9 Reasons to Stop Trying to Change the World

To Graduates: 9 Reasons to Stop Trying to "Change the World"

This week, I'm fresh off a college graduation. I'm happy to see so many young people excited to get out and "change the world" rather than snagging a 6-figure income and collecting fancy cars. After one ceremony--with one more son to graduate next week---I feel some advice coming on. And why not? Graduations give us "experienced" people an excuse to shamelessly dole out our "wisdom." Here then is mine--short and sweet---to my sons and to all other graduates this spring:

9 Reasons to Stop Trying to "Change the World"

1.     If you grew up in America, recognize how little you know of the world. Get out and experience some of it before you decide to change it. Leave your comfortable bed and safe neighborhood and hang out on the other side of the tracks, on the other side of the world for awhile. Live on $10 a day in India. Volunteer in an orphanage in Indonesia or at a Boy’s Club in El Salvador or a day camp in El Paso.

2.     When you go out into the world don’t call it “missions” and spend all your time convincing people to give you money rather than working and raising your own funds. This is your trip, your travel, and you may indeed help others, but mostly you are the one who will benefit.

3.  Yes, go out and love the stranger, but don't go without loving your own family first. Don’t even think of “the world” unless you can be kind and show gratitude to your siblings, your parents, your teachers, to all who have invested in you and suffered through your growing pains and rebellions. You will not successfully love the stranger without learning to love your real "neighbors" first.

4. Consider your diploma a L.H.M. degree: a degree in Listening, Humility and Mercy. Whatever else you have learned, surely you have learned how little you actually know. And that other people here before you know actually quite a lot. Practice your L.H.M. skills often: Speak to many kinds of people. Read a lot. Keep asking questions. Be kind to all. When you do this, you'll find the world is better and kinder than you knew. 

5.   Don't wait for the perfect job. Nothing is beneath you. Get whatever job you can to start, regardless of anticipated “influence” and “impact.” If you can support yourself and start paying your loans back, you’ll already be helping a bunch of people. 

6.     No matter how obscure or menial your job, invest it with diligence and love, as if you were serving God himself (which you are). Be the kind of worker who honors his boss, who respects his co-workers, who devotes himself to the success of others. You won’t change the world: just maybe your workplace.

7.  Know your own strengths and weaknesses, but resist the culture of self-fascination. I know you've taken several personality tests since they are often required in college. But don't be fooled by the impressive names, numbers and labels every test-taker receives. Don't keep yourself in that box. And don't mistake your "score" for achievement. The purpose of knowing yourself is not to "know yourself" but to "grow yourself" into a better self. Exercise your strengths and please address your weaknesses. If you can change and strengthen yourself, maybe you'll have a shot at some bigger piece of the world later. 

8.     Give up on “greatness.” Yes, a few men and women through the ages have changed the course of history, but the best ones did not consider themselves “great” when they were doing it.  In the moments they are most known for, they mostly tried to do what was good and right. They suffered. And they didn’t give up. Aim for this.

9. Contrary to a well-known graduation speech, you are wonderful and special—and so is everyone else. Your singularity is what you share with the rest of humanity, which entitles you to serve these wondrous others, and to do it as beautifully as only you can. Go to it, then! 

That’s it. If you can do even some of these, dear sons and graduates, you will begin to fulfill what God asks of us all:

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?"
                                                                     Micah 6:8

And that will be------enough.