OPINION – 2016 is definitely off to an interesting start. From economic instability to domestic and international unrest, it promises to be an eventful year ahead, a year in which each of us can make a difference with a little serious consideration.
It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to waste time and energy trying to fix blame for the various dilemmas and conflicts playing out before us. That’s what politicians and pundits are best at inciting: silly squabbles that pit people against one another.
Blaming others has become a national pastime of sorts for the masses who have been led to believe that chanting louder, clapping harder and posting on social media will lead to effective change.
Difference-makers know better.
It’s not that those committed to making a difference think they are better than the masses. After all, humility is an essential part of genuine leadership.
The people who ultimately have impact for good in the world are the ones who have found a moral clarity that they value above their own comfort and personal advantage.
It starts with the personal recognition that there is an intolerable gap between the way things are and the way they could be.
This is not a simple case of narcissistic wants to be imposed upon others. It’s a realization that each of us faces a conscious decision to either stand for what we hold true or to remain silent rather than risk disapproval.
Anyone who has stood for anything of substance in his or her life knows full well that doing so invites the risk of pain and punishment. But if we’re not willing to suffer for our beliefs, we’re not believers of any real depth.
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to the courage conviction requires when he stated:
On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?
There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.
This means that anyone who challenges the status quo can expect to be portrayed as an enemy of the system. Only those who’ve been on the receiving end of the mindless derision and ridicule dished out by people who cautiously hide out in the crowd can appreciate how difficult standing alone can be.
As uncomfortable as this may be, it can still serve a very positive purpose.
Serious opposition is a powerful tool to show us where our conviction lies and whether we are having impact. A person can get a strong indication of how much impact he’s having by how much flack he’s receiving.
It’s not for those who are more attached to security and acceptance than they are to their principles.
Understanding what makes a difference-maker, here are a few questions that any serious difference-maker must be willing to ask.
- Is there anything besides my family for which I would be willing to risk my reputation, my livelihood, my personal freedom or my life?
- How bad would things have to get before I would be willing to act without permission?
- Is it possible to make my stand while remaining socially neutral?
- Is there anything that I could be doing that is more important, with the possible exception of my family, than what I am doing at this moment?
- Is there a line in the sand that marks the point of no return where making a stand for what I believe matters requires that I break with normal society?
- If there is a role that I must play in standing up for truth as I understand it and, if so, what is that role?
These are not the kinds of questions that you’re likely to hear from people who crave the perceived safety of the herd and are anxious to reassure their rulers that they love them.
Nor do they represent the lack of introspection that is the hallmark of the opportunist. They require a greater love of one’s principles than of one’s self.
A good test of whether our willingness to stand for principle is self-serving or not can be found in whether we are willing to boldly speak out when we’re not the ones being directly harmed.
Benjamin Franklin put it this way:
Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
The coming year is likely to bring more opportunities to act as difference-makers.
Instead of walking away from your principles, embrace your unique role, ask yourself the questions above and make the world a better place.
Bryan Hyde is a popular radio commentator and opinion leader in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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