Action expresses priorities. - Mahatma Gandhi
Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in. - Andrew Jackson
Some years ago, a former colleague of mine set up a 10km walkathon to show women in Africa that we in the west felt their pain when it came to the fact that they had to walk 10km to get clean water.
I thought this was a great cause and so I asked what the walkathon was producing. Was it raising money to drill a well closer to a village so that women wouldn’t have to walk as far to get clean water? Was it raising awareness so that other people would be inspired to take action to help people get better access to clean water?
“Nope”, the coordinator replied proudly, “The sole purpose is so that the women in that village know that we stand in support of their struggle.”
“Ok”, I responded, “but you are only promoting this on Facebook with no funds raised, no large-scale media attention or anything else. So you are counting on these women in a remote village in the most destitute, desolate part of Africa to:
1. Have electricity
2. Have Internet access
3. Have a Facebook account
4. Know that you are doing this and to go to the right place in Facebook at the right time to witness your statement of camaraderie
5. Care what an overly well-fed white guy in Canada does once to feel good, after which he climbs back into his SUV, goes home and gorges himself on more food in one meal than they will see in a week.”
Meanwhile, the women in Africa still need to walk the same distance to obtain clean water.
“But I will feel good about it”, was his response.
Well, if that’s all there is to making a difference in the world, then I have a recommendation:
Let’s all take 5 minutes tomorrow to think good thoughts or say a prayer for everyone, congratulate ourselves and God for optimizing our contribution to the world and then go about living a life focused on our own needs instead of actually fixing the things around us.
Let’s not forget to tell everyone else about how good it felt also, preferably in an awesome display of social media prowess.
Or if that’s too much effort:
Spread some feel-good or feel-bad stuff on social media (truth, respect and relevance don’t matter) from the safety of a coffee shop (or perhaps while watching the Kardashians or some other mindless thing on TV), trash people whose opinions are different than yours, “Like” a bunch of things that resonate with your personal biases and then spend the rest of the day bragging about it.
Both are equally effective techniques, aren’t they?
They are but not in the way you would like to believe.
Tonight, Calgary and other cities across Canada will be having candlelight vigils to remember the people massacred in the mosque in Quebec City on January 29, 2017.
Throughout America, people are protesting their President on the streets and spreading hysteria through social media, throwing facts, truths, collaboration, respect and an eye towards solutions out the window in an attempt to create a viral contagion of their own fear, ignorance, hatred or personal agenda. (Note: This is not to suggest that President Trump hasn't done his own share of things out of potential fear or ignorance. However, meeting fear or ignorance with same plays to the people who enjoy such tactics and NO ONE wins from the escalation that ensues).
But what will these events really produce?
Will they stop future violence?
Will they somehow cause their President to be removed from office or cause him to suddenly start seeing their way as “the right way”?
We are emotional beings and it is normal, natural (and sometimes healthy) to express these emotions.
However, when the expressions of grief, love, sharing, caring and outrage have been expressed, it’s time to ask what we need to do next to prevent a repeat of whatever it is we are assembling for.
Because if we are unwilling to take truth-based, respectful, goal-inspired, collaborative action, then we must be prepared to fill our days with more vigils and demonstrations as well as more angst, anger, worry and anxiety (or comfort sharing, even though such sharing will not prevent future acts of hatred).
Because emotion expressed without action taken doesn’t change reality.
Reality couldn’t care less about what you think or want.
It is created by what you do (or not do).
The Bottom Line
John F Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
Too many people today allow their feelings and opinions to be defined by blind, lazy, hateful sharing on social medial designed to prey upon their emotions and to manipulate them into acting on behalf of the needs and intentions of others or to diminish them, convincing them that they can’t make a difference.
Politicians also exploit such emotional tactics to recruit their minions to do their dirty work for them while the politicians smugly wait on the sidelines and harvest the result.
Meanwhile, the change that is needed remains unrealized, waiting for more people with courage to do more than give lip service to what they believe is important in standing up to ignorance, intimidation, hatred and lies with a focus on truly creating a better world.
Explore whether the inaction or hate-filled sharing of others has made a demonstrable difference and you will discover that despite all their efforts, the things that they are complaining about continue unabated (or grow in intensity,frequency and impact). If you want specific examples, explore what things like Occupy Wall Street really accomplished.
By their example, you will discover what you need to do to really make a difference in the world.
Otherwise you are just offering lip service as others do.
And of all the shortages we have in the world, lip service is not one of them.
If you don’t have the courage to take positive action, if your words don’t inspire others to take positive action or if you prefer to spread hatred and negativity, then you are in for a long, painful, frustrating experience on Earth.
And if all you have to offer is negativity, intimidation and problem creation, it could be argued that you are contributing to what is wrong on this planet instead of the unlimited potential that collaborative, respectful, fact-filled, compassionate, passionate human beings can create.
Which group of people do you wish to belong to – the problem creators or the solution creators?
Be sure to choose wisely (as measured by your actions), otherwise your time spent on Earth not only doesn’t live up to your potential and responsibility but it will be pretty miserable also.
Is that the way you really want to live?
Is this the example you would like to establish for your children, your family, your colleagues and your friends?
Are you sure?
It’s fine to initially express emotion but then ask yourself what your actions and not your mouth (or the dark recesses of your brain) have to say about making a measurable difference.
Create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience and waiting for someone else to create it is too frustrating, anxiety-ridden and random in manifestation.
If you need a boost of courage, there are others who are waiting to help you.
They and the world are waiting for you.
What are you waiting for?
In service and servanthood,
Addendum – Sad Realities of Respect and Results
It is an unfortunate reality that many people do not want respectful dialog and get quite upset when someone suggests that their actions of anger and hatred do not produce positive results. For some, the mere request for respectful, fact-filled dialog produce hateful responses as the one that occurred as a comment in the blog post Facts – What a Pain in the You-Know-What.
In an interaction I had with a long-time friend a couple of weeks ago, he kept insisting on calling people he didn’t like “a moron” under the guise of demanding respectful dialog and solutions. In my requests of him to explain how his children would view his behavior, whether or not such behavior provided a good role model for them and how he would respond if people kept calling him a moron, he kept responding with “what Donald Trump would do and what kind of role model Donald Trump is”. Multiple requests to ignore what Donald Trump would do and to reply with what he would do and what kind of role model he offers to his kids were repeatedly deflected by himself and his colleagues.
If we wish to see change, we must be the change we wish to see (Gandhi). Unfortunately, too many are too blind to see beyond their own hypocrisy and lack of authenticity.