I'm human. Sometimes I get frustrated when it seems that no one is even listening, and my motivation to keep trying starts to sink. What's the point of sitting down and writing another article? It's hard work, I get more flak than appreciation, this isn't my job, and I don't get paid to write. I don't need to do this.
Even the pats on the back do little to recharge my batteries. Since I don't really care if people don't like what I have to say, it's only fair that I shouldn't care very much if they do. My goal is to actually make a difference, and you don't accomplish that by telling people what they already know or what they want to hear. You do that by pushing uncomfortable buttons. When you push those buttons, most people will push back.
If I wanted to be popular, I would stick to safe themes, like "let's come together in times of crisis", "drive safely to reduce traffic accidents", or "don't forget your child in the car". If I wanted to be REALLY popular, I would write articles for secular audiences criticizing the Orthodox community, and I would write articles for Orthodox audiences encouraging secular Jews to return to their roots. I do just the opposite. I tell the Orthodox world to take responsibility for its own problems instead of looking for scapegoats and to put Torah principles before social expectations. I tell secular Jews to stop embracing their enemies and hating their own, and to return to an authentic Jewish lifestyle.
As a result, I've managed to unite secular and Orthodox Jews a very rare feat in disliking me. Even worse, it's very rare to receive evidence that I've actually managed to get through to someone who didn't previously agree with me, that I moved the needle ever so slightly in the right direction. I have no interest in preaching to the choir; I want to make a difference. If I'm not making a difference, why bother? If you can't change anyone's mind, why keep trying? Who needs the tzorus? Why continue to care?
Thankfully, this doesn't faze me as much as it used to. Over the years I've learned to reinforce my motivation to keep trucking along, no matter what, and I'd like to share what I've learned to help you do the same. I know I'm not the only one fighting the good fight and trying to accomplish what seems impossible. We need to keep at it, even if it seems like no one is listening, it's a waste of time, and we'd be better off not bothering.
Here's what I remind myself when the yetzer hara (sometimes disguised as other people) tells me to stop trying to change the world.
1. Even if you don't get through to anyone, ever, you still have to try. The Gemara relates that during the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, there were elders who kept the entire Torah. Initially they were to be spared from the punishment, but they were prosecuted in Heaven for failing to rebuke the public, and marked for death. The angel Gavriel tried to defend them. He said that he knew with certainly that the people would have rejected their rebuke. Hashem replied as follows: If that was revealed to you, was it revealed to them? (Shabbos 55A)
It may indeed be true that you will not get through to a single person. Depressing as that may be, it does not absolve you from trying. Even if you can't save anyone else, at least by trying you are saving yourself, and your conscience can be clear.
2. Your efforts might bear fruit in ways you will never know about. I used to remind myself of this when I taught kids who came from homes with weak to no levels of halachic observance. It is unreasonable to expect them to change dramatically before your eyes, even if you are the most passionate and dedicated teacher. At the same time, it is self-defeating to believe that your efforts have no impact simply because you see no concrete evidence. You may well be planting seeds that will only blossom many years later, and you might never find out about it in this world.
Just because you don't receive positive reinforcement doesn't mean you aren't making a positive difference. In fact, your efforts are all the more noble precisely because you persist without your batteries being constantly charged.
Another way your efforts can bear fruit is by strengthening other people who agree with you but feel marginalized. This was my mission when I started EndTheMadness nearly two decades ago not to change the minds of those who are violently opposed to my ideas, but to educate the ignorant and strengthen those who agreed with me but felt trapped in a system that wasn't working for them.
Maybe you won't be the one to directly inspire the change. But maybe you will inspire someone else to speak up because you did, and the change will ultimately happen because of the spark you ignited. You might not get the credit you deserve, but this too makes your efforts all the more noble, and no less important.
3. It's not your responsibility to finish the job, but you're not free to absolve yourself from it (Avos 2:16). In all aspects of life all of them the results are not in our hands.
Jews are always in the minority, and clear-thinking, Torah-true Jews are a tiny minority within the minority. It is entirely impossible according to nature of the world for us to win the ideological wars being waged all around us.
Don't let that discourage you, though; that's the way it's supposed to be.
If we were more numerous and powerful than our adversaries, it would mean little for us to be victorious. It would certainly not demonstrate that we are on God's side. No, we are supposed to be outnumbered, with the game fixed against us, where victory is a natural impossibility. When we ultimately are victorious and we will be it will be unmistakable that God fought for us as we fought for Him.
We have to remind ourselves that just as God granted victory to the few over the many in physical battles in the times of Chanuka and many other occasions, so He will grant victory to the few over the many in the ideological battles that we must fight. It is not our responsibility to calculate the likelihood of success before raising our voice. That is a trap of the yetzer hara for us to give up and surrender and his only hope to defeat us.
It is God's job to win the battle for us, in the time that He sees fit. It is our job to continue to show up for battle, to never surrender.
4. A Jew who really believes that God runs the world, and who really believes that every word of the Torah is true, never loses his hope. Sometimes, in spite of everything, you really will reach people and witness a change. But you can only do that if you keep trying. What a shame it would be to put in a massive effort and then stop right before the finish line, simply because you didn't know it was just one more step forward.
Maybe all my efforts to this point didn't influence a single Jew to leave galus. Maybe all my efforts to this point didn't bring about the various other changes I've tried to achieve. But one thing you can bank on is that I'm not going to stop trying. If you've been fighting the good fight as well, I hope you won't stop either.
One last push, and we might just get there.