In a world obsessed with being noticed, followed and famous—what would it look like to live in pursuit of the exact opposite? What would it look like to be UNfamous?
The idea came to me as I listened to elementary age kids talk about their dreams for the future. One girl said she wanted to be famous on Instagram while the other wasn’t sure what that entailed. “You just post pictures of yourself and soon you get paid for doing nothing but posing.” Hmmm…this got me thinking.
Is it time to readjust what we value? Is it time to model something more meaningful and important than garnishing attention? Shouldn’t we be doing more than “posing” in life?
I’ve thought about a man named John the Baptist lately. He was nicknamed the “forerunner to the Savior…” a title that’s impressive no matter how you look at it. He was famous in his day, attracting people from all over the region to his fiery messages of hope. He was a big man of stature and had many followers, until a new face arrived in the region. The face of Jesus. In utter obedience and humility, Jesus was baptized by John; an act that made even John uncomfortable. After his baptism Jesus disappeared for a while as John continued to grow in notoriety and fame.
Soon, some of John’s followers came to him and asked about the popularity of this new man. They said, “This man Jesus who YOU baptized is now baptizing, and everyone is going to Him!” John’s answer reflects the image of a man completely secure in who he is, and who he was created to be. He’s actually happy that Jesus is more popular than he is and says, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. And so, this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3)
John is telling his sold-out, proud followers there’s something and someone more important than the notoriety and fame they’d become accustomed to. He’s even joyful about it. He must decrease so Jesus can increase. This thinking is so contrary to our nature. It’s so “not popular” with a popular-hungry crowd. But what if the actual key to fulfillment isn’t always centered on our dreams and destiny, but rather, the path to serving others well. Surprisingly, joy comes from seeing God increase and our ego and insatiable need for attention—decrease. In a world of “selfies” it’s refreshing to commit to being “self-less,” no matter how contrary it is to popular culture.
So, friends—here’s a huge invitation to something great.
On Friday, August 23, I’m launching the UNfamous Challenge and it goes like this. For the next twenty-one days—let’s do something totally unselfish, unrewarding, unnoticed, unapplaud-able. Let’s think of ways to: promote other people, serve behind the scenes, give someone else the credit, encourage without reward, secretly bless, lavish praise and ladle out hope—without one ounce of expectation or inward need. Sound hard? That’s the very reason we should do it.
In case you need some help—here’s some great ideas for becoming UNfamous:
• Leave a note for someone who looks like they’re having a bad day.
• Mow a lawn, pick weeds, or leave flowers for someone you don’t know well.
• Take a bag of groceries to a hungry person.
• Buy a Starbucks for the person behind you.
• Encourage the most annoying person at work and be sincere.
• Be nicer to your children than you are to strangers.
• Give your spouse a backrub and tell them how much they mean to you.
• Live one entire day without complaining and instead, compliment the people around you.
• Reach out to someone not in your age group and ask about their dreams and regrets. (Even kids have good answers…)
• Ask God to bring one person to your mind and pray for everything you can think of regarding that person all throughout the day.
• Give someone a better seat, place in line, or chance to move ahead.
• Give someone else credit for something, even if you did a lot of work.
• For one entire day don’t blame anyone or nurture resentment. Think the best of people.
Please…add more! We have twenty-one days to fill and it’s much more fun to do this together.
But here’s the rub.
I know we’re trying to NOT bring attention to ourselves and we’ll be posting a lot of this activity on social media. At first that bothered me, but then I remembered how just seeing and hearing what other people do takes the focus off ourselves—and that’s the point! Please post comments and pictures of what you’re doing in the UNfamous Challenge and let’s cheer each other on. (#unfamous people unite…)
Truthfully, that’s how Jesus lived. No matter how tired, lonely, hungry or misunderstood he was, his life was other-centered rather than self-centered. And John the Baptist got it right. For him to increase…we must decrease. UNfamous never looked so good.