I love Bob Goff’s reminder that we need to be “secretly incredible.” As Bob aptly points out, Jesus’ self-promotion plan was simple: “Tell no one.” We need to fly under the radar and get things done, rather than talk about it.
Yet, we are a storytelling culture. It’s wired in our makeup as humans to be storytellers and to appreciate the stories of others. Donald Miller pointed out in the his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that we want and need to live stories with our lives. Without stories to share and tell, we have nothing.
So, how do we reconcile being “secretly incredible” with being storytellers??
Photo: Pepperdine law students sharing their stories in a Thai-Burma border refugee camp.
A few years ago a billionaire in my hometown endowed a local hospital system. This was a half-a-billion-dollar game-changing endowment. Overnight, the hospital took on a new name—the billionaire’s last name—posted it everywhere they could find enough blank space, threw a huge party headlined by Sheryl Crow, and bronzed a larger-than-life statue of the billionaire to stand majestically in front of the hospital. They made a story fit for the headlines for weeks.
It was incredible, but anything but secret. The change irked many people, who switch hospitals and quit donating, saying “You have all this money now, big parties, and bronze statutes, so I’ll give to those who need it.” To top it all off, a billboard was anonymously and prominently erected a block from the hospital entrance that simply read: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Mathew 6:2-4” The identity of secret billboard culprit was never revealed.
Today, we tweet everything, post it on Facebook, and watch it on YouTube. What we do doesn’t feel legit unless it’s got a .com attached. Simply put, it’s easy not to be secret.
In the Global Justice Leadership Mini Series that I conducted with Bob, I asked him this. Bob said we need to live into our own story. I’ve been thinking on that. I’d guess that when Jesus said “Tell no one,” he probably knew that people would tell (and, arguably, they should if he wanted people to hear the Good News). More or less, I imagine Jesus didn’t want himself bronzed at the entrance to the temple.
Bob told me about a line in the move The Incredibles where Edna tells a washed up superhero to “leave the cape.” It reminded me of a long flight where I turned on a different movie about some kids who dressed up as superheroes. The movie was so bad that I don’t even remember the name! I never even got half way through. The kids made a lot of hype, but didn’t do anything super or heroic. They were all cape and no do.
If we’re actually living into an incredible story, we can’t help but share it—we are human and we’re made to tell our stories. But, if we’re all cape and no do, we’re eventually just a bad movie that no one wants to watch—even on a long flight.
Let’s go and do incredible things, but leave the capes and the bronze casts at home!
Question: How do you reconcile being “secretly incredible” with the desire to tell your story?