"Creativity requires me to pause. It requires me to ask questions. It requires me to think of solutions, and when I don't have a solution, creativity would say - then get out there and find one!"
Let’s be real. I can participate in a Facebook debate with the best of them. I have been known to post the occasional politically charged status, or respond in anger to that high school friend who “just doesn’t get it” and needs to be told whats true.
I have spent way too much emotional energy crafting responses and turning over reasons why “so-and-so” is wrong in my head, and I have decided that there’s got to be a better way.
Last week, 17 people were killed in yet another mass shooting at a U.S. school. As the facts about the shooting began to trickle in, so did the opinions about whether or not the U.S. should implement stronger gun laws.
As I read article after article and Facebook post after Facebook post, I grew angry and frustrated and sat down to my computer to post my own really amazing response.
And then I stopped.
I asked myself: If I post this, is it really going to make a difference? And if it isn’t going to make a difference, then why am I spending so much time and energy trying to post it?
I’ve noticed something about myself. Whenever I read an article that gets me fired up, I immediately want to share it on Facebook. I do this because I hope that someone who currently disagrees with me will read the article and be convinced to come on my side.
Okay. So let’s assume this works. I get one more person to agree with me. Great. Now what?
Am I any closer to solving the issues surrounding school violence? Or what about the crappy access we all currently have to affordable healthcare (for real - even if you have really good health insurance, you’re probably paying way more than you would like to be paying)? If I post this article and get one person to agree with me, am I any closer to reducing homelessness in my city or providing access to quality education to every child in my community?
The answer, of course, is, “No. I am not closer to solving any of these problems. I’ve simply made myself feel better for taking a stand.”
Something I feel deeply passionate about is helping people become all of whom God made them to be. I believe God calls us to love him and live life with all our hearts, all our souls and with all our minds. We are to be people who are fully engaged - mind and body, soul and spirit.
If that’s the case, then how can I - how can you - be all of whom God made you to be when it comes to social reform and responding to crisis.
A couple of years ago, I made up my own definition of creativity: creativity is discovering who you are and using your unique perspective to impact the world around you.
I believe that creativity involves more than just art and music and entertainment. I believe that God has given each of us a big, beautiful brain that is capable of much more than we give it credit for.
When I throw up a knee-jerk response to a Facebook post, I am not letting my God-given creativity win. I am letting laziness win because creativity requires a little more than my scraped-off-the-surface response.
Creativity requires me to pause. It requires me to ask questions. It requires me to think of solutions, and when I don't have a solution, creativity would say - then get out there and find one!
I’m currently taking a child psychology class, and I read a very interesting theory from American psychologist, Alison Gopnik, this week. Gopnik argues that a child’s brain specializes in exploration, whereas an adult’s mind concentrates on exploitation of resources towards particular goals. In other words, a young child’s brain plays in order to learn, whereas an adult’s brain works to achieve specific purposes ((Mcdevitt & Ormrod, Child Development in Education, 2016; pg 189).
If you’re like me, you get really overwhelmed by the constant barrage of problems that we’re faced with in the news and on our streets every single day. I read the articles and post them on Facebook because I simply just don’t know what else to do that will get me results.
I have to consider, if I sat down to coffee with Alison Gopnik and posed all of these question to her, I think her response would be something like, “What would a child do? When children don’t know what to do, they explore, they play, they try and fail, and they learn.”
So that’s what I want us to do.
The next time one of us is about to post an article or emotional opinion on social media, I want us to stop. I want us to ask if this post is going to actually solve the problem. If the answer is no, then I want us to get creative and put our energy towards something that will move us towards a solution.
If you get overwhelmed or paralyzed by fear of not knowing what to do or doing the wrong thing, just remember what metaphorical Alison Gopnik would say, and become more like a child!
Wait a minute…
2,000 years ago, a guy named Jesus suggested that too! He said that if anyone wants to enter the kingdom of heaven, he must become like a little child.
When we follow Jesus’ advice and become like children, we get curious. When we get curious, we ask questions and play and explore. When we ask and play and explore, we learn new things, and when we learn new things, we can approach problems creatively.
One of the other things that I love about Jesus is that he always offered a third way of thinking. Whenever religious leaders presented him with an “either-or” problem, he always shocked them by not choosing a side. He would respond with a question or choose a completely alternative stance that left the leaders speechless.
This third way thinking is the creative way of thinking that we all need to be living.
Christians - Christ followers - should be the most creative and innovative when it comes to social reform and policy change. However, I fear we’ve actually become the least creative and have settled for watered down answers and blanket statements that have left us tasting stale.
Let’s freshen up that staleness. Let’s actually be the salt of the earth and stop letting fear hold us back. This change starts with you. It starts with me. It doesn’t start in some far away land called Washington D.C. on some far away date when a bill is passed. It starts in our local communities and it starts today.
Let’s get creative.