Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's In A Name: Use Is The Opposite Of Love.

          I recently had the pleasure of leading worship with some good life-loving musicians for a large gathering of Catholic college students in Nashville…let’s call it the “FIND” conference (I'm being extremely facetious). It was a substantial production: 10,000 attendees, hundreds of vendors, and hundreds of great talks and presentations, all in a terrarium-like convention center. It was pretty neat. During the conference, part of my job was to accompany a small musical ensemble for a breakout session. To give you some perspective, many of the musicians I was playing with are successful in their own right as solo musicians, and have had a lot of great exposure, but are also some of the kindest and most humble people I’ve met. One day, before this particular breakout session, I was sitting with one of these musicians, let's call her Susie, while a woman approached her. Bubbly and quick to act, this heat-seeking ball of lipstick was swift in introducing herself to Susie, but not to me…three people…in an empty room that seats 500. I was not offended, and gave her the benefit of the doubt thinking she may be from a foreign land where introduction formalities may be different...maybe somewhere on Mars. Anywho, I just proceeded to sit there and pretend to look at my phone while I listened to their conversation. In the three and a half minutes that the two women spoke, I noticed something: this random woman, who ended up having a leading role in the pending breakout session, kept using names. In fact, before she ended and went her own way, she mentioned thirteen names of prominent Catholic music artists, speakers, and popular figures. She was precise too, saying who she has worked with, who she had over for dinner, and who she just got a Snapchat from. This story has a great ending…but I’m going to finish it later.

          Brothers and sisters, what’s in a name that makes it so powerful? Throughout history, entire wars have been fought for the sake of a name. Names are erected on plaques, read at ceremonies, at stake in legal discrepancies, and used to attract attention to ourselves. Our name is directly correlated to our beauty and dignity as a human person. We are nothing without our name. Our names define us, and we dignify our name by attaching it to a physical body that we are called to keep in shape spiritually, physically, emotionally, and humanely.

          Brothers and Sisters, what is love? (Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…) Love is the act of affirming the dignity of a human person. Love is the choice you make to bring another person closer to Christ, whether in a very small or very big way.

          Brothers and Sisters, what is the opposite of love? The opposite of love is not hate, it is use. Use is the opposite of Love. When we use another person for personal gain, we are directly contradicting our call to acknowledge that person’s dignity.

          Here’s my issue: STOP NAME DROPPING. When I lived in Nashville, if you were going to a gig you had to be prepared by bringing the following things with you: your instrument that you practiced, some nice clothes, and a list of names to use in conversation. The more gigs you do, the more names you have. The more names you have, the better your chance you can make a connection with someone...which might lead to more work. This happens everywhere, but on a much smaller scale. In fact, just to clarify, it's a perfectly harmless thing to do if your trying to make the connection with the sole intent to befriend another person. When you use the name of another person, however, to create the perception that you are anything other than yourself (i.e. famous rockstar), then you have used that person for personal gain, and that’s not a sign of love. At that point you are using two people, the name mentioned, and the person you are talking to. Instead, why not walk into a workspace the same way you walk into your own home?You should be confident and sufficiently yourself in all of your work and home life. You were miraculously and beautifully created to make a difference with your name alone, and those are the people who end up making the best impressions anyway.

            Back to Ms. Lipstick…a few days have passed since the previously mentioned conversation between Susie and Ms. Lipstick, and it was time to do our last breakout session. I had arrived early to the venue, again empty and waiting for 500 people, and noticed that the only people there were Ms. Lipstick and myself. So I went up to her to introduce myself. I caught her by surprise, and said that my name was James and I was a Catholic musician…which I though was sufficient. The conversation lasted about a minute, after I realized she wast going to look up from her phone, and I walked away not feeling very important to say the least.

            Let us be like Mother Theresa in all things, one who never passed a single person by without looking into their eyes and beholding the beauty within.