A little less conversation, a little more action please.


I want to change the world. If you know nothing else about me, know that.

Yep, it’s probably young and naive and idealistic. Yep, it’s probably pretentious and arrogant and self-important. But whatever. There’s a lot of things that I really enjoy, a lot of experiences I want to have soon and a lot of things I want to do at some point in the future. There’s a whole array of different careers I’d quite like to try, and people I’d like to meet, and characters I’d like to be.

But more than anything else, I want the world I leave to be different to the one I came in to. Different because I was here. Different because I made it better. Among the things I believe that excite me and inspire me is the conviction that the God who created the world is also redeeming the world, is also renewing the world. And he won’t stop, won’t give up.

As Rowan Williams said:

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 11.42.52

I want to change the world. If you know nothing else about me, know that.

If you know more than that though, it’s probably that I write. And talk. And Tweet. And chat. And preach. I can’t help it, the thing that comes most naturally in the world to me is to communicate. Using words. A lot.

So here’s what I’m trying to work out: are words enough to change the world?

Is it enough to spend my time, my energy, my career, on words?

It goes without saying that words are incredibly powerful. With words, news is carried across the world, opening our eyes to what we could otherwise ignore. Scandals are exposed, opinions shared, people inspired. If it wasn’t for words, for people speaking and writing, I’d know little about the God who sustains me. I’d not care much about deep injustices that would still feel so distant, so abstract, nothing much to do with me. If not for impassioned speeches and disarmingly honest accounts, for well-articulated arguments and patient explanations, there’s no way I’d be working in international development. So if with my words, I can do that for other people, could that be enough?

Maybe if I write about the scandal that is corporate tax avoidance, and I tell the stories of people affected by climate change, and I keep questioning the policies that keep poor people poor, and I preach about the tragedy of exclusion from the church – if I work hard enough with my words that they inform and challenge and persuade and inspire, might I change the world?

I suppose so.

But is that really what changing the world looks like? More and more people talking to each other, nodding our heads and saying it all again? Won’t someone need to do something, at some point? And can it be me? Or is my role just to work on the words, to try to get other people to do something?

As you might be able to tell from the string of questions, I’m still working this through. But here’s where I’ve got to so far –

  • The world changes when people who have power over big systems and structures make decisions. They set priorities, they write policies, they allocate money, they make laws. They can make the world a fairer, more just, more beautiful place by overturning unfair rules and inhumane policies, by picking people over profit and generosity over greed. And  those leaders (of churches, communities and countries) can be influenced by words. My words, and other people’s words. More and more people talking, telling their stories, sharing new information, making a big noise – those words can have power over people with power. My words, in their own right and in their ability to inspire others’ words, can absolutely change the world.
  • The world also changes when individual people act. People who spend their weekends mentoring teenagers. People who spent their evenings at charity trustee meetings. People who bake for cake sales and organise quiz nights and run marathons to raise money for good causes. People who open their homes and foster children. Those people could spend their time at a laptop, convincing others that the world needs to change – perhaps they do. Perhaps they write blog posts about the inexcusable state of our country that we need so many food banks. But they also get out and run those food banks.

For me, that’s the challenge. I’ll always be driven to write and speak. And I believe it’s worth my time and effort, to work on crafting my words and putting together a piece that impacts other people. I believe it’s worth the emails to my MP and the letters to big companies, to try to change their minds. I know my words can, through them, make a difference. That’s the bit that comes naturally.

But if I really believe what I say, if I really want the little corner of the world that I inhabit, to look different when I leave it to when I came, I’ll need to act too. For me that means showing up at meetings I’d rather not be at so that I can help make decisions in favour of the poor the and marginalised. It means volunteering to help at our church’s meal for homeless people, even though it means giving up a precious Friday night in the pub. It means throwing myself into fundraisers even when the draw of the TV and the warmth of the sofa threaten to immobilise me.

Because when we act, the world changes a little bit right then. And when we act, our words have more power. Stories become our own to tell. They gather up with them an authority they’d never have when they just come from a glance at the Guardian in the comfort of a coffee shop.

Our words have power to change other people, to influence decisions, and to change the world. But if they’ve gone deep, they’ll change us too. And when they change us, they’ll move us to action. 


About Claire

@claireylegs Keen on Jesus. Keen on justice. Ministry assistant in the Great North East. Blogger. Find me in: coffee shop / church / pub / bed.
This entry was posted in My life and faith, Social justice and politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A little less conversation, a little more action please.

  1. Doug says:

    Articulation and action. A good mix. And good luck.


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