Changing the landscape starts with our ‘why’ (And being real about it)

Changing the landscape starts with our ‘why’ (And being real about it) (Tim Foster/Unsplash)

An extremely brief story about a friend and a question. It’s important to all of us.

She (my friend) was talking to a leader in the pregnancy help community. During the conversation, my friend asked, “So what is your ‘why?’ What drew you to get involved in this work?”

The answer surprised my friend. “I don’t talk about that,” she was told. And that is the end of the story.

But there’s more to be said about this interaction. I’m not knocking the person who decided not to share her story. She may have had a good reason. And, she may have thought it is enough for her to serve those needing her help, that it is enough to reach out in love, and that it is wise to keep her ‘why’ to herself. Maybe all of this is true.

Another quick point in her defense: This work is not about us. It is about those who need us. Blubbering our entire life story to another may not always be a prudent decision.

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When ‘why’ matters

But sometimes, our reticence to share our ‘why’ causes us to miss amazing opportunities to reach those with whom we engage. An obvious situation to share our ‘why,’ of course, is the client advocate who was once a teenage single mom. If she is sitting across from a teenager who just found out she is pregnant, it could make perfect sense to share her ‘why.’

Sometimes, because our ‘why’ isn’t based on a watershed life event, we fail to see its importance. Or, if our ‘why’ changes over the years, we might overlook its value. 

Here’s what I mean:

My original ‘why’ started with a pastor’s words in 1980—I’ve mentioned this before on this site. My pastor shared a message about the sanctity of life as I was a college freshman sitting in the back of the sanctuary, and I sensed a calling to run to the front line of this work.

My ‘why’ didn’t consist of an unexpected pregnancy, an abortion decision, or a friend who was dealing with these issues. It started in a church. Boring, right?

Yet, my ‘why’ has a value, too—because over the years there has been change. A lot of it.

Originally, I thought the front line was politics or public policy. 

Can I be honest? If I’m being a bit vulnerable, my ‘why’ began with an intense desire to win

I saw the world as two main groups: those opposed to righteousness, and those on my side (the good guys!). My side deserved—for all the right reasons—to win. We needed to save those children, to win the political struggle and push back those trying to reshape our country. I was 18 years old. It was 10 years later that I found my way to a pregnancy center, finding a new front line where I remain today.

Was my original ‘why’ wrong? No, but there was more to come. So today, I’m certainly thankful for pro-life gains on the political front—including many pro-life women who just won congressional seats. This is huge and without a doubt, I want to see this trend continue.

Yet today, my ‘why’--though it doesn’t prevent me from commenting on politics--has a far different focus. In the last thirty years I’ve seen so many shackled by a past abortion decision. And I think of those we see in our pregnancy help ministries who believe their only option is to end a pregnancy. These are hurting people. 

Truth be told, I didn’t see them so clearly 40 years ago. My focus was on an issue, and sometimes I overlooked (or simply missed) those the issue affects.

Forty years later, my focus isn’t so much on winning an issue, but on providing hope to those in these challenging situations, paving the way for freedom. Because when any of us gains freedom and hope, we make much better decisions, lives are changed and yes, lives are saved.

Funny thing. My shifting ‘why’ may not be super important to share with a teenage guy who just found out his girlfriend is pregnant. Yet, sharing this hope perspective with potential donors to our ministries—through stories and illustrations—has a huge impact on helping these ministries raise funds.

The lesson? It’s quite possible that the more vulnerable we are in talking about our ‘why,’ the more people tend to connect with us.

Tweet This: It’s quite possible that the more vulnerable we are in talking about why we serve in pregnancy help the more people tend to connect with us.

So then, if we ever wonder about whether to share our ‘why,’ perhaps our first question should be, “Why not?” 

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