We spend so much of our time looking up at the people who have changed the world in big ways. We look at Martin Luther King and at Abraham Lincoln and all the other “revolutionaries” and we are amazed. Awed. We are so in blown away that we make days for them, proclaim them heroes, and refer to them regularly when discussing how to change the world.
But there’s this hidden message that always seems to be sent whenever we discuss these people, a voice that’s soft and quiet, talking only through implication.
A voice that says, “I admire this person because I feel like I could never accomplish what he accomplished.”
And so we spend those few days out of the year talking about them, we learn about them in school, and then we move on into our daily lives.
There’s something about that voice that bothers me, something that I think affects us on a day to day level more than we realize.
It seems to me that, in so many ways, people, especially in my generation (the Millenials, people like to call us) think they aren’t just incapable of changing the world in the way MLK and Lincoln did, but that they simply are incapable of changing anything.
People seem to love to talk about what is wrong with the world around them. Even small things. The fact that the restaurant served them the wrong food. The fact that their synagogue or church doesn’t work the way they wished it did. The fact that no one around them, from their parents to the president, live up to the way we wish they would.
In each case, I am consistently surprised, because the same people that seem to be doing the complaining are the ones that aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, it seems to me that the more people complain, the less likely they are to be taking action.
Instead, there seems to be this attitude of helplessness. This attitude of victimhood. A belief that nothing can be changed, and so the only option left is to complain, to talk.
Why is this? Why do people choose to disempower themselves?
The truth is that I think most of the “complainers” at some point really did believe that they could change the world. Many of them are the same people who, at some point, went to rallies, or tried to meet with the people who run their synagogue, or tried to start some sort of movement.
And they all failed. At some point, after trying and trying, they felt that their efforts had been for naught. They felt unheard. Felt that the world didn’t care.
And so they went back to complaining. At least that they have control over.
But I think that there failures aren’t a function of not being able to change the world. I think that, unfortunately, we’ve been lied to most of our lives.
We’ve been told our whole lives, us Millenials, that we can change the world, and that we have this unlimited power.
I remember hearing this message all the time when I grew up. My teachers told it to me. Nickelodeon News told me. Commercials.
Everywhere there seemed to be this message: You can do it! You can change the world! You can do whatever you want!
Yes, it seemed like the message was all around me, and around everyone in my age group.
So it seems that, if anything, we’ve been told a beautiful message since we were young. How on earth could we suddenly turn into this generation that would rather complain than do anything?
Because the lie wasn’t that we can change the world. We can. We are so powerful, we have no freaking clue how powerful we are. Despite what a dumb viral article said, we are special, and we can contribute something no one else can contribute. We should embrace that fact with all our hearts. Our parent’s generation tried so hard to tell us that. And they deserve all the credit for doing that.
But they forgot one thing: the most important thing. The key to it all.
That change isn’t quick and painless. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in an exciting, soul-stirring way.
Instead it happens drip by drip. Step by step. One drop at a time, until we suddenly realize that we’ve made a hole in a rock just by dropping water on it.
Change only happens with continued “failures” and momentary, ephemeral, “successes”. By embracing our specialness, but realizing that the world is a limited place, one that is too dumb and slow to instantly align with our unlimited souls.
We’ve been told our whole lives that change happens with rock concerts and excitement and passion. That it happens just by electing a president, rather than the work that he should be doing (and, unfortunately, that president encouraged this view). That we don’t need to sacrifice anything to achieve our goals.
So is it any surprise that we’ve all become bitter? Upset that we can’t actually make changes?
The world lied to us. Or, at least, only revealed half the message that they should have been sending to us.
And so we complain. Because at least complaining gives us a semblance of control. At least by complaining, I can be fed a momentary drug of feeling like I’ve changed something (although I haven’t at all).
But, of course, that drug can only last so long before we simply give up and feel completely helpless, completely lost. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, how will we feel if we realize we spent our time complaining instead of doing?
Sure, it’s not our fault that we were lied to. But it’s now our responsibility to learn from the failure in communication. It’s our responsibility to stand up and embrace the cause over the results. Embrace the process over the destination. It’s time to love failure, to kiss it on the mouth with a sloppy kiss every time it comes our way.
Our sense of empowerment will only return when we accept that change isn’t easy. And our passion will only be real when it is infused with patience.