Passion vs Beliefs
Ever found yourself struggling with a conflict between something you are passionate about and your beliefs?
I am passionate about breaking cycles of poverty, violence & hopelessness and about kids. I have been fortunate enough to work closely with a number of organizations that shared these passions and provided great opportunities for me to participate in meaningful ways.
I can remember plenty of times when my thoughts on the best way forward were not perfectly aligned with the organizations I was supporting. I may have been momentarily frustrated but differences like these are something to be expected and rarely cause for much concern.
What about when the lack of alignment is not about opinions…but beliefs?
The USA Today recently estimated the number of public charities in the U.S. at more than 965,000. Each of these is likely to have established clear vision, mission and values statements to help guide their organizations. I’m sure it’s not surprising to hear that religious beliefs are central to these statements for a number of organizations. And (at least for me) this is where the potential for conflict at the belief-level comes in.
With several sources estimating between 19 and 21 major religions – inclusive of approximately 270 large religious groups and many smaller ones – there are many opportunities for individuals to find themselves at odds with the beliefs of a particular faith-based organization.
Twice over the last few years I found myself having to choose between continuing support of organizations whose mission I was truly passionate about and whose beliefs, I was learning, were not perfectly aligned with my own.
I was involved with the first organization for more than 20 years. Over time, it became clear through the organization’s actions that the gap between their beliefs and mine were growing. As a result, I chose to move on to another organization whose mission was very similar and whose beliefs were much more aligned with my own.
The second situation was a little trickier. Here, it was not so much a change in beliefs as it was a revelation of a difference that was important to both the organization and to me. For my part, I was okay with our differences in that it was not a situation in which the actions of the organization were in conflict with my particular beliefs. However, since I was in a leadership role with this organization I was concerned that my personal actions could lead to challenges for the organization. In the end, I chose to resign my leadership position while continuing to support the organization and its wonderful mission in other ways.
So why did two similar situations end with very different outcomes? For me, the key difference was whether the organizations’ actions made me feel as though their beliefs were being imposed upon me. While my beliefs are strong, I rarely feel compelled to impose them upon others. On the other hand, I don’t react very well to others imposing their beliefs upon me. I also draw a hard line when someone chooses to put their beliefs into action in a way that causes others to suffer.
Since beliefs are such a personal thing, I’m sure there are many who would react quite differently in these same circumstances. I hope we have a chance to hear some of these stories and perspectives.
With billions of people in need and millions of organizations trying to help, there are many opportunities to give back through an organization that is aligned with your beliefs. Philanthropegie lists a number of resources for matching your interests with those of organizations. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find an organization that will help turn your passion into meaningful action.