It’s Not About You
It’s not about you. Contrary to the mantras of our culture, the art world and the media, everything is not about you. The issues of the day are not about you. The political landscape is not about you. Sunday morning worship is not about you. This should be freeing because you were not meant to carry such weight. Your gifts, your voice, and your talents are gifts to be used for more than bringing glory to yourself.
To be fair – You are unique, special and loved by God. I am not discounting legitimate applause. There is a place for recognition and accomplishment. You may have great talents and a platform where millions of people listen to you. The question is not about people praising you for your gifts. The question is about your heart, and your life’s focus.
We live in a curious time. Our culture encourages us every day to find our own peace and celebrate our uniqueness. The greatest thing we can do, according to our culture, is achieve self-actualization. The assumption here is that if you can fully become who you long to be, you will be satisfied. Thus, anything holding you back from self-actualization is declared ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust.’ It can be summed up in the cliché, “I need to be free to be me.”
Your ‘Self’ Actualization
One of the core problems with this philosophy of self-actualization is that it is in direct conflict with scripture. You won’t be free to fully be who God designed you to be until you are free from sin. This process begins here on Earth but doesn’t complete until we are in the New Jerusalem. Thus, you cannot achieve this state of perfect self-actualization in this life. To think this life is all about you and your achievements is a recipe for depression and a life of discouragement. This life is about finding joy in who God is and what he gifted you for.
You Are Not Alone
You are not alone. We are all tempted to make our art and our life about something else. We get hung-up on avoiding old mistakes, rebelling against institutions that have hurt us, and focusing on things we think will keep us from pain and lead us to happiness or success. The problem is many of the things we avoid, and the things we focus upon cannot deliver the joy and satisfaction we hope they will. Here are a few things we are tempted to focus upon that also will not lead us to inner peace or greater art.
The Pitfalls: What Art Was Never Meant to be About
It is not about the rules, structure, moral laws, religious restriction, or any other ‘restrictions’. To make it about the rules is to be an artistic Pharisee. Don’t do it. Get training. Develop your craft. Work hard. Seek excellence. Learn the rules, but – also learn when you can break them – choosing to break the 4th wall, change the tone, switch out effects and alter the viewpoint of the story because it wasn’t working before. Know why the rules work, and how you can break them to make your art better.
It is not about the freedom from the rules, structure, moral laws, religious restriction, etc. If obsessing on the rules makes you an aesthetic Pharisee, then obsessing about your freedom makes you an aesthetic prodigal son. The rules are there because they work. It may be helpful to understand that some rules are there because they simply describe how things work.
The three-act structure isn’t a model forced upon you by totalitarian script readers and English professors. It is a model that has been tried and tested by great writers and producers, acknowledged by Christians and pagans alike, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Quentin Tarantino, as something effective and meaningful. It doesn’t matter if it is the rule of thirds in still photography and cinematography, or in the three act structure of plays, movies, novels and movies. Your freedom is not the point, because aesthetic anarchy has no promise, hope or joy.
It is Not About Shock
Some schools of thought are completely founded on the importance of shocking your audience. Groups like the Sex Pistols were created out of this mindset. There are strains of movies, film and fine art that have focused on shock for decades. In these groups, artists learn that to be significant is to shock people, surprise people or even offend them. From shock art like dissected animals to Hip-Hop tunes with graphic lyrics. There is a place for shock. In fact, God commissioned Shock artists in the old testament to wake his people up from their spiritual slumber. God even called his prophets to strip naked and cook over their own feces. But the shock was never the point. If you want to read more about this, check out this article.
It’s Not About Politics
It is not about politics, even if that is your passion. First, let me say that politics are important. God was very thoughtful when he created his own nation and culture. His Ten Commandments speak of private property, families and the need for justice, respecting other people’s property and God himself. We should likewise care about justice, and how our government protects the poor, pursues justice and protects religious freedom so that we can freely gather to worship together. If your art is only about politics you are forgetting the reality that all governments are accountable to God (Romans 13:1-7). Even kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers are to be called to honor God and his principles. The ultimate focus should never be a political party or a particular country. Those things will come and go, but the word of the Lord will stand forever.
What You Were Made For
You were made to glorify God. This is true when you are in church on Sunday morning worshiping with friends. This is true when you are having dinner with your family. It is also true when you are creating art and when you are schmoozing at fancy networking galas. You were not made to focus upon yourself in order to find meaning. God wants you to develop your talents and gift without making your talents and gifts the point.
Your joy will be found in this paradox – seeking to glorify God in all you do will bring you joy. It is not in focusing upon ourselves but in focusing upon the greatest commandments. It is when we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul, as well as when we love our neighbor as our self. If that is not the central vision of our life we will never find the joy and peace we are looking for. If that is not the central heartbeat of our artwork, our life’s creative work will not speak the truth or bring the joy, hope, and peace God had intended for us to bring to others.
Cheer Up, It’s Not About You
You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have it all together. You just need to be faithful. Faithful to work hard in your craftsmanship and in mastering your craft, and faithful to the one who gave you those gifts. Leave behind the temptation to make it about the rules, the past hurts, personal freedom, or even about you. Take a deep breath and let go of all that pressure. Know that you are loved and his desire for you is to honor him in all you do.
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.