3 Ways to Know Which Causes You Should Fight For
We use a lot of “Always Fight!” rhetoric in our lives today, have you noticed?
We fight on the beaches, and fight on the land, and defeat the enemy at all cost, and never give in and never surrender, and leave no soldier behind, and never give up, even if we’re down to the last man standing.
A lot of this rhetoric is good for us. It’s noble. It’s helped changed the world at strategic times by rallying us behind essential causes, and it works the same way today.
And some causes are indeed worth fighting for. If we are ever going to produce the desired results of this rhetoric, then we must engage with all our might, stay resolute, and fight to the finish.
But some of this rhetoric isn’t good for us.
In this day and age of hashtag outrage, everything becomes a cause. Anger is applauded online, and new concerns come our way with each scroll through social media. Every cause demands our time, energy and effort—so we simply can’t enter every fight.
If we try, then we become cause-exhausted. We become depleted, bitter, or cynical—and ultimately ineffective.
So we must learn that some battles are ours to enter, and some belong to other people. Some causes are worth fighting for, and some aren’t. Sometimes we need to step up and fight hard. But at other times, the most strategic thing we can do is walk away, or not get involved in the first place.
Three questions help us discern what to do:
1. Will it take me away from my main fight?
In Greg McKeown’s excellent book, ESSENTIALISM, now a modern classic, he describes how the word ‘priority’ is singular, not plural.
The thought, “I must do it all” is actually dangerous, he argues. To truly succeed, we must figure out the one thing we can do that makes the highest contribution, and then say no to pretty much everything else.
We must decide and define what’s truly important to us—and then fight in that direction only. We can’t be sidetracked by lesser fights, or by other people’s fights, noble though those causes may be.
Ask yourself: are you trying to fight for every cause?
Or are you fighting fewer battles while fighting them well?
2. How will my family be affected?
Some of the causes we fight for will inevitably bring distress, anguish, sorrow, tension, embarrassment, or loss to our family—and even then, the cause is still worth fighting for. A true soldier risks the wellbeing of his family every time he leaves for war.
But those causes must be weighed with extra gravity, particularly if our children are young, our parents are elderly and needing extra care, or if any family member is traversing a vulnerable season.
If a cause is not a life and death matter, or if family members are put in harm’s way by our fighting for the cause, then maybe the cause is better left untouched.
Ask yourself: do I really want to put my family through this?
3. Is this cause actually effective—or should it be laid to rest, or radically modified?
In the 1991 movie ‘Other People’s Money,’ starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, and Penelope Miller, the main story conflict is whether to close the struggling New England Wire & Cable Company, the main employer and life’s blood of a small American town.
At a shareholder meeting, Gregory Peck makes an impassioned plea to save the company. He appeals to tradition and values, to resisting hostile takeovers, and eschewing heartless capitalism. Peck appeals to the sense of responsibility the company leaders need to feel toward to their employees and community.
Think of our people, he contends. If the company leaves, what will happen to our town?
As viewers, we’re swayed by the speech. Yes! we think, this old company is worth fighting for with every ounce of remaining strength.
But in Danny DeVito’s rebuttal, he compares the New England Wire & Cable Company to a contemporary buggy whip manufacturer.
The company tries hard, yet it makes an obsolete product using obsolete methods. The company needs to die. Or else radically change.
The character DeVito plays comes across as harsh, yet as viewers we also recognize the surprising wisdom in his speech. Indeed, the speech and the issue have been showcased and debated in Forbes magazine, the New York Times, and modern-day business schools.
Should you put more resources into reviving an ineffective yet cherished cause?
Or should you prioritize resources, putting them into a different, effective cause instead?
What will you do?
It takes courage to fight for a cause you believe in, never give up, and fight until a battle is won.
It also takes courage to walk away. To say no to a request to help. To leave a post untouched. To let other people do the heavy lifting in their main cause, so you can do the heavy lifting in yours.
Some causes you fight for.
And some you don’t.
May God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Question: which battles are you fighting for? Which battles are you staying out of?