Several years ago my Wife and I were at an Emergent Church Conference. (For those not fluent in Churchianity-speak, "emergent" is the catch-all term for a large cadre of people trying to figure out what comes next in Christian Faith and practice. Oftentimes that can be quite helpful, other times it seems a heartfelt but misguided effort to redefine terms. It's one thing to gussy up the terminology, it's quite another to do it for real and and to do it well. If we're just trying to re-brand apples by convincing people they're really oranges, what's the point?. But that's a whole 'nother blog post.)
Anyway, eventually we gathered at a General Session where a well-known author was scheduled to speak. As is customary in most of these Christian-themed conference meetings, there was a young team of musicians leading worship/congregational singing. These were young, earnest guys. Not my cup of musical tea, but I expect I wasn't their target audience anyway. As they were working through their set list they were commenting between songs. ("Sharing".) These were encouragements to focus, surrender, join in with the Community, etc. All good and standard issue as far it goes.
But then one of them announced, "We just want to be authentic."
I turned to my Wife and said, "You know, the minute you announce you want to be authentic, that's sort of the ball game. You've sort of tainted the deal and there's no turning back." Now why would I nitpick such a noble and practical goal?
In large measure I blame my generation, the Boomers, for this sort of "over-sharing". We announce, pronounce, and proclaim. We love to hear the sound of our own voices. But we mistake assigning language to a concept and agreeing with that concept for the actual doing of the thing. (Longtime listeners will note that I just cribbed a phrase from one of my own song lyrics. In my defense, I would only point out that I waited three full blog postings before I indulged in that kind of self-referential behavior.)
What I'm getting at is the difficult line between what you want to proclaim about yourself, your work, your goals versus things that you might want to simply do without much comment or grandstanding. It really is best to let others draw conclusions about your authenticity, reputation, quality of your work, etc. All of that can, and should, be part of your Mission Statement … but perhaps internalized and not spelled out for public consumption or announcement.
Maybe I'm being too cautious or, God help me, sanctimonious. But I truly mean no harm. I simply think that "incarnating" our values is a lot more effective and persuasive than talking about them alone.
Oh, how guilty I have been here. Maybe that's the "ouch" I'm passing along to you now. But for all the necessary verbiage we must employ … I'm a songwriter for goodness' sake … whenever possible, I would rather "put up AND shut up". Trying to encourage a true humility is probably suspect by definition. But I trust you to sort out what I'm trying to get at even if I'm doing it rather clumsily.
My pal Michael Card had a dear friend and mentor who I had the pleasure of meeting when we toured together in 1990-91. Dr. William Lane once told Michael, in response to his frustrations with the Christian Music Business: "Let the excellence of your work be your protest."
Your protest, your proclamation, your calling card, your identity. The "excellence of your work" should be the ultimate unspoken adjective that leaves the issue of your authenticity in the hands of others ... where it truly belongs.