Not happy with the way things are going?
What have you been tolerating?
You see, apathy sneaks in when we start tolerating mediocrity.
It starts really small.
And it grows. And it grows. And it grows. And before you know it, you’re not happy with the way things are going.
Apathy is a sickness that kills. I learned this when I was in my late teens, and I see it everywhere today.
When I was an undergraduate, I joined a fraternity.
I had a lot of fun and learned some invaluable lessons.
When we (the fraternity) were fully engaged and paid attention to the necessary details, we enjoyed autonomy and operated how we saw fit. We were left alone by the university, alumni, and the International Fraternity.
When we stopped paying attention to the details, became less engaged and started tolerating bad behavior, we’d lose autonomy. That’s when we’d hear from the grownups.
Through our mistakes, I learned firsthand the undeniably destructive power of apathy.
The fraternity knew all about it and tried to warn us. During every new member orientation, a poem was read and want to share it with you now:
Let George Do It (That’s really the name)
“My name is George. I’m an all-around handyman, and I’d like you to feel free to use my service for any and all chores, errands, duties which you may be too busy to perform. Anytime there’s anything that needs doing and you’d rather not, you just let George do it.
I’ll write to your congressman for you; I’ll write your newspaper editor; I’ll serve on the chapter committees in your place; I’ll do anything you’re too tired to do or preoccupied to do. With me around, you can be as lazy as you like, or just have fun. The more the merrier, I always say. My services are available to you for all the tedious, time-consuming things which you’d rather duck doing. You haven’t time to do your pledge assignments. Let George do it.
You haven’t time for a service project. I have. You don’t want to accept committee assignments and extra responsibilities, anyway. You let ol’ George tend to those things. Maybe I’m not as famous as Castro, but if it hadn’t been for me, you’d never have heard of him. And that goes for Stalin and Hitler and Mao-Tse-Tung, too. I made those guys! And the big-time racketeers in the United States. You name ’em… without me those guys would be nothing.
Why do I want to run errands for you? When I’m the guy who runs all these “big wheels,” why do I want to run errands for you? Don’t you see? I get a kick out of electing presidents of student bodies and school boards. I’m all these things you used to do before you took up chasing dollars and not being concerned over your organizations or your responsibilities. Don’t feel like you’re imposing. I’m glad to be of service. Helping you, I’m really helping myself.
How do you think I was able to take over and run a third of the world already? Because nobody else wanted to bother. They said “Let George do it,” so I did it. Now I’m taking over in lots of cities and counties and I figure it’s just a matter of time until I’ll take over in this chapter, too. I want to thank you for making it possible.
Remember now, if there is ever any way in which I can be of help, I’m at your service. You just have fun and don’t worry about a thing. I’ll do your worrying, too. I’LL BILL YOU LATER!”
What came to mind when you were reading that poem? Where do you see apathy showing up in your life?
Apathy is a very human thing.
When things are good, we start letting things slide. We say things like, “It’s fine. That’s not a big deal. That’s just Stacy being Stacy.”
But it’s not fine. It is a big deal. Red flags are red flags and must be treated as such. Standards must be understood and followed.
So, what do you do?
Addressing apathy head on
You get what you tolerate. We get what we tolerate.
The first step is accepting personal responsibility for standards. Either you know the existing standards, or you set new ones.
You need to make sure everyone involved is aware of and understands them.
Then everyone follows them.
When people go astray, you correct the behavior directly. “Stacy, you we’re 45 minutes late for our meeting today, and that’s not acceptable.” You then apply the appropriate punishment. Once the punishment is satisfied, Stacy is welcomed back with open arms. You’ll find everyone grows stronger because of it.
There is immense freedom when you do this, for everyone involved. When standards and boundaries are clear and upheld, we understand the rules of the game.
This is true whenever humans are working together:
- For families: Parents must set and uphold standards of behavior for their children.
- For fraternities and sororities: Brothers and sisters must hold one another accountable for their conduct.
- For businesses: Leadership must be clear in expectations and protocols for employees.
- For community groups: School boards must operate in the best interest of children, and must be held accountable by parents and voters.
- For politicians: Elected officials must represent the interests and expectations of their constituents.
Who’s responsible for doing this?
You’re a grownup. Start acting like it.
Accept personal responsibility. Set or know the standards. Make sure everyone involved knows what they are. Hold yourself and others to those standards.
When you do that, no more apathy.