I’ve often felt this compulsive need to be original with everything I do. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or what context or situation I’m doing it in; like Sinatra, I’ve got to do it my way. It’s been known to reach the point where I’ve felt it better to say something that no one else has said before than to say what you really mean. The side effect there, however, is that it can end up feeling less sincere, because you’re not being honest about where you stand. Once I started to apply that logic more and more, going out of my way to be edgy and contrarian, I found myself having to express views I didn’t actually hold myself.
For example, every morning at Scargill (except Sundays) starts with a ten- or fifteen-minute timeframe in which a member of Community will lead everyone in prayer. There will be a reading from Scripture, followed by a short reflection. Of course, everyone’s reflection is different, not only because they will have each been given different passages, but because they will have each interpreted their passage in their own way. Sometimes, people will use personal anecdotes to try and make their point; other times, they will just share what they got out of the text.
And I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve found myself losing interest in what’s being said, on the basis that I’ve already heard it before. At least to begin with, I would try to make my own reflections really different and unique, while still fitting into the remit; delving into theological concepts that no one else would. After a while, though, this approach started to leave me cold.
It dawned on me: maybe that’s not what I should be looking for in a morning prayer reflection. Maybe what’s important isn’t that the officiant is really breaking the mould with what they’re saying, but rather that what they’re saying is genuinely coming from their heart. There are some reflections that I can remember hearing where the officiant wasn’t necessarily saying anything brand new, but it was still obvious that they were putting their heart and soul into it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised those were the reflections that spoke to me the most.
There are subjects I’ve addressed on this blog that have been touched on by other people before in much the same ways, sometimes quite a lot (‘Jesus is my Boyfriend’, for example). Initially, I had a real problem with this; I thought that if I were blogging about a certain topic in a way that someone else already had, I was doing it wrong. But as I’ve started to grasp that it is more important to be honest about the way you think and feel, even if you think and feel in ways that a lot of other people do, I’ve found it’s liberated my writing a lot. I don’t have to pretend; I can just be myself.
In fact, there are many times when it helps for people to be of one mind and one opinion; this is how protests that lead to important change are formed. There’s a lot less wrong with being united with others in the ways you think and feel, than with intentionally trying to think and feel differently from them just for the sake of being different. No man is an island, after all, so not only is it pointless to pretend to be one, but it’s counter-productive.
I suppose that’s why I’m even writing about this. Reading this post back, it struck me as ironic that here is something that I’m sure a lot of people have said already (some perhaps more coherently than me as well, but that’s besides the point). If you’re reading this, it’s because I’ve swallowed my pride and published it anyway, for the sake of getting the information (if you can call it that) out there. I’m not sure if I could have done that a few months ago.