I watched the numbers climb with equal parts delight and dread. As a writer, I want my work to be enjoyed. Each piece I put forth for public consumption represents hours of painstaking labor. A crummy first draft can be pounded out in short order but I refuse to post the first unpolished words that find their way out of my cerebral cortex. A significant amount of time is spent rereading, rewording, and bouncing off of my manly Muse before I present the finished product. So as the number of views broke my admittedly modest personal record, I couldn’t help but feel a tingly sort of thrill.
However, as the number of people viewing this particular post continued to rise I began to feel a sense of unease. I became rather obsessive about checking my blog stats that week and my heart became unsettled. Thankfully, the furor died down quickly. After all, I am but a blip on the radar of the blogosphere. But the conversations that ensued in my own circles as well as the ribbing I received only served to burden me more. Why?
The post was entitled, ‘Boob Etiquette, Side Hugs, and Mommy Wars in the Church’. Within two days of its posting it logged four times the views of any other piece I’ve written. If I’d known that putting a slightly naughty word in my title would generate such interest in my work, I’d have done it long ago. Or not. I find it fascinating and a little sad that the marketing gurus are correct. Having something worthwhile to say, or even being a talented writer matters less than having a catchy tagline. Sigh.
But more distressing to me was the fact that most people I spoke to completely missed the point of the piece. I was attempting to use a pet peeve of mine, coupled with a hefty dose of levity, to highlight the issue of judgment that I see in myself and others. In rereading the post, I can see that I failed. My point was overshadowed by my example. Sigh again.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks feeling spiritually and artistically lethargic. I couldn’t shake the tension between a desire to be more widely read, and the need to be authentic. You see, as I look around cyberspace I find that those who are snarky or slightly outrageous tend to gain more of a following. I can do that, but it diminishes who I desire to be as a writer. I don’t want to be ‘the boob lady’; the one who consistently says what many are thinking but don’t dare say. I do that on occasion, yes, but that is not who I am overall. This conundrum rolled around in my brain with no resolution until a few days ago when I found clarity in an unlikely source.
I was sitting in a local theater enjoying the Bay Area’s annual teen vocal competition. As the kids performed a lively rendition of Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’, I was struck by the chorus:
I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause
Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me
The applause, applause, applause
As I sat there tapping my foot to this catchy tune, I had one of those, ‘Is it me, Lord’, moments. Is this me? Have I lost my focus, once again, as to why I’m called to write? Am I more concerned with being widely read than I am with sharing truth and encouragement?
We are all in danger of losing our focus this way. Our Creator has given each of us a unique combination of gifts and talents. As His people, we are to use these passions to edify or care for others and thus illuminate the reality of Christ. However, the self-centered nature of humanity easily succumbs to the desire to be liked, to be popular, and to receive acclaim for the work we do. Whether we are writers, musicians, leaders, organizers, mothers, teachers, or those working behind the scenes, we all fall prey to this derailment in our motivation.
We muscle our way to center stage, drinking in the applause of men, while the attention gets shifted from Him to us. This misdirected spotlight then blinds us to the needs of the very audience we are striving to reach. And when the applause dies down, we are left empty and vulnerable, in a starring role that was never meant to be ours.
Regardless of what talents we possess, or whether we are called to use them at home, at work, or in ministry, we should ask ourselves: whose applause am I seeking? We will never find lasting soul satisfaction in the voices of multitudes telling us how awesome we are. True validation is found in the single voice of the God we serve saying, ‘Well done.’
Lord, recalibrate my heart daily. Let me be satisfied with knowing that my passions point to You. Remind me that my worth is not calculated by the number of people who like what I do, but by how You see me. Use what gifts I have, for it is truly all Yours anyway. Thank you for giving me a way to encourage Your people, and may I do so faithfully. Amen.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, ESV)
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (Matthew 25:21, NLT)