When is it appropriate to use your trauma, personal drama, family emergency – or other catastrophe to sell books? Some might say, “Never!” —but then only presenting the rosy, perfect, polished side of life isn’t very authentic.
Recently, my husband’s brush with death in a traffic accident, a ministry friend’s early step into heaven and a leader’s home fire all caused me to ponder, “When is it good or a part of God’s will to post on tragedy and turmoil?”
Here are a few questions to ask before your post (especially if sharing a story will result in a profit of any kind, including books sales, it is best to double -check your heart):
Is this my story to tell?
Post unto others as you would have posted unto you paraphrases the Golden Rule of Christ’s words in Matthew 7:12. If this is not your life, recount the facts and feelings in a way that you would like someone to do for you. Share your own personal feelings, how God is speaking to you, what you learned while keeping the details of the story private to protect another already going through a challenging time. If it is your story, as was the case with my side of the story (of the near tragedy of my husband Bill’s truck being hit and hurled into a concrete highway divider by a speeding teen driver), then I was free to share my point of view, my feelings, and I did link to our marriage books. Because the principles in those books would help another couple in a comparable situation, we both wanted to use this pivotal moment to teach and train. (Read the full story )
Have I asked permission?
“…serve one another in love…” (Gal. 15:13 )
Even though I had plenty to share from my point of view, because someone else was also in the story, after our emotions settled and the crisis handled, I felt it necessary to ask Bill, if and when he might be comfortable with me sharing the account. I penciled out what I thought was appropriate at this juncture and ran the text by him for approval. One never wants to add to another’s pain and drama when they are already experiencing pain and drama!
Is this the right time?
“it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time… “ (Proverbs 15:23 )
There might be a need or a desire to share an announcement or a statement. In these cases, if the ministry or the person themselves has shared, it is best to directly quote their testimonial. Ask yourself “Will sharing the information lessen a person’s trauma, help meet his or her need or help reach or inform the audience he or she is trying to reach?” For example, when a ministry leader was killed overseas and his ministry was wanting to get the word out so people could pray for his wife, family and his ministry, I instantly shared the post because it was clear that was the result wanted. In my post, I did inform my audience a little more of the bio, including a few of his books, so people would recognize and know whom I was talking about.
What is my motive?
“Search me God and know my heart…” (Psalms 139:23 )
Sometimes people rush to be the bearers of shocking news simply because they gain attention because they might have an insider’s view or a seat behind the scenes. Nothing hurts someone already going through a private tragedy in public view more than having friends divulge information he or she might have wanted to keep private. Ask yourself, “Would the person at the center see the sharing of this information as a betrayal?” Also ask yourself if you are the best person to share the news, or if there is someone better suited, better prepared, better equipped or better at handling these emotionally charged events. Many professions are well trained in handling these kind of raw life moments: pastors, doctors, politicians, law enforcement or military leaders all have as part of their training elements of crisis management. It might be God will ask you to be the silent servant behind the scenes that helps a family member or leader as he or she interacts with the public.
What is the desired outcome?
“Set your affections on the things above…” (Col. 3:2)
If you sense a green light on all the above questions, then before God ask, “Lord, what do you want to see happen in the lives of others who might read these words or hear this video?” Is God wanting people to come to know Him personally and be prepared for eternity? Is he asking you to rally help or aid? Does the person or family in crisis have an economic need that they have asked you to share? It there a moral or Biblical truth that needs highlighted? Before you write, before you speak—pray.
Pam Farrel is the very grateful to God wife of Bill, who was at the center of this story – and whose tale has a happy ending. (Fortunately, miraculously, my husband survived). Together the Farrels write, speak and travel the world encouraging, equipping and inspiring people to live “Love-Wise.” They are the authors of 45 books including the newly revised, updated and expanded version of their best seller, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti.