Read an Excerptwhat I've learned since I knew it all
12 SECRETS TO LIVING A SATISFIED LIFE
By PAUL MEIER TODD CLEMENTS
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 Paul Meier and Todd Clements
All right reserved.
One Person Can Make a Difference
So Share Your Convictions
The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable, how unapproachable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." MARK TWAIN IN A LETTER TO W. D. HOWELLS FEBRUARY 15, 1887
* * *
An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere. MARK TWAIN, A TRAMP ABROAD
"I'm so ticked off about this election!" ranted Melody, a nineteen-year-old college freshman sitting on my (Dr. Clements) office couch. "Everyone I was for-from president to congressman, down to mayor of my town-lost. What's worse is now I have to listen to my parents and preppy brother, who were staunch supporters of the other party, celebrate."
As we talked, I learned that Melody chose to support a certain political party because of one issue she felt very strongly about. She repeatedly commented on how this belief she held so dearly was now going to be outlawed, which would wind up hurting thousands of people.
"I've worked hard for campaigns I strongly believed in and have lost. It's tough," I said, trying to reassure her.
"Well, I really didn't do any work for the campaign," Melody sheepishly admitted.
"But you supported those people and voted for them," I said.
"Well, I actually didn't even vote this time," she said.
"My sorority was building a fl oat that day for the homecoming parade the next weekend. Plus I knew the guys I supported didn't have a chance of winning anyway. My vote would not have changed the outcome."
"Did anybody in your sorority vote?" I asked.
"I doubt it." Melody shrugged her shoulders.
"Did you tell anyone in your sorority how you feel about these political issues?"
"No, we don't talk about stuff like that," she said impatiently.
"Did you tell anyone else?" I kept probing.
"No, who's going to listen to a college freshman?" she shot back.
"I can see now why you are frustrated, Melody. You spent a whole week working hard to let people know you had pride and cared about your school's football team, which probably didn't make any difference in the game, but you never shared with anybody key issues in your life that could have made a difference."
The truth is that one vote rarely makes a difference in an election, but one person does. One voice making a complaint rarely changes things, but one person does. How? When one person uses his or her one voice, another voice soon joins in, and then another and another. Those other voices continue adding even more voices, until the message is too loud to ignore.
Christianity was started by one man, Jesus, whose message was carried on by a handful of disciples who had neither wealth nor stature in the world. Today, more than 2.1 billion people follow Christ's teachings.
Three Keys to Success
One person can do amazing things, but that person must possess three key elements: determination, work, and time.
> Determination. Whatever you stand for, you will encounter naysayers. In the early 1900s, people told Orville and Wilbur Wright that they were downright stupid for thinking they could make a machine that would fl y. Experts said there were no motors powerful enough to sustain a "flying machine," and even if there were, it would be impossible to steer it correctly. Several other inventors in Great Britain had tried to make flying machines, but sadly, some of them had died when their experimental crafts crashed. Americans laughed at those two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who worked on their flying machine for three years. The pair continued to believe it could be done, and in 1903 they showed everyone when they successfully flew a plane on the seashore at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
> Work. Thomas Edison, a man who was largely deaf and had only three months of formal education, is credited with more inventions than any other American (over 1,300). Edison certainly knew how to work. He created the phonograph machine, the movie camera, the battery, and even an electric vote recorder in 1868. Though he was a genius, his achievements didn't come easily. In fact, it was Thomas Edison who made the now-famous statement "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Whenever he set his mind to invent something, he spent months reading every piece of literature he could obtain about the subject.
In 1878, even though he was already wealthy and could have retired, Edison became convinced that electric lights would be cheaper for people and more efficient than gas lighting. Although electricity was very crude at the time, he was convinced he could find a substance from which he could make a "filament" that would transmit electric energy into light. He tried thousands of different substances over the next several months, but each one failed. The entire time he worked, the New York Times and the gas industry lampooned him. But he did not give up or waver, and finally, after months of failure, he created a carbon filament that would glow for hours when electricity was run through it. It was the first light bulb, and it changed the world. What would life be like today if he had given up?
