Make a Difference Today: Begin with Who You Are
When we do something that creates a strong and positive impact, it is not just the action that made a difference, it’s also who we are when it was all set into motion.
I’m currently reading a fantasy series (not my usual but hey, they were on sale for Kindle) about a young woman who accidentally time travels and finds herself in medieval Italy. Initially she simply wants to get back to her time, but she is soon swept into their political uprisings. She has bravado and sass and doesn’t sit back when the battles come, even if she is afraid. When confronted, she fights and deftly wields her sword with courage. She wants to make a difference and is lauded as a heroine, loved by the victors—and hated by plenty of others, because, of course, you need conflict in a good story.
Outside of the medieval setting, the person above might be a social justice heroine of our day.
Nelson Mandela, a man who lived close to both fear and courage, said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
What I most grab hold of in this quote is that to be courageous isn’t to be fearless, but in spite of fear and with fear we can move forward with boldness.
As I look around our cultural and world landscape, I see much we need to be bold about, but seriously, it can be overwhelming. I often find my emotions stirring, my heart beating fast. Lately what I see going on around me politically and culturally feels like it is too big, too much, and out of control too often.
When you see all that is going on in your community or the world, what are your gut reactions? What stirs you? What is one small corner of it all that could be your part?
Rabbi Tarfon, a first to second century Jewish wisdom teacher, said:“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.“
In those words I find much encouragement to pursue what God stirs within my heart and puts before me. Joshua 1:9 reminds us to “be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NASB).
I sense the bold cries for courage in all these words. In my fantasy world I begin to imagine I too can wield a sword and stare down the evil that would destroy good. OK, maybe not.
Fast forward to the present, to the real. We do fight for justice, lead and influence others, raise our families, use our words courageously, create and communicate a vision that will make a difference. We hope these efforts will make a meaningful impact, bring about solid change.
Look around a bit with me. Many are fighting for justice, leading, having a voice. There’s a lot of action out there, but not all of it is creating a powerful difference. Don’t you sometimes want to shout, “You’re going about it the wrong way!” I do, but then I stop. I don’t have the answers about the right way.
But I see some hints around me that might be of some help.
Nelson Mandela, while he was imprisoned just before the end of South African apartheid asked himself, “If my imprisonment was part of the end of apartheid, how will I ‘be’ while I am in this prison?”
The first time I read that quote, I sat with it for some time, turning the words over in my mind. This man was in prison. He has a name and story most of us have heard. And yet his words might be said by any of us in many types of situations. His question is one we might also ask: who am I willing to be in this circumstance, this interaction, this conversation?
For me such a question cradles my troubled gaze and brings my focus back to the present moment. It lessens the sense of overwhelm. It helps me see the people God has placed right in front of me to serve. And it challenges me to ask: who am I willing to be right now, right where I am in this situation and for this person?
It might be that we’re to be the hero for our child in this moment, her example, her wise teacher. It could be that we are to love someone who hasn’t felt loved in a long time. Perhaps we’re to chip away at some small part of a community problem by beginning with a neighbor. These may seem like simple actions couched in awareness of who we are willing to be, but one by one they change the world.
Look at the situations and people God is placing right in front of you right now—today or in this season of your life. What is God’s heart for you? What is his heart for those your life touches?
I’ve begun, over these last years, to turn a prayer over and over into the soil of my soul. This is part of it:
God, what is your heart for me in this situation? What is your heart for others whose lives I will touch today? Then, who are you calling me to be today?
As I layer in coaching training and continued education units for my credentialing as a coach, I have taken a couple of courses through the Academy for Coaching Excellence. One of their tools I’ve enjoyed using is to set my intention for the day, which I reflect in the above prayer.
I’ve used and further adapted their questions recently posted on their Facebook page. You might like to try these on as a part of the way you begin or walk through your day:
A Simple Calling:
What circumstance right in front of me today am I called to transform in my life, my home, my community or the world?
If the current situation, conversation, or interaction were part of that transformation, how will I ‘be’ right here and now?
Choose four or five character or value words that focus on who you will be, how you will show up in that situation with the people whose lives you will touch: courageous, compassionate, supportive, loving, open, present, gracious, focused, energetic, vulnerable, visionary, or others that come to mind.
One Next Step
What small, sweet step am I willing to take to demonstrate that way of being today?
Adapted from Academy for Coaching Excellence’s Setting Intentions/Coaching Arena
I see these questions as working in tandem with a prayer life that includes a rhythm of spending time with God, listening for his heartbeat for us and for others. Back and forth, in prayer and then being present in what we are doing in our day, we receive from him and then pour out what he pours into us. Being transformed and then with changed hearts, being his tools of transformation in the world.
Make a difference today. Begin with who you intend to be. Heroes, advocates of justice, freedom fighters, parents, leaders, compassionate servants of those right in front of you, whatever it is that is a part of your day, go deeper beneath the role, the cause, or the action. Who will you be?