Blog Integrity: Forgetting To Practice What You Preach



I saw a quote written from a guy I know, and it was a great quote and he probably really meant it. 

I wanted to be gracious here, but — this thing he was telling everyone else to do is the very opposite of how he really is.  He knew the exact right words to phrase it, the keywords to tug the heartstrings, that slightly aggressive tone to preach to the choir, the vivid imagery and active verbs to pull it off. 

It felt so icky.  This was the paragon of a pot calling a kettle black.

If he had said it any other way, with any kind of nuance or self-awareness or humility: it would’ve made sense.  He’s not a bad person or anything, and there is value in hearing from someone who is still overcoming their own issues.  But this wasn’t that kind of honesty.  It was all finger-pointing, just abrasive and hollow and laughable.  It’s the sort of thing that instantly makes you say, “Well-what-bout-chu?”

 

Come to think of it, I’ve probably done this many times.  I’ve preached what I haven’t been practicing.  I’ve told people to do what I wasn’t doing myself first.  I do think all of us can teach others without being perfect, but there’s a way to do that which can make us relatable or make us jerks.

Of course, we’re all in progress.  We have blind spots.  We will never arrive to perfection.  Yet I wished he had quoted someone else, or was less uppity, or maybe added, “And I’m working on it too.” 

I could only guess: he doesn’t know it’s his own problem.  He just knows it’s a problem in other people.  This is the part that makes me sick to my stomach with grief.  I don’t know how to approach someone like this because it’s too much work, too stressful, and not very worth it.  I just thank God that I have friends who are smarter than me and are not afraid to rebuke me in the face.

Maybe we could just write the stuff we really feel instead of preaching pretty ideals all the time.  It won’t kill you to be honest about your struggle.  We don’t need another soap-box; we need knee-deep stories of hope and heartache and grace.

We can admit: we’re all trying to get it right. 

We don’t need to talk from a pedestal.

God have mercy on our hypocrisy and grace for our every spoken word.

— J.S.

 

“Here is an exercise: Quote only those words that you are willing to do today. If we can’t act on what we quote, what is the actual value of it?

“Expecting others to do it and not ourselves is just arrogance and self-centeredness. Find a struggle and persist in it. Then be willing to change. Wouldn’t you like these words to have meaning for generations after us? I would. So let’s not hollow them out with our laziness.”

— Drew Tatusko


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25 thoughts on “Blog Integrity: Forgetting To Practice What You Preach

  1. No one is perfect I too believe. We (as Christians) are at a constant struggle to do the right thing. It is EASY to stray. Good article!
    God Bless

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  2. Religion, the accepted words on proper topics presented in the orthodox form judged by cultural standards. Spirituality, living in the muck of life weeping over our own sins and grieving over those of others. Hypocrisy truly serves the devil. And you are right, admitting we have not overcome or arrived, but finding words that need to be spoken — in love! Inspiring – again.
    Peace

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  3. Thank J, A meaningful word to me. I am praying for grace today that I might keep it real in the days ahead. It’s so easy to be blind to my own faults in the writing forum and a word every now and then to check the soul is a good thing.

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  4. ” We don’t need another soap-box; we need knee-deep stories of hope and heartache and grace.” Oh yes! We can find another soap-box anywhere, but people who are vulnerable and real about what they are going through and struggling with is hard to come by these days. It’s refreshing when a person is transparent about what’s going on in their life. Great post!

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    1. I’m reminded of Andy Stanley on grace:

      “Grace. It’s what I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I’m hesitant to extend when I’m confronted with the guilt of others — especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable. Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It’s this struggle that reminds us that grace is more story than doctrine.

      “When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything.”

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    1. Hey Andy! Yes, those come in so many insidious forms. Sometimes preachers use the whole bait-and-switch with multiple disclaimers and soft-phrases, but really are just adding more burdens. I’m sure I’ve done this in my early days too.

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  5. J.S. what you say is so true. It is so easy to become self righteous and refuse to smell our own poop. Everyone smells it but ourselves. Humility and acknowledging our mess makes a great message. Pride, however, leaves a stench! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. It’s nice that you have friends who are willing to confront you, after all open rebuke is better than hidden love. You’re blessed to have good friends like that.

    A lot of pastors and bible teachers have preached about things that they aren’t able to do or practice themselves, but I still think it’s necessary to preach about those things whether they’re able to practice it or not and you’re definitely right when you wrote that preachers should be honest with their struggle.

    Though I’m not a bible teacher or a pastor but I’m able to relate a little (okay, a lot) since I’m guilty of hypocrisy.

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    1. I’m very blessed to have friends who are a billion times smarter than me. I have to add: While it’s great to have friends like that, it’s also extremely difficult and such a fine balance. It’s too easy to become the morality police, and then everyone starts calling out everyone on everything. It requires a maturity and permission that can’t be found haphazardly. The end result though is too valuable to give up.

      I agree, I think pastors need to find that middle-ground between the pedestal and the trenches. On one hand they’re called to a certain life, but on the other hand they’re just as human and fallible. We need both accountability and understanding.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for writing this. I always enjoy your posts. I think if we are all honest, whether in our writing or in our preaching, we all sometimes preach things we don’t practice. I couldn’t agree more with your assertion that we ought to be open with our struggles. Oftentimes, especially from the pulpit, we lead those who listen to and respect us to believe that we have it all together. That’s why it is such a big deal when prominent pastors fail; we have built them up into something they are not. My father’s usual objection to the Christian faith is something to do with the hypocrisy of those who practice it; what he fails to recognize is that many of us are willing to admit to our hypocrisy. After all, Jesus died for it.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. It’s always such a tightrope — pastors are called to be holy, yet are just as human and in need of grace. There are so many pastors I’ve known who are quietly crying out for help, but have no idea who to talk with or if it’s safe, as if their problems will jeopardize their role. Hypocrisy is definitely a problem and can’t be diminished, yet I’m so thankful for transparent pastors who never acted like they better be listened to as some kind of more worthy authority.

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  8. JS Parker, this is an awesome post! Humility is such a rare virtue as we traverse this technological world where we are not face to face with those we interact with! This and other works of yours is really inspiring. I want to take you up on your challenge, Though, the day is almost over, my quote will apply to the whole day (to my best memory and self-awareness).
    “Every breathe is precious, speak only good and rest your heart and forget the poison.”

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    1. Thank you Emily! (By the way my last name is Park, close enough!)

      I’ve found humility is getting harder because on one hand, no one is ever told “This is plainly your fault,” and on the other hand, there’s so much online shaming that humility might as well be a public death sentence. There’s hardly a balance between pointing out what’s wrong and re-affirming what’s true and good.
      And great quote!!

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