Wednesday, January 10, 2007

And the winner is...

As I was driving to work yesterday morning, I heard an interview with actor Harry Shearer who was talking about the entertainment industry's infatuation with awards. He joked about the people who get all worked up about the little trophies, but at the same time admitted that it was easy to get caught up in the meaningless awards. His claim was that most awards were, essentially, bought and paid for by movie studios and production houses and their publicists. The statuettes don't really mean anything when it comes to acting or entertaining. It's all a sham.

Certainly that's just one man's opinion. Okay, it's probably the opinion of a whole lot of people -- mostly those without trophies on the mantle at home. But the glitter and glamour of winning an award draws on the egos of entertainers and the hopes and dreams of the entertained.

I recently heard that for an overwhelming majority of young people, the main goals in their lives are to become rich (first choice) and famous (second choice). They either want to hold aloft the trophy checkbook/lifestyle or the trophy popularity rating. It's all about me.

When I got to work yesterday, I found out that my main task for the day was to look back over my work for the past year and pick out my best to submit for awards. I've got to admit that I felt funny about the whole process. First, I really didn't remember doing any work that would stand out in any kind of statewide competition. Second, I really didn't want to bother reliving the past year. But third, something inside me kept nudging me, saying, "Wouldn't that be great to win?"

The more I looked over my work for 2006, the more I remembered. I really did do a pretty good job on many of the projects I took on during the year. Maybe I really am worthy of a trophy, or a plaque, or whatever they hand out.

Then came the realization that the acclaim of man isn't really worth the trouble. Granted, I try to do my best in whatever I do (although my wife may argue that point), but I'm not really seeking fame and fortune for myself. Isn't that weird?

I'm uncomfortable in the role of celebrity. I'm don't like celebrating myself. Maybe it's because I know myself too well and realize that the celebration would be pretty hypocritical. Or maybe it's simply a matter of wanting to focus on anything besides me. Sure, I enjoy being told that something I did was enjoyed by someone else, but not to make me more important or popular. I delight in a job well done.

I've always been curious about John the Baptist, who told his disciples that once Jesus arrived on the scene that "He must become greater, and I must become less." Today's celebrity culture would have laughed at the Baptist derisively and chucked tomatoes and stale locusts at him. But John knew that it wasn't about winning earthly awards or the acclaim of man. It's not about the earthly awards, it's the heavenly rewards that matter.

I hope I never lose that perspective, and I thank God for it. But I know the temptation is only amplified through the worldly culture surrounding me and you.

4 comments:

Dan Edelen said...

Rev-Ed,

I know many Christians who took a "superspiritual" approach to acclaim and now wish they HAD taken some of those awards.

Many Christians I know are terrible at selling themselves and playing the corporate game. As a result, when they hit forty, they find themselves stuck in dead-end jobs with no future. They didn't go to the parties, they went home to be with their families. They didn't offer to pay for the dinners of influential people, they stayed tightfisted (it's God's money, right?) and kept quiet.

And now their careers are in jeopardy for it.

I can tell a hundred stories like this of people who felt that "playing the game" was somehow not in keeping with their Christian walks. Those same people are now regretting that decision.

Take the acclaim as it comes and realize that in the light of eternity it's not all that valuable. But here, it opens doors that otherwise would have been closed.

Christians, despite the fact that the Church is meant to be a community, are TERRIBLE networkers in most cases. This means they wind up on the outside looking in. But the Lord never said to isolate oneself in such a way that no one knows who you are. That lack of a network also means having fewer ways of ministering to people. We always forget that.

rev-ed said...

I don't know, Dan... I meet plenty of Christians who either a) sell themselves extremely well -- often to the detrement of their witness, or b) let their work speak for itself.
The only church folk that I know who are terrible networkers are that way because of personality traits, not spiritual traits, although I certainly don't know everybody.

My point is pretty simple. Our lives are to be lived to bring glory to God. (I also know that my life doesn't a pretty lousy job of it some days.) But for many, it becomes about putting something or someone else ahead of His glory.

Far too many churches work to bring glory to the church, not to it's Head. Far too many Christians work to bring glory to self, not to Creator.

I think we're not exactly on the same wavelength on this. The "corporate game" isn't quite "seeking out awards" for ourselves. Sure, you have to do some self-promotion in life. But it's not supposed to be what you live for.

Carol said...

I think I hear what Dan's getting at. By being in the culture, we can have an impact and influence on it. If we had more Christians, for example, nominated for academy awards, maybe more people would pay attention as they point to Christ. Ditto corporate heads. Ditto politicians. How can we have any impact on our surroundings if we duck our heads and keep them that way.

Wouldn't it be cool to see Christian celebrities accept it with Christ-like humility...like Jesus did when He was something of a celebrity and having an impact on His culture?

Well, you get what you pay for, so this one's on me. ;-)

Dan Edelen said...

Rev-Ed,

Letting the work speak...

When I was in high school, I was an exceptional photographer. I even considered going into it professionally. My photography teacher in high school pushed me on it.

An art school sponsored a regional photo competition. All judging was blind, so none of the judges knew the sources for the photos. Hundreds of entrants submitted photos for the contest. The Top 20 photos would receive awards. At my teacher's urging, I submitted 20 photos comprising a series of IR landscape shots, a series of child portraits, a series on old barns, plus some general nature photography.

When the judging was over, 19 of my photos took the top 20 spots, including the first 15. It was almost ridiculous when the judging results were announced. My teacher was ecstatic, but I was embarrassed. I was a Christian then, and it didn't seem right to me that one person should walk away with so many prizes. It made me rethink photography as a career and I eventually drifted away from it.

To this day, I regret that decision.

I'm not the only one who made a faulty decision like that based on some kind of misplaced humility. I know other Christians who begged out of the spotlight even though they were gifted. They regret that now.

We give our best to the Lord. If men honor it, that changes nothing. It is still us using the best of what God gave us to serve Him. Again, if men honor it, that's temporal, but it doesn't mean we run away from it because it might not have eternal significance. We may not see the significance, but some might exist. I wonder what doors my photos skills might have opened to travel the world and take the Gospel into other countries as a tentmaker. I'll never know now because I was falsely humble.