The Golden Circle: Why I’m Catholic

A few months ago, my boss sent a link to a TED Talk given by Simon Sinek. Sinek is an author and motivational speaker known for applying the “golden circle” concept to human motivation. The golden circle is a visual representation of how humans communicate. In his talk, Sinek explains how leading informative conversations with why is more effective at drawing people to your cause or getting them to buy your product than starting with what. My boss intended to stoke the fires of inspiration in the context of our business, but I decided to explore the idea of the golden circle in the context of Catholicism.




Most companies’ marketing messages start with what at the outer ring of the golden circle, and move inward toward why.

According to Sinek, if Apple, a technology company with arguably one of the most profitable marketing strategies, was like most companies, their marketing message would read something like this:

“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?”

The message starts by telling us what they make and leads into why consumers should buy a computer from Apple. As consumers, it’s the type of marketing message we expect.

This is how Apple actually markets their products:

“In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers.Want to buy one?”

Consumers buy Apple’s products not because the products are best of breed, but because consumers believe in Apple’s vision of challenging the status quo. Apple starts the conservation with why.

Sinek used another example: Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech. He makes his final point by saying, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”

As my faith journey continues, I’m growing more comfortable with the call all Christians have to “spread the good news,” or evangelize. When we hear that word, we tend to think of preachers shouting on TV, or people knocking on doors with Bibles in the middle of dinner. It’s taken me years of prayer to figure out that evangelizing begins at an encounter with Jesus. The initial encounter may be subtle, but it eventually transforms the way you live. It excites you, it frees you, it changes you, it gives you strength and peace, and you become more yourself than you ever thought you could be because you know Jesus, and Jesus knows you, and he’s helping you grow into the person he intended you to be. It’s confidence in yourself, but better. It’s confidence with Christ. When we accept our place with Jesus, that we are children of God and He made us with great intention, we no longer depend on outside sources for measuring our self-worth. Experiencing this, it’s so remarkable that I can’t imagine keeping it to myself. I want others to be freed and to feel the excitement and strength and love that comes from a relationship with Christ.

After listening to Sinek’s talk about the golden circle and reflecting on the idea that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, I applied the golden circle concept to my faith in an effort to organize my thoughts around why I’m Catholic, and to attempt to build an authentic message around what it means to be Catholic.

Why I’m Catholic

“I’m baptized Catholic, I go to Mass, and I believe in Jesus as Christ.”

Starting with what at the outside of the golden circle makes it sound like what I do, not what I believe, makes me Catholic. In reality, the biggest root of my Catholic faith is that I believe Jesus died for my sins.

Here’s an alternative explanation for why I’m Catholic that starts at the center of the golden circle:

“I believe Jesus loves me and died for my sins. I believe that on my own I’m needful of others approval, emotionally volatile, and self-absorbed. My actions tend to promote division more than I realize. I’m constantly trying to fix things in my life that I think are broken, and I get disappointed when I don’t find lasting happiness. I believe and have experienced my relationship with Jesus as the source of true, constant peace rather than the circumstances of my life in this world.”

“I received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. I attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. I pray. I volunteer at church and at a hospital because I want to love others as Jesus loved me. I try to be understanding, loving, compassionate, humble, and forgiving. I believe the bread and wine are transformed into Jesus’ body and blood during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I read the Bible so I can live out the gospel through my words and actions.”

“I am Catholic.”

Participating in religious activities supports my faith, but the reason I’m Catholic is rooted in a relationship with Jesus.

A few weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a message that atheists care about others because it’s the right thing to do, but Christians are driven by a selfish motivation to be rewarded in Heaven. I knew that wasn’t accurate, but I couldn’t articulate why. The next week at a church event, I asked one of the other volunteers what her response would be to the idea that Christian kindness is motivated by a reward. She asked me to think about why I do nice things for my mom or dad, or my friends. Because I love them, I answered. I don’t give my mom a Mother’s Day gift because I want something in return. I do it because I love her, and we have a relationship. My time on earth is not about serving others so that I can lie on the beach of Heaven when I die. It’s about aligning my words and actions to the Gospel, therefore aligning myself to Jesus in order to know him more intimately. I believe Heaven is the full realization of the relationship I have built with Jesus throughout my lifetime.

Second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians 3:8-14

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain that resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own… I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

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