Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Change the World Through Friendship

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I can’t change the world.

I want to. I’m not satisfied with the way everything is. Yes, there is good, but far too often there isn’t.

The world can be a hard place. I hope you want, at least to some degree, to change the world too.

But we can’t.


photo by Va Sfak

The World Needs to Change

The desire to see the world change originates in what we see and experience and feel. All of us realize that not everything is as it should be. Something is missing. Something is lacking.

We have moments when the world does seem perfect. The smile and laugh of a baby. Holding hands with that special someone while walking through the woods at dusk. An acceptance letter of a desire long hoped for. An approving embrace from a father.

But then there are times when everything is wrong. The world is cruel and hard and cold. We hurt and we ache and we groan.

Our lives are a strange juxtaposition of beauty and pain.

For some, if the world doesn’t change soon, they won’t last much longer. Their bodies will give in to disease. Their energy will give in to hunger. Their hearts will give in to loneliness. Their souls will suffocate in despair..

For them it is not an issue of comfort or joy. It is not an issue of living their dreams or hoping for something a little bit better than what they have. It is an issue of life and death.

And their world needs to change desperately.

What We Really Mean

When we say we want to change the world, most of the time we mean we want to change other people.

When we describe what is wrong it is almost always involves somebody else. Those people over there who believe that. Or the group that supports that one thing. Or the people who keep doing the wrong stuff.

It is natural to assume that the way we see things and the way we lives our lives is right. And that everyone else is wrong. (The assumption of being right is another issue for another day.)

So we try to change them. We warn them with condemning words. We prophesy about their future, declaring what might happen if they don’t become what we want. We entice them with rewards. We threaten them with punishment.

But we can’t change them. We can’t make them see something they don’t. We can’t make them feel something we do. We can’t force someone to make different choices.

Perhaps we can cause short term change in their behavior, especially when we threaten them. But this isn’t change. It is fear.

The problem with trying to change people is that our focus rests on our goal, our belief, our opinion. And we forget about the person who gets in the way.

What Can We Do?

If we can’t change the world or the people in it, what can we do?

We change the one person who needs it the most. We change ourselves. We change how we interact with the world. We change what we do.

The only way anything in this world will change is if I buy into the idea that it starts with me. I committed a grammatical error and changed my writing perspective for that reason. I can’t change you and I don’t want to. I can only change me.

The one and only thing I can control in my life is myself.. I can control how I respond to circumstances. I can control how I view others. I can control how I treat them. I can choose to love.

We can’t change people, but we can choose to love them unconditionally. (Tweet that.)

Through love we gain influence. Through love earn respect by offering respect.  I don’t believe that anybody needs us to change them. What they need really need is a friend.

When we love, maybe people change, maybe they don’t. How they respond isn’t our problem. Even if they don’t choose to change themselves, we are better off for offering ourselves in this way.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? 

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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14 Replies

  1. I’ve often thought about this when I’ve been on missions trips. There’s nothing like going to third world countries to jar you from the way you see the world. I usually go with grand expectations of what I can do/offer to help change the socioeconomic conditions for those we’re going to work with. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m a big proponent for social justice. But I always leave those trips realizing I was the one who was changed. My vision, my goals, my plans all collide with a transformed perspective rooted in humility.

  2. I believe that through our influence not only can we help people choose to change, we can in turn impact the world in a positive way. This can be through individual specific influence, this can be through references, or through resources.

    Our influence can definitely be directly tied to how we function, as you mentioned loving unconditionally. When we live that way, there is no doubt we will impact the world.

  3. I agree that we can have an influence and the strongest way to influence someone is through friendship. I hesitate though because the goal of friendship isn’t to impact, but to be friends. all friends impact each other, though.

  4. Have you ever made any new friends on those trips?

  5. Definitely can appreciate that point. The goal of friendship isn’t to influence, but the truth is we have an influence on each other – intentional or not. But if we act out of unconditional love, that will demonstrate our genuine care and concern for that person and will likely influence them (my personal belief, in a positive way). Great thought provoking questions Jeremy.

  6. Excellent post Jeremy! When my perspective changed, from making converts to making friends, so did my life!

  7. Yes, most definitely. The trips usually end in tears on both sides!

  8. I agree. It’s a tremendous shift.

  9. Jeremy … as I’m in the phase of life preparing to shift from one side of the ocean to the other after 17 years, your tag line “live better stories” has been an anchoring phrase for me. A mantra almost. I know it’s time to go, but it is hard, hard, hard. But when I ask myself, is this the story you want to live, I know that for now, it’s not. And I need to leave, to change myself (per this post), to change the world :). I thankful our paths have crossed here on the internet.

  10. Christian Writers

    Great post, Jeremy. If we don’t want to look back on our lives with regret, we must love others as God loved us, and anchor ourselves in the truth we hold dear.

    Rev. CM Logan

  11. AF

    Sometimes all you can do is pray for them….especially when you can plainly tell when they’re in bondage to their own….legalistic thoughts…

  12. We can pray. but we can also act like a friend. we have the choice to treat People a certain way no matter how they treat us.

  13. Amy, I love your story. If there is anything I can do to contribute to it let me know.

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