Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't Let Your Passion Become Annoying.

Yes. Annoying.


I said it.

Now let me back up and explain.

Many of you stand behind great causes. And I think that's fantastic. I really do. You should always fight for what you believe in. In fact, some of you are so passionate, it's all you talk about. Which can be good. And it can be bad, too. Good, if you are communicating it correctly. Bad, if you come across as annoying and repetitive, resulting in few caring about your message. Have you met anybody like this?

Years ago, I met a guy, who was so strongly Calvinist*, that he felt it was his personal duty to Biblically convince every person he crossed paths with that mankind had no free will, and that we all were acting out what God had preordained. I chose not to listen to him very long (get my pun?). Weren't there bigger and more important things he could make a big deal out of?

We all have a platform. Some of us bigger than others. It can be as small as a conversation or as big as a media network. And many of us want to use our platforms for positive change in the world. Whatever your message, if you deem it worthwhile to spend your life communicating, then isn't it also worthwhile to communicate in such a way that it captivates and motivates your listeners? Especially the ones who previously disagreed with you!

If your message, no matter how important or how right you are, is poorly constructed, then only your friends who already agree with you will listen. How then will you inspire change in those who disagree with you?

If your message is for social action, then a bad way to communicate is to say, "Everyone always thinks of themselves in this narcissistic culture." A good way to communicate is to say, "These are very real ways that you personally can make a difference."

If your message is to create a NEW type of church, I wouldn't say, "People who do church the old way are old and stuck in their ways, refusing to change." I'd say, "People worship in different styles and personalities. For a rapidly changing world, for a constantly changing Christianity, how should our church look? Maybe like this."

Here are practical ways that you can strengthen your message.

1. Always communicate in optimism and hope. There is enough bad news. You can put a positive spin on something terrible. Take human trafficking for example. Whenever I talk about trafficking, I always talk about great organizations like Not for Sale and International Justice Mission. Give your audience a reason to believe change is possible and practical.

2. Always give practical solutions to problems you bring up. If you don't know how to fix the problem, or are actively trying to find a solution, then I don't want to spend my time listening to you. Especially not the people that already disagree with you.

3. Always be patient for people to change their views. This is something that my gay Christian friend, Johan taught me. On the issue of homosexuality being a sin or not, he told me, "Chris, I wrestled with this issue for years. It took me a long time for me to come to peace with it. I would expect no less from you. Take your time and pray." I deeply appreciated his patience. So likewise, those of us who are communicating for change, be patient with people who see the world differently than you. It may not happen overnight. But what you want is to get them thinking, re-evaluating, and praying.

This advice is new to me. I read the quote on Anne Jackson's blog. It hurt when I read it. Yes, I want to see change. Yes, I write about what specifically I want to see turned around. But I realized that I was writing in a way that only my friends would agree with. If those who disagreed with my conclusions read my posts, then they would write me off as a know-it-all twentysomething who uses his blog to complain. I don't want to write for the sake of being read. I want to write to inspire change. I want to communicate to inspire hope and optimism.

So what about you? Will you choose optimistic or annoying?


What is your life's message? How can you communicate it to win people's hearts and opinions, rather than sound annoying?

*He was the only Calvinist that I've ever met who argued this point. That belief does not reflect any other Calvinist I have met.