In my career as a writer, speaker and coach, I often find myself faced with a tension: If (and how much) to discuss my faith.
Many of my fellow writers and speakers interact with purely faith-based audiences. In spite of variations in spirital practice, sharing their beliefs from the stage or online isn’t an issue; it’s expected.
My community, however, is more diverse. Some claim the Christian faith, some claim a different faith, and others claim no faith at all. Many of my presentations are inspirational, filled with Biblical references and stories. Others are instructional—how-tos on speaking, writing & storytelling—void of any reference to God. This blog (as well as my Facebook page and other social communities) then becomes a melting pot, forcing a certain amount of tension when I speak or write.
Should I quote that Bible verse, or not?
Should I include that prayer or story, or leave it out?
I’ve wrestled with this more often than you know. I feel no obligation to hide what I believe, and I feel no obligation to recklessly broadcast it. I want to honor the readers and listeners who’ve become my friends, regardless of our differences.
Did you hear that? I want to honor you.
Last week I read this article by author and Storyline Conference founder Donald Miller: Why I’m Not More Public About My Faith. It’s an older post, one he wrote January 2015. At that time, I was a bit—how should I say—preoccupied. Needlesstosay, I stumbled on it last week, and I’ve been chewing on it every since.
Before I go any further, I need to make one thing clear. Although our posts appear to be in direct opposition, I agree with Miller far more than I disagree. His writing is thoughtful, respectful. His ultimate position and how he arrived there demands more than casual review. That said, although I stand with Miller on several points, I land at a different conclusion in the end.
I choose to be public about my faith. To err on the side of expression rather than silence. These are my reasons why:
1. Faith is the singlemost defining and driving force in my life. I don’t say this flippantly. I have wrestled with doubts and uncertainty to the extent I feared my faith would end up nothing but ash. And yet, even after enduring hell, I can say I’m only more certain of what I believe. My faith trumps my love for husband and children. I’m more passionate about it than narrative and public speaking. I enjoy it more than my closest friendships. Like a cement foundation that makes it possible for a house to stand, my faith is the supporting structure for every other element in my life. To hide it would be like holding my breath. Possible, but life diminishing. If it’s acceptable to give public expression to my love of family, story and communication—even though you may not share my loves—then it would seem it’s okay to do the same with my faith.
2. I want to love you more than I want to please you. There was a time this wasn’t the case. I was far more obsessed with finding fans than developing authentic friendships. Fear kept me quiet, careful. I didn’t want to offend, didn’t want to alienate. I spent a crazy amount of energy trying to tiptoe around my beliefs—in person and online—such that my truest heart was no longer identifiable. Perhaps it’s a result of my increasing age or my many run-ins with death, but I no longer want to please or impress you. I want to love you. And the only way to do that is to tell the truth.
3. Diversity builds stronger relationships than uniformity. This has been, perhaps, my greatest revelation in the past few years. The more anchored I am in my beliefs and sense of self, the more welcoming I am to diversity and dialogue. I feel secure in what I believe. That means even if you and I maintain conflicting points of view, I don’t feel conflicted or threatened. I care about you and I want to hear your story and beliefs, especially if they’re different than mine. The beauty of this kind of exchange is a depth of relationship that dives beyond superficial pleasantries.
4. I don’t need better numbers; I need deeper friends. And a rock-solid faith. This is where I applaud Miller’s perspective. The heart of this issue isn’t the external display; it’s the internal motivation. What’s driving your position? I’ve watched public figures become near-repulsive about their faith to create a platform-building ruckus (for the record, I’ve seen atheists do the same). That has little to do with faith at all. At the same time, I’ve known others who remain silent on the subject simply because they fear losing subscribers as a result. Is one better than the other? I don’t think so. To build a fan base around a fake persona is selfish. Sooner or later the truth will blow through and the house—both your platform and your faith—will fail. I don’t need a bigger email list; but I do need friends and a faith that can stand up regardless of the weather.
This can be a complicated and emotional issue. Differences tend to do that. But differences don’t need to be divisive.
Please know this: If I’m not your cuppa tea, no harm, no foul. You certainly don’t need to waste any more time. But if you enjoy a good stretch, if you see value in spiritual conversations from time to time and desire a safe place in which to wrestle and struggle, pull up a chair.
It’s so nice to meet you.
When it comes to public spiritual expression, where do you stand? My guess is you have good reasons for your convictions, whatever they may be. I’d love to hear your take and why.