THE BLOG

Kill the Social Change Martyrs!

08/20/2012 11:07 am ET | Updated Oct 20, 2012

Patrick Gleeson's day job is running an investment portfolio with the slogan "Investing in Social Change Initiatives." He is the chief executive officer of Meyer Family Enterprises, a dynamic social impact investing fund founded by the incomparable Bonny Meyer (who masquerades at your local wine shop as Meyer Family Cellars).

More significantly, Patrick's life job is destroying the notion that economic justice work means martyrdom, Sisyphean sacrifice, long hours, hair shirts, holier-than-thou political correctness or any of other life-sucking work habits which twist us into social change robots.

"If you are not happy in your family life, you are not going to bring anything to the table as an [social entrepreneurial] employee," Patrick declares matter-of-factly.

As Patrick openly revealed in front of the iOnPoverty.tv cameras, "I get discouraged. I can't fix it all tomorrow. I can't fix it all today."

"Our culture has established a kind of officially acceptable style of causal explanation, and it is one that encourages the individual to blame himself for failure," affirms Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice. To mitigate the I-Have-To-Do-It-All Martyr's Syndrome, "...a crucial vaccine against depression is deep commitment and belonging to social groups and institutions (families, civic associations, faith communities...)." In my own case, my economic justice work with MicroCredit Enterprises, Opportunity Collaboration, iOnPoverty.tv, etc. has probably saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars in therapy sessions!

Contrary to what you may have thought, a paradox is not two medical professionals. A classic paradox is the inherent emotional strain social entrepreneurs live with as they balance a passionate commitment to their cause, work and mission with an equally passionate commitment to their family, health and career ambitions.

When our community horizon expands beyond a local neighborhood to encompass the global neighborhood, the implied obligations are enormous. When we embrace the ideals of economic justice, human rights, planetary stewardship and so on, the burden of action is endless... and, for some, endlessly exhausting. The work is never done.

Big challenges need big people to tackle them. Big leaders with visions big enough to include family, health and personal well-being.