Muppets in the balconyThere are people who speak into our lives–and often we experience the blessing of an encouraging word from them.

But there are other voices, too.

We’re barreling along on a project–say, writing a story, an article, a blog post, a book; or, practicing for a play, a song, a speech; or, readying the house for guests; or…–when those voices start gaining volume. That’s no good. It won’t work. Why are you doing this? Who do you think you are? Comments and questions like these side-swipe forward momentum.

If we pause to ponder, we can identify the source of these voices: they’re from people in our past, or snippets we’ve read or heard and taken as being addressed to our situation. The messages linger, corrode. Ironic, how often those who spoke thought they were doing a kindness, or at least were trying to help us be realistic. Strange, too, that we allow them such power.

Like all criticism, there’s likely to be a grain of truth in what these voices say. Let’s admit it: not everything we put our hand to is instantly wonderful. But if such remarks paralyze us, we won’t make enough progress to figure out what needs to be changed, or polished, or honed.

That said, the rest of what comes out of these galleries is probably worth rejecting. But how?

We need other voices–louder, better voices that tilt toward enthusiasm, forgiveness, grace. This is not to say we should shun any word of criticism, but it does acknowledge that too much criticism is likely to nudge one into a swamp full of alligators. That might make for good TV, but it’s hard on artists.

Another gallery? Chances are that you know enough people to fill it, that there are people around you who like your work, read your stuff, even buy something every now and then. Worth hearing?

A pastor friend of mine keeps two files nearby. One contains mail from ‘boo birds”; another holds ‘atta boys’. When the negatives surface, he grants them a moment or two to say their piece. But then, he has that other folder, with its different voices. A better gallery.

The Psalmists describe that other gallery, too. We will shout for joy when you are victorious (Psalm 20:5). Think: who’s shouting for you–up there, in the balcony: who’s in your cheering section? Then the righteous will gather around me (Ps 142:7). Remember: you’re not alone, and what you tend to hear is not always worth listening to.


3 thoughts on “Galleries

  1. Hi Dan — nice to see you over at A Year. Thanks for your comment — there is a book — not sure if you’ve seen it — Balcony People — they’re really important. I like to ask my ‘balcony people’ what would you do in this situation? And then… I listen! Cheers!

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