Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Your Problem and How I Can Fix It

Duane Elmer, in his book Cross-cultural Connections, tells the story of a monkey "rescuing" a fish which was swimming against the current:

"He carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few minutes the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the money. He had successfully helped the other creature."

The monkey was brave and noble, says the author, but because he could not see beyond his own frame of reference, he assumed what would be good for him would be good for the fish. And he may have never known the damage he did.

It's easy enough to draw the moral from a simple story like that and apply it to, say, serving the poor, or any kind of cross-cultural ministry. In his next chapter, however, Elmer quotes the newspaper editorial columnist Sidney Harris who applied the principle much more broadly, claiming that "every book that is ever published, every article ever written, and every speech delivered should have the subtitle 'How to Be More Like Me.'"

Why do you suppose we find this kind of thing so appealing? Why do we eat up the self-up titles, the seven steps to success in this area or that, the recipes for happiness? I'm amazed how appealing these promises can be.

What would it take to drop the subtitle and stop making those kind of false promises in what we write or say?


Paul Merrill said...

I definitely struggle with this one as I write my blog. Maybe that's why I tend toward mostly observations.

Marti said...

It is tough to keep a book, article, or speech focused on serving the reader - without falling into to this trap. Or even if you slip into narcissism, to avoid the implication that what worked for you is what will work for someone else. Stick to principles, with no stories or application, and you still have the same problem.

I appreciate your observational style, Paul.