Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On humility and self-promotion

I have a problem. Well I have several, but one in particular is that I now find myself as a writer (one book almost ready to print as a co-author, chapters in two others and a solo book to some), a blogger on a high profile blog (Red Letter Christians) and a speaker/preacher getting invites all over the place.

So, in wanting to push my ideas, share them, get them out there, how much is too much self-promotion? How does one go about and get gigs, publishing opportunities etc without becoming big headed?

There's a fairly recent and famous example of how not to do it. Mark Driscoll, now formerly of Mars Hill Church was involved in a scandal about using a marketing company to get it on the New York Times best seller's list. For a Christian, such self-promotion is unethical; it's bearing false witness. Indeed for most people this is unethical. Your average person engages in white lies, but this is of another level.

I suspect Mark didn't think through this in detail, and more than this, he was so convinced of the importance of his ideas and the need to communicate them, he didn't stop to think. Lesson one to me. I am not God; not all of my thoughts are divinely inspired.

But is self promotion right out? Clearly not! The fact that I've gained opportunities to speak and write, and continue to get them is some indication that this is my calling. The issue is not seeking opportunities (actually more often than not for me these days, simply saying yes), but a couple of things.

Firstly, when I see someone else doing something similar, I should be happy for them rather than either "I could have done that, why didn't they ask me?" or "I could do that better". I think this attitude gets at what Paul saying in Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves."

Secondly, if the aim is self-aggrandisement, people will ultimately see through me, and hence the first part of the verse above will be broken. This is not to say wanting to be well known is such a bad thing, but what for and how will I achieve it? Writers and speakers love to share ideas and stories because they love their ideas and stories, think they are important and believe they can change people. That change should not be manipulative, but dialogical.

I can't bash people into believing climate change is real and needed to be acted upon, but hope to bring people along the journey to discover this. I've often said I wish my first book were not on climate change; there are plenty of less depressing topics to write or speak on. But I do it, not for fame or glory (I doubt there will be much of that) or for the money (there most certainly will be none of that) but for the sake of the earth, society and the glory of God.

So whatever you speak or write on if you find yourself in such a position; don't be ashamed at pursuing opportunities. Just always ask yourself, what for, who for? If the answers are because of passion and to help others, not only should you pursue opportunities, they will pursue you.

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