Good Intentions Awareness

Last fall, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pink was all the rage.  Working in a school, I noticed several coordinated days where staff and students wore pink ribbons, bracelets, or other articles of clothing.  I wondered if the students knew why they were wearing pink, so I asked an 8th grade boy.  "It's for breast cancer," was his response.  Cancer awareness is a noble cause, but is awareness enough?  Is wearing pink really helping anything?   

Before you answer, consider this:  Giving money to cancer research and wearing pink both have the same effect on the person doing the action.  We feel good about ourselves, we feel like we have done our small part to help, and, more importantly, we feel absolved of any further responsibility, at lease until next year.  But doing something noble that costs us nothing, and doing something noble with some personal cost are not equal. 

I was talking with an old friend recently, whom I hadn't seen in quite a few years.  I knew from our limited Facebook interactions that he had been involved in a church plant a few years ago, and that he is now pastoring that church.  So, after the initial pleasantries of, "How is the family?" and "Where are you living now?" etc., I asked, "How is that church thing going?"  He responded that, about six weeks ago, they had taken around 30 members of his 3 year old, 175 member, church and planted a new church a few miles away.  My response of, "Oh, really?  Our church has been talking about planting new churches in our area for a little while now," was met with a polite smile.  It was the smile I give people when I tell them that I develop mobile apps, and they respond with, "Oh yeah? I was going to try doing that, but I never really got started." 

I know our church has a vision for planting churches, and just because I'm not "in the loop" on the latest church-plant news doesn't mean things are stagnant.  But in the time that I have been hearing about our future planting plans, my friend has planted, grown, and planted again.  It's easy to say that I think planting a new church is a great idea, but have I volunteered to go help start that church? Nope.  Having noble intentions that cost me nothing is not the same as doing something noble, and costly.  In fact, like cancer awareness pink day, feeling good about our intentions can be detrimental to our action. 

If this sounds like I'm being harsh or pointing a finger at others, let me let you in on a secret.  I do this all the time.  I drop my 15 cents change into the charity bucket at Wawa, and feel like I did something.  Did I make someone a meal?  No.  Did I show compassion or love to someone.  No.  I might watch a YouTube video about some crisis on the other side of the world, then post it to Facebook for all my friends to see.  I feel pretty good about it, but it didn't cost me anything.  I talk, talk, talk about social justice, but rarely do anything about it. 

So what's the point?  I think we need to be aware that good intentions are not the final goal.  Let's call this "Good Intentions Awareness Month."  In our feel-good society, it's easy to get the feeling of making a difference without making any difference at all.  We are called to be the salt of the earth, but if that salt intends to season the food, but never actually makes it into the recipe, what good is it?  Let's let our actions speak louder than our words, even if our words sound pretty good.

  Jeff Hyson

Jeff Hyson