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May 3, 1997

The Dangerous Side of Voice

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I mentioned earlier how too often we’re content to mime others instead of honing our own voice. We readily take on the persona and styling of our favorite authors, speakers, leaders and pastors. I believe that when we do this, we become less of ourselves. If the only ideas or rhetoric we convey is simply a copy of someone else’s book or blog, then we haven’t really found our voice, we’ve found theirs.
My real voice is tied to who I am, what I do, where I’ve been, what I am passionate about, how I want to influence others, my calling, my dreams, my talents, my skills, my experience, my education, my ambitions and my innate wiring. It takes us a life time to become authentic in all the nuances of this but the sooner we forget about mimicking other voices and begin cultivating our own, the sooner we find fulfillment.
But the confidence we find in our own voice can also turn into a hazardous pitfall. Yes, we must discover and operate in our unique voice. But we must be careful not to become addicted to our own voice. When we become addicted to our own voice, for example, we develop blind spots because we’re listening to the voice of one. When we operate in blind spots it’s easy to become arrogant and stubborn because our own voice our narrative is the only one we see or value. Someone addicted to their own voice has no pure energy or appetite for anyone else. All story lines and conversation flows from and to the voice addicted person. It is exhilarating and powerful to find my own voice but I must be careful. It can’t become an end in itself. Although the flourishing life is yoked to someone discovering their own voice, that life will whither if our own voice becomes so loud and dominating that all other voices have no sound and beauty. Just like we can spot someone who has never found their voice and is living life on someone else’s sound, we can also easily spot the person who has become addicted to their own voice.
John the Baptist is an excellent positive example in this regard. John the Baptist could easily fit into my hometown culture of northwest Arkansas. With his burly beard, nappy hair and love of rivers he’d find a quick home at an anglers cabin, just hanging with the boys. John was indeed a radical figure in the New Testament, and, to me, stands as a great example of a person who did not confuse his voice with the Master’s face.
When people heard John preach they were amazed and drawn to him. He had discovered his voice and it was powerful and convincing. But he was quick to remind those who wanted to elevate him that he was just a voice, he was just paving the way for the true Messiah. John knew the difference in voice and face. John kept things in perspective: he used his gifts with confidence and freedom but he always pointed to Jesus when given the opportunity to receive undue praise.
In today’s world of leadership platform building it’s increasingly difficult to remain grounded. We’re told to develop our voice. We’re told to cultivate a personal brand. We are told it is all about building our platform – more views, more likes, more traffic, more exposure, more ‘us’. We’re encouraged to develop our stories as if we’re the lead character in a novel. But John’s got some news for us. This story is not about you and it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. When given the chance, will we quickly point to Jesus as the author of our gifts and the giver of our blessings? Or, will we allow the accolades and accomplishments to create blind spots for our egos?
Here is where the humility that we discussed before helps. You and I will be less apt to become addicted to our own voices if we cling to the truth of our createdness, to a heavenly humility. If we want to flourish in our calling and not get addicted to our voice we will:
Maintain a healthy understanding of our place before God.
Realize that life is not about “me.”
Recognize that my skill and voice contribute to the choir of life. But this ain’t no solo concert.
Be comfortable sharing the stage with others, promoting others.

***
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:3

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