Would you rather be a fox or a hedgehog? It’s a seemingly pointless question with potentially life-altering implications.
Back in 2001, Jim Collins wrote a book called Good to Great in which he addressed this question and developed what is now known as The Hedgehog Concept.
The fox is good at many things: it’s fast, smart and crafty – always on the move and always ready to pounce. Comparatively, the hedgehog is none of these things.
But the hedgehog is good at one thing: protecting itself. It can’t run fast or jump high or speak ten languages – but it can curl into a ball of spikes and hold on for dear life. When the fox attacks, the hedgehog comes out on top every single time.
As the ancient Greek poet Archilochus put it: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’
The aim of the Hedgehog Concept is to help us humbly recognise what we can uniquely offer the world and to embrace our unique positioning in the world.
A few weeks back I came across a familiar verse that recaptured my attention and reminded me of this fable:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
There were two things that struck me when I read this in 1 Peter 4.
Firstly. God’s grace – “his active presence in the world”, as Dallas Willard defines it – comes in various forms. There is no one-size-fits-all description of God’s presence in the world. There is no box that we can fit God into. There is no way to fully articulate or explain the breadth and depth of God’s grace. What a wonderfully freeing reality.
Secondly. We are stewards of God’s grace. In other words, God has chosen each of us to reveal himself to the world. God shows up in the world when we show up in the world. To ask the question where is God in the world? is to ask the question where am I in the world?
It makes me think of a quote from another book called The Life You’ve Always Wanted, in which John Ortberg writes: “each person is created to see a different facet of God’s beauty – something no one else can see in quite the same way – and then to bless all worshippers through all eternity with an aspect of God they could not otherwise see.”
See, I am not you and you are not me. And because I am not you and you are not me, you can reveal God’s beauty to me in a way that I could not otherwise have known and I can (hopefully) reveal God’s beauty to you in a way that you could not otherwise have known.
Each of us has the possibility of offering the world a unique glimpse into the beauty of God.
It’s very easy to point out all the things we can’t do – the ways we don’t match up to those around us. But learning from the hedgehog, maybe we’d be better to give our energy to more pressing matters:
- What do I have at my disposal that I can offer the world?
- What experiences, skills and passions do I possess that I can use to reveal God to those around me?
- Where have I been positioned in the world?
- How can I offer the world a unique glimpse into the beauty of God?
And of course, we can all be a bit slow and prickly at times. So keep that in mind.