> Time. If you are consistent over time, people will listen. Dr. Robert Atkins came up with an idea over a quarter of a century ago that overweight people could lose pounds by eating low levels of carbohydrates and higher levels of protein and fat in their diet. This idea was the opposite of what the government and the American Medical Association (AMA) were telling people to do to lose weight. The AMA endorsed low fat and low protein diets.
Dr. Atkins could have said, "Who am I to go up against all these other powerful doctors who say my method is crazy?" But he didn't. He kept preaching and teaching his conviction that this diet was an effective and safe way to lose weight. He had very few listeners for the first several years. A recent magazine article reported that one out of every seven people in America today follow an Atkins-type diet. Restaurants have even started changing their menus to include low carbohydrate foods. Soft drink and beer companies have created new drinks with fewer carbohydrates. Grocery stores now carry foods labeled "Atkins Approved." This craze is not only in America but in other countries as well. One man's ideas have affected the eating habits of millions of people. We are not trying to say that the Atkins diet is the best way to lose weight, because we both believe in permanent lifestyle changes when it comes to eating correctly. But a modified Atkins approach, with some healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, can add years to some people's lives by helping them lose weight. Dr. Atkins accomplished a lot and taught a great deal about nutrition by continuing to speak about his conviction.
New ideas are often controversial. The Atkins method certainly falls into that category. There was also controversy when the Wright brothers talked about flying machines, and when Thomas Edison said electric lights would be better than gas lighting. Any matter of consequence in life is going to be accompanied by controversy. If it doesn't, it means no one really cares. Controversy or the lack of instant success should never stop you from proclaiming your convictions.
Do you want to make a difference in this world? We've got good news-you can do it! And you have an even better chance at success if you determine and start working for your convictions while you are young.
Stand Up for Your Convictions
How strongly do you feel about your convictions? Do you feel strongly enough to vote? On Election Day 2004, it rained all day in the state of Ohio. Thousands of concerned citizens, including many Amish Christians, who normally stay out of politics, lined up in the rain to vote. The lines were so long because so many people that year wanted to voice their moral convictions about key issues such as partial-birth abortion, gay marriage, and religious rights. Many had to leave the voting lines and go to work without having voted. But after working an eight- to twelve-hour day, they returned to the voting lines, with it still raining. Some Ohio citizens did not get to vote until two in the morning. We consider these people to be heroes, no matter how they voted. They had the courage and moral character to withstand extreme discomfort in order to vote their convictions.
Are you going to vote in future elections? Are you going to volunteer your time working for the candidates and ideas you believe in? Do you have the courage to defend the genuine civil liberties of evangelical believers?
There are so many ways for one person to make a difference. By voting, and persuading others to vote as well, your single vote carries much more weight. Consider the ripple effect of one person's efforts. You might influence six or seven people, who then go on to influence six or seven more people each. Eventually, your single influence might reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. A few million fired-up college students could have the power to sway almost every election in their favor.
