Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ashamed of the Profession . . . Or the Colleagues?

“Jane” was the patron no one wanted to help when I worked at the library. She called or visited frequently, and she took up a lot of our time telling us how much she knew while other patrons waited to learn what we knew (or knew how to find). Just about every time I talked to her, Jane would tell me that she was the president of a writer’s association that “only accepts published writers.” She bragged about her status as a published writer as though she had won a Pulitzer.

Problem was, Jane couldn’t write. I had read her children’s books, which she had helpfully donated to the library. They were among the worst I had ever seen, self-published before the time when good writers began to self-publish. It appeared she had written down any words that came to her mind, without regard for plotting, grammar, or the artistry of language. She had also illustrated her own books, with line drawings that looked like those I had done in elementary school.

I never told Jane that I, too, was a published writer – and had actually been paid for my work.

In fact, I am often embarrassed to tell people I am a writer; I tend to say, “I do freelance work” and elaborate only if they ask. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my profession, only that I’m ashamed of being associated with bad writers like Jane.

When I do say I’m a writer, I usually get one of two reactions, neither of which is admiration or respect. Either the listener casually says, “Oh, I think maybe I’ll do that someday, too” in a tone that suggests being a writer is just a matter of desire and has nothing to do with skill or hard work, or he nods politely, thinking, “Sure – everyone is a writer!” and later pulls aside my husband to ask if I’m any good. The person who initially reacts with the polite nod, after reading something I’ve written, always sounds surprised when complimenting my work.

Sometimes, people who are embarrassed to introduce themselves as Christians are responding as I do when I avoid calling myself a writer. It’s not that they are ashamed of Christ or their identity as believers; it’s that they are afraid of facing the low expectations of their listeners. Like it or not, Christians who are committed to living according to their faith are judged by the experiences people have had with other Christians, whether or not those previous acquaintances have allowed their beliefs to affect their lives.

Many non-Christians know a lot of Christians like “Writer Jane,” people who proudly claim a professional title but offer inadequate credentials to show they deserve the name. Christians committed to Christ often have an added burden of proof when demonstrating the difference Christ makes in our lives because we have to undo the damage done by other Christians who don’t actually live like they believe the Bible. When we publicly identify ourselves as Christians, we should be sure we are living up to the title. Then the people we meet can be pleasantly surprised to learn that we mean it when we say we follow Christ.



3 comments:

  1. For the record ... I'd respond with admiration.

    I wish I was a published writer. I haven't written anything that even I think is worthy yet, much less that anyone else has picked up.

    I know that's not your point, I'm just saying ...

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  2. Thank you. That's the position I've taken. I don't claim the title Christian. If someone asks, I feel like His love is showing enough somewhere in my life that what I then share has some validity for the asker. Otherwise I keep a keen watch for opportunities to invite people to share about their relationship to God, and then invite them to consider the possibility that what Jesus has to offer may be much more than what is commonly demonstrated in lives of those who call themselves Christian. You'd be surprised how many are willing to look closer with that thought as a place to start investigating what is a "Christian" anyway, and where is Jesus?

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Thanks for your comments! Agree or disagree, but please comment respectfully.