As a longtime media professional and civic-minded person, I can tell you that far too few of us truly stand up and support the things that we claim to believe in.
We pay lip service, but do little else to actually help the institutions and organizations that are out there “fighting the good fight.”
I know … I know. You’re busy. We’re all busy. But you CAN find time to volunteer and properly advocate for a great cause. Before I lend some ideas based on my own personal experience, let me just say this …
Few things hurt social causes more than a bunch of people who disagree and then get into screaming matches, if not all-out brawls or gunfights, because they’re caught up in the adrenalin rush and emotion of the moment.
This is not social. It’s anti-social.
I mean seriously, do you really want a black eye, busted lip or evening in the city lockup because you lost your cool and got into a fight with a total stranger on the opposite side of the street or issue?
Actually, don’t answer that. I’m convinced that there are plenty of folks out there who want nothing more than to stir up a brawl. Yet let’s assume that you’re not among them.
So, in this day and age of high-tech, 24-hour media, raging hormones and short fuses, how do we actually get our voices heard? How do we really make a difference? How can we truly advance worthwhile causes that we believe will advance humanity rather that turn the clock back to the days of cave dwellers?
Here are my suggestions on how to advocate for a cause:
1. KNOW YOURSELF: In order to advocate for or promote anything GOOD, you must get in touch with yourself. You must believe in what you’re doing. You have to figure out who you are and establish your own core values that you actually follow – regardless of whether other people are watching you or not. You cannot be an effect proponent of anything if you don’t know who you are. When you know yourself, other people will know it and this will inspire them and give you more credibility for your cause.
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: These days, it’s so important to know all sides of an issue. You need to read up and study. We’re living in changing times when even static, seemingly universal issues are experiencing new plot twists. Read reputable newspapers and periodicals that do responsible, well-researched work on your subject matter. This will help you become a pseudo-expert.
3. BE FLEXIBLE AND OBJECTIVE: This sounds contradictory to being an advocate, but here’s what I mean … As a journalist, I’ve interviewed many people who are staunch supporters of this or that. However, I’ve learned that the people with the most credibility are the ones who actually understand the opposing side of an issue. Their ability and willingness to see and process opposing beliefs and information can actually give them greater insight into how to promote and market their side of the issue.
4. BE REASONABLE NOT RABID: Have you ever seen rabid animals? They literally look as if they’re losing their minds. Rabid people tend to look this way also. It’s fantastic to be a strong proponent of an issue or cause, but you simply cannot go off the deep end. Losing your mind over a cause won’t help it. It will hurt everything you’re trying to achieve. When you’ve gone too far, it’s hard to find your way back.
5. FIND LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE: You cannot advocate for a cause on your own. You can try, but at some point, you’ll learn that life itself is about collaboration and cooperation. You need to connect with people who you can support and who’ll support you. This is really the fun part of advocating for a cause. You might make new friends. Social causes are about people. Yes, they help individuals, but no man is an island. I believe that people who become rabid over issues are probably spending too much time at home alone watching cable news around the clock and entertaining conspiracy theories. Keep in mind, this a journalist saying this!
6. JOIN THE ORGANIZATION: This is not as adrenalin-driven as a fist-fight, but it’ll certainly put you on the right path toward actually achieving something worthwhile. For example, if you’ve heard one too many stories about homeless children and you find this issue deplorable, why not donate some time volunteering at an orphanage or homeless shelter for kids? I’ve found that when I feel strongly about something, this can be God’s way of calling me into action. DO something about it! Join a not-for-profit advocacy group, work on a committee, do your homework and consider donating money to the cause.
7. START A BLOG: My website, ArtBookGuy began as a blog. Now, it’s a full-blown website and cause within itself that promotes the accessibility of contemporary art. I’ve got thousands of readers and followers on social media and I’ve really succeeded at creating a cool art brand and community. I’ve also written and self-published three, multi award-winning books and made tons of “art friends” from all over the world. You can also do this for something you support. Of course, it’ll take years to evolve and grow, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that simply writing and posting an essay really can have impact.
8. PRACTICE PATIENCE: Notice I’m not saying “Be patient.” I’m saying “Practice patience.” Taking a moment to say to yourself, “Okay, I’m going to practice patience now,” is much more do-able than “being patient.” Practicing patience can carry you through many ups and downs of supporting causes while trying to “be patient” can drive you insane whether you’re stuck in a traffic jam or legislative cycle. Positive change simply does not happen overnight. It can take years or generations.
When you think about some of the most effective leaders of days past – Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Jefferson, whomever – you realize that we’re still feeling the effects of their work. It can often take decades to move society forward just an inch on a single issue. You have to remember that the cause is bigger than YOU. It’s not only about YOU. It’s not about YOUR ego. Practice patience. Believe me, I know. This is a tough one.
9. HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR: I am ALWAYS suspicious of people who don’t have a sense of humor about what they’re doing. Of course, there’s nothing at all funny about a cancer diagnosis. There’s nothing funny about homelessness or child abuse. However, I do believe that when you have a sense of grace and gratitude about what you’re doing and supporting, this clears your vision and helps you to see the good in life despite all of its challenges. Seeing the good in life helps us to laugh when it’s appropriate. Besides, isn’t it much more fun to work with people who know how to laugh … even in the face of dire challenges? That’s the person I want on my team.
10. TRUST IN GOD: Look, I don’t know about your belief system. You can believe or not believe as you choose. I’m just saying that I believe in an all-powerful God who loves us enough to give us free will to choose Him or choose something else. I believe that God guides us through His son Jesus Christ and He never abandons us. He holds us up and helps us to achieve the impossible. Don’t you want this kind of power and guidance in your own life? Don’t you want this kind of insight to keep you on track as you advocate for what you believe in? Again, the choice is yours alone. I’m just sayin’.
Well, there you have it. I loved writing this for you. These tips are far from exhaustive, but they will steer you in the right direction.
I just felt the need to write this because we’re living in very contentious times. Nothing seems certain. People all over the world seem poised for a fistfight or gun battle at a second’s notice.
This is not how we’re meant to live. We can disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. We can support causes and even be supportive of those who oppose us.
Isn’t THAT love in action?