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Getting It Right

Getting It Right

Respecting the problem.


When it comes to intervening “to make a difference” on issues of global concern, we have both an interest and an obligation to “get it right.” History is full of examples of well meaning people with the best of intentions seeing a problem, implementing a solution and yet somehow getting it all wrong, after all­­. Certainly not every consequence can be anticipated, but, within some broad categories, we can at least hold an awareness of potential pitfalls and make our choices accordingly.

But really, “getting it right” simply means having the appropriate relationship of respect with the problem at hand.

  • Think about the things you have respect for versus the things you don’t respect.
  • What does respect imply? How does respect look in practice?
  • What is involved in a relationship of profound respect versus one where respect is limited or absent all together?

Respect suggests a certain purposeful centeredness, a quality of mindful consideration, a deeper sense of connection and a clarity of perception—of really seeing what it is that is before us.

In other words, the quality of respect implies a deeper-than-surface-level experience. A relationship of respect also implies that we hold ourselves with the same clear and centered regard.

In our encounters with issues of global concern we can parse the topic of respect into at least 4 categories:

  1. Respect for investments of “time, talent and treasure.”
    • Is the intervention sustainable? Is what I do today a “gift” or an “investment” — a “one time impact” or is it going to continue to make a difference into the future? What needs to be in place to make that so?
    • Is there waste or duplication of effort? How much of your “time, talent and treasure” makes it all the way to solving the problem?
    • Are those interested in the problem working together toward a solution or at cross purposes with each other?
  2. Respect for the setting or the context of the problem.
    • Is this the right solution for the right problem? Does it make the best use of available resources?
    • Does implementing the solution create more or different kinds of problems?
    • Is there a larger issue driving the issue of concern?
    • Aside from “solving the problem”, what else about the situation merits your concern?
  3. Respect for the individuals we’re attempting to serve.
    • Are there ways in which our efforts make “objects” of those we’re helping?
    • Is our intervention more about us or authentically about them? Is it our needs being met, or theirs? How would we know the difference?
    • Have we taken culture into account in defining the problem? in crafting and implementing the solution?
    • What role does power have in describing the problem or the solution? How do we address or account for disparities of power?
  4. Respect for ourselves and our own sense of connection to the issue at hand.
    • Is this issue “your thing” or are you called to other work in other areas?
    • Do you find your heart in it? or does your heart pull you elsewhere?