I’m going to tell you something you may not know about me… I have a background in acting. I’ve been on major movie sets to small theaters. That is part of my history, one that I believe the Lord intended to use to build up a skill for another use than entertainment. I’ve learned to hold myself on stage, pace my speech, articulate and enunciate, project my voice, and speak with passion and purpose. I’ve learned to embrace the value of the perfectly placed pause, strong emphasis, and quiet attentiveness. I understand what it means to “know your audience”, I can memorize two hours worth of dialogue.
I recall one of my acting teachers (yes, I’ve studied with acting teachers and coaches since I was in the 7th grade) being very direct in class one day. The question was “why are you here?”. He was really asking why do you want to be an actor. Answers varied. “I love the attention.” “I like being able to be other people, to try on someone else’s life for awhile.” “I want to be famous.”
The student who wanted to be famous was asked to leave.
I’ve mentioned that before, in a previous post. It came to mind again today. On Facebook this morning I posted this:
Over the last year, I can think of several very specific moments where someone told me that they saw themselves up on stage sharing their story.
I think it is wonderful that there is a spirit of hope, in any person, that wants to share their history with others. I can even understand the draw of the stage, because there you can share with many at one time. It is inspiring to think about. We must understand our motives for being on stage, however. When I previously talked on this subject, and mentioned the kid getting thrown out of class because he wanted to be famous… that was a motive check. See, he didn’t love the art. He wasn’t being honest about being the personality who craves attention. He wanted fame, with fame is usually a desire for wealth… status… notoriety… and adoration. It is more than asking the world to just look at you, but goes deeper. Fame is asking the world to validate you. You look for your value and worth in how others admire you.
That is one reason that I will usually dig a bit deeper and challenge someone who tells me they see themselves on a stage… we must check our motivation. But, there is a second reason I’ll challenge that vision for yourself. Being on stage is incredibly impersonal, and it allows you to shut yourself off from individuals. Let me explain.
When I am on stage, there are a few things that are happening. First, I am entirely prepared for the moment. I have made very purposeful decisions on everything from how I styled my hair to the words that flow from my mouth. Every step of it is calculated, each gesture and hand motion has been practiced numerous times. Second, I am disconnected from those whom I am speaking to. You can not see most (if any at all) of the faces you are speaking to. The lights in the room are down, and lights are pointed right at you. You may only see the faces of the people in the first few rows, and that really depends on how close the rows are set the stage. You may see no one, which means you connect with no one. Three, my time is calculated to the second. Before speaking, you are prepping in the back. During speaking you are actively disengaged. But afterwards you are ushered to a book signing table, where you very quickly work through the line. Or, if it’s a big conference, you may get a few seconds of meet and greet before being ushered off to your next workshop space or before the audience has to move on to the next speaker. This means that even when you get the opportunity engage, it is superficial.
It is incredibly impersonal. You are not forced to look another person in the eye and be vulnerable. Nor, do you have to deal with the emotional responses of those who relate or can learn from your story. You don’t have the time to invest in hearing their connection because you have to move on, and have guarded yourself from getting too close to someone else and their issues. It is a way to keep people at an arms reach. Even when they have compassion for what trials you went through, as you share your well crafted version of the story, you are still able to keep people at a distance.
This does not mean you don’t care, on the contrary… if your motives are right in the first place… it probably means you can care too much. Do you know that for most speakers it easier to tell their most horrific stories to a room of 10,000 than to an audience of 1? That they could write a book and share details with the masses that they couldn’t sit down and share with their own mother? It’s true. Even though there are 10,000 people in the audience, there is anonymity in that.
I can tell you the most horrible things about me, that God has worked on in my life, giving Him the glory… because I won’t see you face to face, and I won’t see you again. The most vulnerable moments are the ones when I share my story face to face, with the people I live in community with. When I reveal this dark part of my history, and know that I have to look you in the eye again next week.
When you are in a room full of people who don’t know you, it is much easier to not care what they think about you. Speak in front of people you know well, and you will worry. Do they judge me for this blip in my past? Will they treat me differently? Will this affect our friendship? Are they going to tell other people in church/community/organization about this? What if they say something to their children… who then say something to my children? What if this affects how people treat my family?
Jesus got personal with those whom he encountered. He got into the pit with the woman who was going to be stoned for adultery. His feet were dried by the hair of the woman who anointed him with oil and perfume. He called the children near to him. He walked out of his way to encounter just one person. Yes, Jesus also spoke before the multitudes of people but he also took precious moments for face to face encounters.
Too many are waiting for the platform to tell their story. They are waiting for the stage spotlight to fall on them, or they are waiting for the publishers to ask for their manuscripts. Do not wait for the masses to show up before you are open to telling your story. Start now. Be willing to go out of your way. Encounter the one, and then let the Lord handle the rest.