5 Steps to Difference-Making

We, ourselves, feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less without that missing drop.
— Mother Theresa

We live in a time of unprecedented calls for action. As the internet and the democratization of digital media have afforded us access to a globe of problems and voices to attune us to those problems, we are awash with should-do passions.  If you traffic in social media, you cannot go 24 hours without someone (usually with some urgency) pressing you to join their cause, repost their meme, change your ways.  Apparently the world is very awry and well should be terribly worked up about it.

Worked up about what? All of it, actually.  We are no longer allowed discernment in our passion projects because everyone is presented to us as THE ISSUE OF OUR TIME.  And anyone who doesn't onboard with it is defying the very fabric of just society.  No longer are the opposition to our causes the enemy, EVERYONE is the opposition, unless they are there on the front lines with us leading the charge.  We are stomped on with quotes from MLK to Neimoller claiming that any sign of disengagement with the cause of the moment is a sign of pure, unadulterated opposition.

Enemies are everywhere.

We could all do well for a little more slowness to consider just what may actually change the world.

This call to revolution at every turn, rampant abuse of Nazi allusions, claims of crisis from voices far and wide is not without substantial effect.  Christian celebrities, among the worst on this spectrum, claim that unless you are spending your devotional time obsessing about their obsession you have abandoned the Gospel in it's entirety.  Who knew the Gospel was so frail and easy left aside? These smooth voices of well-meaning persuasion come with sharp teeth of shame and judgment.  And the presence of these chompers should give us pause.

What is a well meaning person to do? It turns out that there is a reliable journey to difference-making.  One that disconnects you from the should-do causes of our clamourous world, and allows your attentiveness to the true workings of the Spirit God within your own sphere of agency.  The Stages to Difference-Making will be as unfamiliar as they are valuable, and we could all do well for a little more slowness to consider just what may actually change the world.

  1. AWARENESS - "We need to raise awareness!" They say. Actually we need to lower awareness.  We need to cull the heard of should-do causes in-order to attend to the will-do which only arises from our deepest hearts.  Turn off your social media feeds.  Don't allow any online bullies (well-meaning as they may be with their memes and speeches on Instagram) to tell you that you must join their cause or risk the balance of the world.  Awareness in the deeper sense is allowing a problem to find its root in you.  Awareness of a headline is nothing.  Awareness of your heart's breaking toward that headline is everything.  If we all fight for refugees, who will be left to fight for school children, or victims of chronic neglect, those with mental anguish, or your neighbor is simply going through a difficult time.  When faced with a potential cause, ask yourself this: Do I feel this cause within me or is it being forced upon me? The answer is important and revelatory.
  2. GRIEF - You will know Awareness has done it's work when it awakens grief in you.  A cause with which you are able to enter into the sorrow and loss of is one for your attention. If you can only engage it at the level of should-do statistics and intellect, this is the ego at work, trying to justify its existence by pushing others around.  Difference-making, in its origins, is a highly personal game that happens in the sad, hurting and broken recesses of one's own heart.  Not on a social media feed.
  3. SURRENDER - Grief, when it has done its work, always leaves us at the belly of the beast, surrendering to a Higher Power and a greater work than our own personal drop in the ocean.  Surrender to God as the great worker of transformation in the world.  We are merely agents of God's revolution of Love.  It is not our revolution.  And we are at best recipients of it; recipients that can, at times, be conduits.  We cannot pick up a cause that we feel like we own without the ego doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, and this is where the troubles lie.
  4. OWNERSHIP/CONFESSION - Once we are surrendered to God as the maker of the only love story worth having in the world, we are free to stop grasping, holding and coercing.  We are free to stop pushing ourselves and others to line up behind us. We are free to stop fighting violence with violence.  In that freedom, we inevitably see ourselves as complicit to the exact problem we are trying to solve.  Liberated from the pressure of "we are the ones we've been waiting for," we are freed to confess the inevitable truth, "we are the reason we've been waiting."
  5. AGENCY - NOW! Now we can act in good faith.  Freed from the pressure to own the problem and own the world, freed from the need to justify our existence by way of our shouts and arm waving and protestations, now we are freed to make a difference and we will finally know what difference is ours to make.  By staying true to the internal work of being transformed by grace, we are made in to an agent of unearned favor.  Suddenly we find our voice cutting through the noise of should-dos that define the worlds problems, and our whispers of revolution are louder than any shouts of war.

This, dear friends, is the reliable path to difference-making.  And when we walk it, it makes all the difference.

For a deeper-dive into the work of difference-making, Check out Episode 1.5 of the WordCAST.

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Nick Richtsmeier

Nearly 20 years ago Nick set out into adulthood with the clear personal mission to discover and create ways for people to find their own hearts and the heart of God and where between the two may meet.  His road has taken him through professional ministry, white collar industry, career mentoring, life-coaching, blogging and everything in between.  Along the way, Nick's passion for the clarion necessity of a better way to live, to engage, to embrace the Divine and to look ourselves in the mirror has only been honed and sharpened.

A passionate communicator, deep thinker and lifelong contrarian, Nick finds his deepest joys in his marriage to Wendy and fathering his three sons, Evan, Grant and Cole.  After a lifetime of looking for meaning, Nick has come to a fundamental conclusion which he states succinctly: "I searched for a story worth living and then I realized that the story was made worthy by living it. I am a husband, a father, a businessman, and searcher."