I’ve been observing a curious trend lately. It seems we’ve all become expert critics. I tend to be an opinionated person and have to be especially careful not to be overly critical. I think the danger in being a critic is that it’s easier to critique than to support. I’m a supporter of many causes. I have a hard time choosing who and what to support, there are simply too many causes in the world that I feel strongly about, but the fact is I have to do something. I feel it’s my responsibility as a human. The truth is I could always do more, we all could. We live in a culture where it’s so easy to be immobilized by meaningless distraction. We get wrapped up in our own little worlds and it can be so hard to break out. I think each of us has a lot to give if we’d just try. I certainly know I’m guilty of having good intentions, but no follow through.
Why is it that people can be so quick to criticize and reluctant to care about the hard issues? Why do we vilify people who are trying to bring awareness to the most difficult situations in the world. I’m not saying you have to subscribe to every cause you come across, but I am suspicious of people who don’t subscribe to anything, or to very little, and spend the rest of their time discrediting the various causes they encounter. I think it’s a red flag if we are against more things than we are for. Of course, there are causes people won’t support due to moral conflicts and that’s fine, but when it comes to justice and basic human rights, why are we so divided? Why do we make everything political? Maybe it’s a diversion so we can remain comfortable and inactive, an excuse to turn a blind eye to the atrocities happening around us.
Here’s a few things I’ve done on my journey to becoming less of a critic and more of an activist:
Serve: Doing something besides just trying to meet my own needs each day is so important. I could easily spend a day working, shopping, cooking and cleaning without ever really noticing those around me. I’ve been challenging myself lately to be more outgoing, little things like complimenting someone everyday and smiling at the people I come in contact with or starting a conversation with the person I’m standing in line with at the store. (I think the last one really annoys some people, so I don’t push it.) This is an effort to truly see the people around me. Connecting with and serving people is a way to open my mind to the circumstances of others. It takes intentionality to see the plight of other people, whether it’s the homeless man on the corner or the woman struggling to carry her groceries and lead her children at the same time, most of us are capable of lending a helping hand. I’m proud to be a part of a church family that regularly serves our community. What better way to connect with and learn about others?
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Travel: Getting out of my own culture and learning how people live in other places has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Being immersed in another way of life has forced me to rethink my preconceived notions about other people groups and situations in the world. I know it sounds cliché, but the truth is, all the times I’ve gone to another country to serve, I’m the one who is blessed and returns a better person.
I understand not everyone has the means or the opportunity to travel to another country, but learning about another culture could simply mean befriending someone with different political and/or religious ideals than yourself. You may be surprised what you can learn from each other and how much you may actually have in common.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” -Mark Twain
Read: Yesterday I read a survey done by The Jenkins Group, an independent publishing services firm, that shows millions of Americans never read another book after leaving school. It also said 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. I find this tragic. I believe reading makes for well rounded people, who are less egocentric and able to empathize with the plight of others. They read stories about other people, become educated about situations in their community and around the world, get out of their own heads and into the head of a character in a story. Reading broadens worldviews, allows opinions to grow and evolve and inspires action and creativity. Plus, it’s fun.
“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
Take Risks: Obviously one of the best ways to get out of your comfort zone it to do something drastic. The most difficult and scary things I’ve done have always been the most rewarding, i.e. quitting my job and moving overseas, becoming a foster parent. These experiences shape who I am, make me more socially aware and force me into relationships with new people. I’m more open minded and willing to get behind a cause and support others because of the people who believed in and supported me when I was the one with the cause.
“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” – Goethe
Now it’s time for me to get off the couch and do some good.
Originally written on 4/4/2012