, after all.

I have been doing a poor job of explaining to them why their explanations don’t sit right with me and then I remembered a quote from Henri Nouwen.

I couldn’t explain it any better than he and his co-authors and so I share it with you.

“Honest, direct confrontation is a true expression of compassion. As Christians, we are in the world without being of it. It is precisely this position that renders confrontation both possible and necessary. The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought. This is compassion.

We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty. We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys. We cannot profess solidarity with those who are oppressed when we are unwilling to confront the oppressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.

But if confrontation is to be an expression of patient action it must be humble.  Our constant temptation is to fall into self-righteous revenge or self-serving condemnation.  The danger here is that our own witness can blind us.  When confrontation is blinded by desire for attention, need for revenge or greed for power, it can easily become self-serving and cease to be compassionate.”

-Henri Nouwen et al, "Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life"


We all have a holy discontent that burns within us.

Are we willing to do what it takes, to collaborate as much as it takes and to take action with every fiber of our being to address our holy discontent?

If so, then good for us.  We are potential role models that the rest of the world might emulate.  We create opportunity to make a difference in the world.

If we are not willing to do this ….

Then it is not a holy discontent.  It is a source of irritation for people who do get things done and who grow weary of hearing us talk about it incessantly without taking action.

If we are not willing to do this ….

We are just creating lots of noise around solutions without really creating a solution.  People, business and the world suffer as a result.

If we are not willing to do this ….

We may be allowing people to control agendas and results based on their own ego-centric reasons.  In this case, we may not be reaching our fullest potential.

If we are not willing to do this ….

It may produce frustration in us as we wonder why we are not making the impact we feel we are capable of making or why the impact we describe to others is not the one we are achieving.  This creates additional internal burdens that may further impact our ability to make a difference.

It is important that we not let this happen to us and not let it be done to us either.

We need to truly embrace our holy discontent and embrace the belief that we are willing to do whatever it takes to address it.

We know we are more than capable.

Our gifts and talents are incredible.

We each have a passion for something.  Not everyone believes this but it is true.

In a world where many people will choose to be indifferent or actively attempt to prevent us from making a difference, we may get discouraged about who can help us.

In such situations, we must remember the rule of the 4 SWs:

Some will, some won’t, so what … someone’s waiting.

People are out there waiting to help each of us.

So …..

How strong is our will to see our vision and our personal mission come to fruition and to help others realize the same within their own lives?

The answer to that question not only impacts the sense of purpose in our own lives but in fact, impacts the level of positive results that are achieved in the world.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Taking Action …. or Just Musing About It”, please go here.

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