Make problems small: A lesson from lobbying, and Romans
By: Ben Beakes
One of the principles we often invoke with our clients at Three Point Strategies (3PS) is that complex problems demand simple solutions. This is not an original idea. I heard this statement while participating in a Chick-Fil-A Leadercast when I worked at the University of Charleston. For the life of me I cannot remember which speaker said it. But I do remember that Mike Krzyzewski, the head basketball coach at Duke, was one of the presenters – he was phenomenal.
The principle recognizes that many of the problems we face are complex. This is especially true for many of our government affairs clients who are trying to find solutions to policy issues within a political system that can be turbulent at times. But it is true of personal, business, and societal problems as well. Problems can be unclear, have several tentacles, produce uncertain consequences, involve multiple stakeholders, etc. With the age of social media and other media, problems can be exacerbated by opinions from anyone who has access to a smart phone. Problems can get complex quickly.
Sure, simple solutions do not work in every situation. But the idea behind the principle that complex problems demand simple solutions is that we often drown ourselves in the problem or blind ourselves to obvious solutions. My experience is that when facing a complex problem, we spend too much time seeking the perfect solution where perfect does not exist. Then we get consumed. So, what do you do then? Find the simple.
My team has done this on multiple occasions for several clients. This is not to suggest that getting at the simple solution is easy. It takes a lot of listening, understanding points of view, gaining a sense of reality, and lots of reflections. Many times, I must diagram or map out paths to success on paper to see the picture clearly. And, most of all, finding the simple solution requires being objective.
What about our world though? What about the problems we face as a nation and society? What about our national politics? These problems truly seem too big, too complex to fix. I often find myself succumbing to the despair of inaction, like most people do, when I see the problems of the world today. This give-up attitude will not produce solutions.
I was recently encouraged while studying Romans 12. Romans begins with the word, “Therefore.” This transitional word describes what we, as Christians, should do in response to the fact that there is only one way we have salvation - by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul spent the first eleven chapters of Romans proving that point – Chapter twelve begins with a “so what are you going to do with this grace and mercy” transition.
So, what are we going to do? Paul says, “to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” He goes on, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.”
There is a lot to unpack here. For the purpose of this article, however, one of the things Paul is saying is that we are to act, we are to serve, we are not to succumb to the pressures of this world, but be different, to be part of the solution. When we see these complex problems, we are not called to run away. That is what this world wants us to do. We are to be different.
Paul goes on in verses 9-21 to describe how we are to love others, be devoted to one another, be a blessing to others, etc. It is in these verses that I found something that had never stuck out to me. Verse 16 says, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
Dr. Tony Evans, founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas and author of the Tony Evans Bible Commentary, said this about that verse:
"Unity is the most important aspect of the church. Paul shows us one of the most obvious ways to live that out: associate with the humble. If you want to keep from thinking too highly of yourself, make it a regular part of your agenda to connect with people who have nothing to give back…. They may be nobodies in the world’s eyes, but in the church, they ought to feel like somebodies.”
Here is the point. We make our problems too big. We see thousands of hurting people, hundreds of homeless on our streets, countless people suffering from hopelessness. In other words, our problems are complex. But we need to make our problems small.
Romans 12:16 is telling us that there is one person out there who is suffering with whom we are to associate. Just one. Stop being proud – stop trying to solve the entire problem. Make your problem small and help the one. Have faith that God will convict others to do the same and bring healing to the masses, one person at a time.
This hit me like a ton of bricks. How can I so easily invoke this principle of finding simple solutions in my work, but fail to see it applied in my daily life to help others? We all can do better.
Our nation’s leaders could use this strategy too. Take, for instance our national debt. The United States’ national debt is nearly $29 trillion. That’s $87,000 per U.S. citizen, or $230,000 per U.S. taxpayer. Wow! This is an extremely complex problem. The enormity of this problem prevents us from acting. Perhaps our federal leaders can just start small, be simple – begin by passing a balanced budget for the coming year. Act! Serve! Find the one! Make the problem small.
To tie it all together, each of us can be part of a solution. We do not need grand campaigns, masses of money, or the thought that we must solve an entire problem ourselves. Find the simple solution. Many times, that simple solution is what is right in front of us.
At 3PS, we will continue to implement this principle for our clients as we assist them in finding solutions. My intent is to do more in finding the one and making the problem small in my personal life. My prayer is that we all can be part of the solution simply by loving and serving our neighbor.