Why People Might Discourage Your Efforts at Social Justice
Your heart has just been deeply touched by a cause and you’ve decided to devote your energy, time and money towards trying to support it. Not only are you willing to give of your own resources, but you also want to invite your community to give as well. You’re nervous about asking for support. It’s always awkward to ask for money, but deep down you believe so strongly in this cause that you decide to put your neck out on the line and ask your friends and family to support your efforts.
Most of your community will be incredibly encouraging and supportive. However, it is human nature to remember that one negative voice in a sea of 100 positive ones. As someone who has been working hard to fundraise for causes I care about for over 10 years now, I have encountered one specific type of naysayer over and over again. It took me a long time to learn not to be bogged down by that voice. However, once I realized that they often employ the same rationale to justify not supporting this good work, I discovered that the problem often lies in their worldview, not my own.
Here’s the common flow of a conversation with someone who is discouraging your charitable efforts:
“I recently became passionate about preventing AIDS!” you say. “There’s an amazing way you can help me by donating to my AIDS Walk campaign. Would you be willing to help?”
“Oh… That’s great,” they respond. “But, you know, I don’t really think we should be working on preventing AIDS when there are other issues that are more pressing. After we take care of homelessness, then we can focus on your issue.”
Their answer is a very common response. Basically, they argue that they don’t want to help you with your cause because there is another human rights issue that exists in the world. That is true. Regardless of what good you are trying to do in the world, there will always be another need that exist. However, very rarely is the rationale behind your friend’s statement that they truly think this other cause needs to be taken care of before they can help you with your efforts.
Chances are that your passion for your cause is convicting them. They see you making sacrifices and realize they could also make sacrifices to improve the world around us. However, doing so requires energy that they are not yet ready to give. To help with this psychological cognitive dissonance, your friend has found a shortcut to justify their resistance: “I don’t have to give to your fundraiser, because there are other needs that are more important.” The issue, however, is that they rarely go beyond this justification and actually pick up the torch to help the cause that they are most concerned about.
When someone doesn’t support your efforts, it is easy to become discouraged. However, that naysayer is actually the one who most needs encouragement. Let’s say they don’t want to support your work to find a cure for AIDS because they think homelessness needs to be solved first. You are in a unique position to respond, “That’s awesome you’re so passionate about the issue of homelessness! Similar to how I am participating in the AIDS Walk, there is an upcoming United Way HomeWalk to support the homeless. I’d love to help you get signed up and I’ll even donate to your campaign!”
By responding with positivity and helpfulness, you can help your discourager turn their cynicism into positive action. You can break down the psychological wall they’ve built to prevent themselves from supporting your work. You potentially empower them to contribute to a social cause that they really care about. It’s very possible that your naysayer will not actually rise up and work toward pursuing social justice with you. However, your positivity creates both an opportunity for them to support your cause, as well as a way to empower them to support their own.
By responding with positivity and helpfulness, you can help your discourager turn their cynicism into positive action.
Don’t be discouraged for one moment when someone attempts to criticize your efforts to do good in this world. Your good work is convicting and it’s to be expected that some people may resist that emotion. Respond with an empowering and positive action step and then let the conversation go. You don’t have time for negativity. Onto the next!
How do you respond to discouragement in your social justice efforts?
Images via Madison Holmlund