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Plagiarism, Self-Obsession and Words

posted 8 Nov 2012, 08:27 by

Earlier today I read an article written by a journalist with clinical depression so I thought I’d do what I do best and sort of nick an original idea for a written piece that someone else has already done much better than me. At least this time I suppose I’m being honest about it…

I’ve always considered myself as going through life at a perceived level of mediocrity. Never excelling but managing to blag my way through life creating the aura of ‘He kinda knows what he’s talking about/doing/playing’, and so far it seems to have gone relatively well. Learning the odd long word so that people need to tell me to ‘be less wordy’ or talking about how much I like jazz so that people subconsciously associate that with my bass playing and assume I’m much more technical than I actually am. But it goes deeper than that. The achievements of others are never simply worthy of praise, the joy I feel for others is never enough. It always has to be compared to what I’ve done, even if I’ve never had the desire to achieve such things.

‘Why am I terrible at *insert skill here*?’
‘Why can’t I *insert some sort of vague ability here*?’
‘Why do I bother doing *insert thing I’m doing here* when *insert person here* is clearly much better at it than I am?’

Then comes the discussion in my mind of pointlessness. I’m clearly terrible at what I do, I’m just good at pretending I know what I’m doing making me an even worse friend. Once I’ve concluded that I’m actually terrible at everything I do and realised that everyone who looks at me is either deluded or a very kind liar then the logical finishing point is to wonder what I’m really achieving.

Then come the thoughts, ‘What do I really want?’ and it is here that my process gets interesting. What I really want is not just for people to notice me (they do, unfortunately) but for people to tell me that they notice me and not only do I want them to tell me that they notice me I want them to tell me why. It comes down to this, what I really want is to stand on the side of a stage and have 1000 people scream my name or scream my band’s name. It isn’t so much that I do things solely to be thanked or told I’m good at what I do it’s more that being thanked for doing something for somebody or being told I’m good at what I do is a nice biproduct of being sacrificial or trying my best.

Christians are, for the most part, terrible at this. I’ve quite often heard, in various guises, the idea that to congratulate somebody for preaching a good sermon or to thank somebody for something they’ve done for you is to somehow encourage pride. This is, if I may say so, nonsense. The prideful thing that I do is, as the author who inspired this post puts it, a bizzare sort of reverse narcissism. To have the self-centred view that in-fact your actions and your existence are worthless or are easily replaceable. Far from being humble it is self-obsessed.

Words are powerful things. Imagine the scenario. You’ve just preached a sermon that, for whatever reason, you spent a long time writing. After the service you are wondering if what you said really had any impact on anybody, did anyone get anything out of it? What if this was the wrong message? What if you got it wrong? You pray a silent prayer that one person will come to you and thank you for what you said. By the time the hall is empty there is nobody left and nobody has said a thing. Leaving the building your worst fears are confirmed, ‘I got it wrong. I knew it, maybe I should give up. Very few people have ever said anything complimentary about my sermons.’ When you get home your partner is sitting reading the new book you left on the bed as a surprise for when she/he woke up. As you walk through they ask how it went, ‘Okay I guess’ is your response. ‘How is the book?’. ‘Yeah it’s good.’ they reply. Heading through to the kitchen to put the kettle on you reflect upon the paradox of sacrificial love.
You’re going to continue to preach despite the lack of compliments. You’re going to continue to surprise, treat and care for the people you love whether or not you get thanked. But that niggling question flits through your mind, ‘Am I really doing it right?’

Words are powerful. Perhaps by a brief throwaway compliment or word of gratitude you will enable someone that you appreciate to not have to ask that question. They may not burst into floods of tears but you are more likely to settle someone’s fear that they aren’t doing it right than to encourage pride.

Words are powerful. Use them to a positive end or don’t use them at all.

- Ben