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Focus On What You Can Influence

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If you are following this election seriously at all, you know it is not about issues – at least not at this juncture.  At best its about personality, but I am not sure it is the personality of the candidates nearly so much as the personality of the nation.  This is some sort of national catharsis that has little to do with the facts on the ground and much to do with the frustrated ball of emotion that most Americans seem to be.  That emotion is poorly, if at all, analyzed and is overwhelmingly negative.  Both sides think the country is “going to hell in a hand basket,” and both think it is the other sides fault.  And that is the big tell.

We are looking outside of ourselves to resolve problems that are ours and ours alone to solve.  At RCP, Froma Harrop describes what she sees as “The Road To Trump,” blaming GOP actions dating back to the Bill Clinton administration.   She makes some points I agree with and some points I do not, but at least she is not blaming Democrats.  The Washington Post invited an Orthodox priest to write about Trump and Christianity, and he points out something that I pointed out last Sunday, Trump is no social conservative.  The priest and I differ because he thinks that means Christians won’t get from Trump what they need where I feel like what they need comes from someplace other than politics.   Everybody is looking  to politics as the source of the madness this cycle or as the solution to it, neglecting that American politics are designed by the founders to let Americans solve their problems themselves.

The Wall Street Journal this morning opined on the rift in the GOP, ripped newly open this week.  There was one line in it that sticks out as deep wisdom:

Mr. Ryan sees his obligation as salvaging what he can for the cause of conservative reform in this dispiriting year. He can’t control Mr. Trump but he’s focused on what he can influence—

“Focused on what he can influence….”

In then end each of us as individual voters can only do so much, particularly in politics.  We can contribute money to candidates, parties and PACs, and we can volunteer for same, but once we have made those decisions, it’s not really up to us anymore.  They use our money as they see fit, and when we volunteer, we do the jobs they ask of us.  And of course we vote, but it is one vote out of millions – it matters, but it is not decisive.  As individuals our political influence is pretty limited.

So how did one guy – Jesus – change the course of human history?  The answer is that He focused on what he could influence.  Set aside theology and talk of salvation and all that for a minute and just think about what He accomplished in history.  There is not doubt in my mind that He influenced to varying degrees the lives of people that listened to Him preach or that He healed.  But really he focused on twelve guys and worked to change their lives completely.  That’s it – twelve guys – that was His focus, that’s what He could genuinely and deeply influence.

As I pointed out in the piece I wrote last Sunday, Jesus did in fact conquer Rome – it just took 400 years.  That’s because He focused on what He could influence and got it right.  Rather than trying to fix that which was out there, He focused on what was right here.

This election cycle is a hot mess.  No question about it.  The more debate I hear, the more opinion pieces I read, the more fingers I see pointed, the more I think there is no short term solution to this mess.  The traditional mechanisms of politics are just not up to this mess.  We’ll have an election, someone will win, and the dissatisfaction will continue.  Oh, it’ll change where it’s looking; we’ll be upset about X instead of Y, but we’ll still be pointing fingers and crying foul.

And so I resolve to focus on what I can influence.


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