Every writer writes about himself. Every preacher preaches about himself. It’s what makes communication personal and accessible. Without including ourselves in our work it would be cold and distant and maybe even dishonest. Like in so many other areas of life, though, the self threatens to play too much of a role. It seeks to take center stage and be the story instead of a means to the story. So the question is: when you write or speak, is it from you or about you?
What is your aim when you blog or tweet or write or preach? Are you seeking to elevate yourself (about you) or to offer something of value to others (from you)?
If you are seeking to elevate your self you will use yourself as the primary positive example. You might make a point to lay out “seven ways I . . .” or “three essential steps I take to. . .” on a regular basis as if your ways are the best ways and with assumption people really care how or why you do what you do. To top it off your work will be littered with needless details about yourself and your life. You will drag out otherwise helpful examples into soliloquies about, well, you.
On the other hand, if you are genuinely seeking to offer something helpful to others you will include both positive and negative examples about yourself. All the stories you share will be with a distinct purpose. They will connect ideas with people, take people to the right emotional place, unveil relational realities, or exemplify a point that needs a story to give it life. But none of the stories will make you the center. You just happen to be the one who encountered some truth bigger than you. You emphasize those parts of the story that back up your point and then you move on without lingering so readers or hearers can think about you. The point of the story is the point, and you are not.
This is a hard balance to strike. We are self-centered people so of course we make ourselves the center of what ought to be communication of great big truths. It’s why most of us shouldn’t write memoir or autobiography (that and the fact that only spectacular writers can make those genres interesting). We can’t write an essay about family or love or Jesus without making ourselves the center let alone one about ourselves.
Our goal, as communicators, is to connect readers and listeners to something greater than themselves, something transcendent. We are not transcendent. God is, and so is the immeasurable litany of truth He has provided for us to unpack and explore and wonder at. So when we write or speak all we need to do is lead people to those truths like a tour guide. The guide at a museum is not the center of attention; he is the one who shows people what should have their attention. That is the job of the communicator.