Recently I have solicited the advice of a few friends about the ethics of navigating both discipleship and relationship marketing with grace. In each, I have determined, I must create boundaries and heart lines lest I recklessly, albeit unintentionally, destroy relationships in the pursuit of my goals of empowering others and setting them free.
I don’t believe anyone intentionally sets out to be the seedy person who consciously peddles something unethically, or who lacks integrity in their message, or who doesn’t care about the goals of the people they’re attempting to persuade. Although there are people of ill will, I do not believe most network marketers or disciples of Christ mean to be self-centered or destructive.
I do believe that people, who in their zeal to share their passion with others about what they’ve discovered to be life-changing, alienate those who have different beliefs or seemingly closed minds.
Lest you wonder why I’m grouping together network marketing and discipleship, I truly have found much overlap between educating people about essential oils and educating people about true happiness in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the finger I’m shaking in the shame-shame manner is actually directed at myself. I recently read, “eccentricities can be charming if accompanied by competence, but are pretentious and annoying when they precede it.”
As I am a rather eccentric person with strong convictions, I appreciate the grace and patience extended to me by true friends as I gain competence. Those that know me know I like to make a decision, jump in with both feet, and adjust as necessary as new information is presented. I believe in right and wrong, and will always (sometimes ferociously) defend what I believe is right. I am very direct and I don’t apologize for what I believe in.
This propensity, when unchecked, ends up acting as social sandpaper — you know, the pretentious and annoying part. I think I sometimes accidentally convey that if someone differs in opinion from me that we can’t get along, that I don’t respect them, or worse, that I think I’m better than them.
Originally as I was writing this post, I followed my last thought with “Even if that is not how I see myself, if that’s the message people are picking up then it’s me who is erring in some way.” But upon reflection I think I disagree. As much as I enjoy being an inclusive, harmonious force of good, there are people out there who have belief systems that don’t merit my respect, “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.” by definition.
If you are trying to convince me and others about a harmful agenda that, in its nature, is not “good or valuable”, I cannot respect or go along with what you are saying. I also have a hard time respecting those who obstinately refuse to stretch their boundaries, to learn and grow, as if what they know in their limited knowledge is the end all be all. I find it egotistical and delusional. And I especially have a hard time respecting anyone who judges a sojourner as ‘weird’ or ‘uncool’ or as a blemish on their social standing. These are people who don’t allow the eccentric room to expand. I don’t appreciate the feeling of intellectual or creative claustrophobia.
Don’t get me wrong. When I am confronted with someone who tells me I am “anti-medicine”, or “hateful” or any other attribute that I most definitely do not want to be perceived as, it gives me pause to reflect. What methods of communication am I employing that aren’t being well-received? What language have I used? Was there a more tactful way to say that? Did I really need to share that — what was my goal? But another part of me asks whose responsibility is it — am I responsible for how people encounter me? How much of that is in my control? What would I have to sacrifice to gain their approval?
When I began my Mama B vlog one of my greater fears was rejection… that people wouldn’t like what I had to say, that I would be misperceived, that I would lose the respect of my peers and that they’d — gasp! — delete me from Facebook, etc. I took the leap, however, 1) because I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit to do so and 2) because no one benefits from my fear when it keeps me from sharing Truth. I have always, from a young age, been in positions of leadership. When I abandon myself to fear of rejection, I don’t lead well.
That, and I can’t control people’s ignorance. Either they will verify their assumptions, or they won’t.
However, when the Facebook deletions came along it still stung. I didn’t like being gossiped about. I didn’t like not having the opportunity to make it right. All of this just really made me squirm. It was the proverbial grit to my pearl.
For the ones who were willing to bat ideas back and forth with me both in private messages and public forum, I was so grateful. I learned a lot about respect, constructive dialogue and boundaries. I gleaned a different perspective of myself. I’m still not really sure how to reconcile the uncomfortable parts, like “if you’re pro-this, then you’re anti-that”. Well, yes. I can’t be both on both teams and I won’t try. If there’s a war between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies, I want there to be zero equivocation about which team I’m on. That plight seems to hurts some people’s feelings.
I believe humans are multidimensional, resilient and made for higher thinking. I think deleting someone from Facebook is a cop out. I imagine the great Greek thinkers, gathered to discuss ideas, when suddenly one idea presented rubs a person the wrong way and in turn he says “Oh yeah?! Well… I delete you from Facebook!” And storms off. Developing our minds is not as tidy or cut and dry as we’d sometimes like it to be. It requires community, a give and take. Backing out from the discourse entirely is cowardice, in my opinion.
“Although sometimes backing out is also self-preservation,” the little voice in my head protests, “there is a time and a place for everything.”
(For the record, I’m about as anti-medicine as is one of my great heroes, Dr. William Osler.)