The Photocopy Syndrome (Part Three)

Someone once said, “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” Facts. This needs to be said, because when you’re standing alone ― or running alone in the case of the quote ― it’s really easy to assume it’s because you’re in the wrong. Why is that?

The older I get the less I feel the need to placate naysayers. The way to deal with critics is not to try to turn them into cheerleaders — but to recognize they’re in the crowd and not on the court. There are always going to be those who offer constructive critiques that might sting a little. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the haters and the hecklers. You can’t live for them. You’re not going to win them over. You’ve gotta do what you believe is right and best and good and beautiful.

No Prophet Margin

William Wilberforce put it like this, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” When you are convinced of the rightness of a thing, you can’t unknow that – no matter how hard you might try. But the pull to fit in, or the push to get ahead, will turn us all into echoes in time if we let it. Don’t. It can be easy to just become whom others want you to be. But that’s not who you are. You weren’t created to become their vision for you, even if they have the best of intentions. Your creator had his own ideas in mind when he made you.

So, don’t become a parrot when you were born to be a prophet. 

I sometimes look back at my life and shake my head thinking about my younger self. It would be hubris to think I won’t, at some future point, do the same thing looking at my life today. But I see younger me and think, “Who is that kid? That young man? That young professional?” And then I realize, that kid was kind of the best version of what everybody in his bubble thought he should be. He was excelling at being who they wanted him to be. And when you get a measure of success being someone else, it can be hard to change. It’s highly addictive. Is it possible to break away?

Over the years, I’ve seen some of my favorite people step away from places and people that fought to mute their prophetic voice. They broke out. They refused to acquiesce. And my respect for them has only deepened (as should be the case).

It’s unfortunate non profits often don’t make room for their prophets. It would be easy to fall into the trap of idealism and act as though profit margins don’t really matter. I get it. But should the bottom line really matter more than truth, beauty, and goodness? Must our best spokespersons be exiled?

Social Misfits or Silent Supporters? 

I recently had a conversation about the use of social media with a professional friend. We talked about how faculty members should view their social platforms in relationship to their university. Should they vet their updates through a committee of colleagues? Do all their posts reflect group think or serve as some sort institutional endorsement? Surely not. I’ve never had a colleague ask me if their journal articles or other publications represent my views in every way. I’m sure they don’t.

However, it is true that when you have a formal affiliation with an organization, you must be wise, shrewd even, in how you navigate these topics. No one is truly a free agent. Our words and our voice affect others, for good or bad. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t want to unnecessarily bring shame or even frustration to the people and places I’m connected with, schools, churches, publishers, or the like.

If I’m called out for something I say online that is unnecessarily unhelpful, or worse, untrue, then I should be more than happy to delete, edit, and apologize. But if I say something that’s true, that’s needed, and that no one else seems willing to say, I think there is a place to stand by what you’ve said and simply face the consequences.

But what about the other side of the equation? I understand that it could be frustrating when someone you share a formal connection with says something you don’t fully agree with. By the way, that’s impossible to avoid. But how about when the silence of others doesn’t well reflect my values? What about that?

Why isn’t inappropriate silence a bigger deal than it is? Why is it the person who never speaks up, who never rocks the boat ― even when it needs to be rocked ― always gets a pass? It’s because we’re more comfortable with parrots than prophets. But that’s not you, is it? You’re a bit more of an outsider than that.

It’s always easier to converge than diverge. Just go back to your office, act like it didn’t happen, act like it doesn’t matter, keep your head down, don’t mention it ever, and you’ll be just fine. Just climb onto the Xerox machine and become a flattened, mono-color version of yourself. A lot of people do it.


That can’t be the way.

This is a big topic deserving far more than a few blog posts. But I need to cut it off somewhere, so I’ll aim to talk about a path forward in the next and final post of this series. I want to do a quick dive into the Apostle Paul’s remedy for humans struggling to work together with their diverse gifts and callings. How do respect, love, and friendship help us live, serve, and flourish?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four