Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Different kinds of commitment

A considerable part of my career involved speechwriting. I got into it the way most speechwriters get into it – I fell into it accidentally.

I was working on a big communications issue for my company, and an executive needed a speech on the topic. So I was asked to write it. It helped that I had taken speech courses in high school and college.

Most communications people don’t like speechwriting. It’s an often thankless task of dealing with (large) executive egos and someone else always getting, and taking, credit for your work.

I changed companies, and almost immediately fell accidentally into speechwriting again. I was supposed to be in a general PR job, but the division where I was located had an executive who was on some national United Way committees. My boss was an advertising guy and hated writing speeches, so I found myself writing a lot – and I mean a lot – of speeches.

From there I was moved into the corporate speechwriting group. It was then I decided I was a speechwriter, and it was then where my disciplined speechwriting started. I was writing a lot of speeches and papers for executives. I began to read a lot of speeches by other people. I started to read poetry. I subscribed to professional newsletters and joined a professional association. I attended speechwriting seminars and conferences. I went to used book stores and found old collections of speeches and speech textbooks. I taught myself that the speech doesn’t end when the speech is over – and there’s a lot more mileage to be gained.

That was called commitment. I did it to do my job, and to do my job well. I also did it for self-esteem – to prove to myself and others that I could be among the best speechwriters in the business.

That commitment took considerable discipline, and specifically self-discipline. The commitment to holiness requires something similar but even more profound and life-changing, because there is a different goal as the purpose.

“We need to work at ensuring that our commitment to holiness,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness “is a commitment to God, not to our own self-esteem.” And he points out that we worry more about putting off sinful habits rather than putting on Christ-like virtues, because we confuse commitment to God with a commitment to self-esteem.

My commitment to speechwriting was like that – putting on knowledge, understanding, and experience. But I also had to unlearn some of my journalism training, at least for speeches. I had to unlearn writing for the eye.

A commitment to holiness is like that, too – but putting on Christ-like virtues is critically important. It’s not about self-esteem. It’s directed away from ourselves and toward God.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “The Discipline of Commitment,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Circe Denyer via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

Exactly, Glynn! It's not about self-esteem, but about serving God with our gifts and graces, and becoming more Christ-like in the process.

David Rupert said...

I love that you studied poetry as a way to write better speeches.

jasonS said...

What a great example. This idea is a greatly liberating one to me because I see I've had the wrong motivation so many times. Thanks so much, Glynn.