Remember Melody? She claimed she never shared her convictions because no one would listen to a college student. Well a sixty-year-old might not, but other college students would probably be willing to listen. Start with your peers. There is a misperception in our country that wealthy, influential people have all the say-so, and the rest of us have to go along with their plans. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Live by Your Convictions
* Paul Meier I used to attend church in a town with several restaurants in which church members dined regularly. Some of these restaurants advertised in a small independent newspaper, a publication that featured a few news stories but mainly served to promote the city's "gentlemen's (strip) clubs" and to hook gay men and lesbian women up with dates. The paper was free, so its only source of revenue was its advertisers. A young couple felt convicted that by dining at the restaurants that advertised, they were indirectly supporting the paper. The young husband and wife visited with the restaurant managers and were largely shunned when they voiced their concern. They spoke with the pastor about the matter, and he agreed with their conviction. He allowed the couple to address the congregation on Sunday morning and tell the church members they had decided not to dine in any of the restaurants that continued supporting this newspaper. The husband said, "It will be hard because we both love the food and atmosphere in several of these places, but our convictions are more important, and we are determined to follow them before pleasure." They passed around a sign-up sheet welcoming others to join their cause, but asked only those who were determined to follow through with the boycott to sign up. Several hundred people signed the list. The couple then went back to the restaurant managers-and even some owners this time-and asked if they wanted to see the list. Most of the managers said no and were even ruder this time. As church members told their friends and family about the situation, the boycott grew bigger and bigger. Soon the issue ignited a firestorm. Restaurant employees admitted that within a week business had gone from crowds waiting for a table to rooms nearly empty of customers. The gay and lesbian community took the boycott issue to the press and tried to portray the church members as people who were spreading hate against their lifestyle. The young couple who started the boycott were very eloquent when interviewed, explaining how they had politely shared their convictions with the restaurant managers, who in turn were rude and condescending to them. The wife said, "Hey, we just decided there are many other great restaurants in this city with wonderful food in which we can spend our money. It just so happens that several thousand of our friends decided to do the same as well." Needless to say, within a month the restaurants dropped the ads and decided not to distribute the paper at their businesses. Because of the media coverage garnered by the homosexual community, many other advertisers pulled out as well. The newspaper soon went out of production. One couple had sparked thousands to live out their convictions and changed a whole city. It would be nice to say that all was happy ever after, but that's not the whole story. This young couple faced harassment from people sympathetic to the now-defunct paper. Sadly, this is the way society often works. Rather than spending their time and energy looking for new businesses or individuals to support the newspaper, which would have produced much more successful results, the owners wanted a scapegoat on which to blame the paper's failure. The young couple bravely stood firm while enduring harassment. Once the opposition realized they were having little or no effect on the couple, they gave up. This young couple is now well respected in their community. Community leaders want the husband to run for political office, which he probably will do in the next few years. People know that when he believes in something, he will stand up for it. He is already a proven leader. Although the opposition had threatened to destroy his reputation and his business, his business has actually quadrupled since the boycott. Thankfully he had a clean reputation, because these groups dug deep for dirt on him but couldn't find anything. He had married his college sweetheart, didn't run around on her, and never had any trouble with the law. Opponents even combed the strip club's records going back several years to see if he had ever been to one of them. They tried every means possible to make him look like a hypocrite.
We cannot emphasize this point enough. If you want to make a difference in life-if you want people to listen to, understand, and adopt your convictions, you must live by them and be willing to start making a difference.
As the couple in the story above found, living by your convictions also means keeping your record clean. A woman we know spent several years teaching school and found her convictions at odds with the sexual education classes. The curriculum was taught by her state's so-called experts. She spoke with the state education board several times about adding sexual abstinence as a valid option for avoiding unwanted teen pregnancy, AIDS, and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases. The "experts" said this was a silly option and a waste of time because students could not and would not take it seriously. Instead they were aiming at safe sex methods and condoning free birth control and condom machines in school.
This woman stopped teaching, but with a continued large heart for adolescents she began meeting with a few students from her former school (off school grounds and not during school hours). These high school students started an abstinence group in which each member committed to sexual abstinence until he or she was married. The group started small but steadily grew. Soon the woman was asked to form new groups at other nearby high schools, which she did, on her own time and at her own expense, apart from school hours.
A few years later, a group of citizens persuaded the state legislature to sponsor a bill including abstinence as an alternative in sex education classes in the public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought hard against this bill, and the matter was finally brought to a hearing before a state legislative subcommittee.
The day of the hearing found a room packed with area high school students who belonged to some of the abstinence groups started by the former teacher. Several ACLU lawyers also came to argue before the committee. The former teacher was allowed to speak first. She simply said, "I want to introduce you to some high school students who have made important decisions about their lives."
Excerpted from what I've learned since I knew it all by PAUL MEIER TODD CLEMENTS Copyright © 2008 by Paul Meier and Todd Clements. Excerpted by permission.
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