by Joanie Butman
During lunch with a friend last week, we were discussing a social media celebrity my daughter follows ‘religiously.’ I’ve always been stymied as to why. I can’t even get her to read my weekly blog! Regardless, this friend’s son recently teamed up with the woman in question, so she gave me a tutorial on the role of an “influencer.” I was aghast at the amounts of money these people earn simply for endorsing a product. I inquired as to how this seemingly ‘normal’ person acquired the authority to be the arbiter of all that is good? Why would anyone care what bag she likes, moisturizer she applies, or even what baby shampoo she uses? How did she gather such a vast, loyal following?
Think of Kim Kardashian. She’s a marketing genius. Who knew having a big butt could become a brand? I’d always felt ‘branded’ by having one, and spent years looking for ways to hide or disguise it. How does someone with a large derriere somehow convince others it’s a GOOD thing? I’ve been trying to get rid of mine for years. Now they sell padded underwear, and people are getting butt implants. Just putting it out there, I’d be happy to donate some of my own to anyone who wants it.
Though the title of ‘influencer’ is new, and their reach so much greater thanks to social media, these people have always existed. They just never got paid for ‘it.’ No one can actually describe what ‘it’ is, but everyone recognizes it when they see it. “The French call it ‘je ne sais quoi’ which literally means ‘I don’t know what.’” It’s an undefinable quality of attraction that draws people in. This charisma, for lack of a better word, transcends all fields from fashion to politics to religion.
I admit, I’m envious of the sway these new influencers command. Not for monetary reasons, but because as Christians, we’re all called to be influencers, and what could be more satisfying than revealing the Good News of the Gospel to millions? Billy Graham, Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Desmond Tutu (just to name a few) may enjoy that kind of reach and spiritual je ne sais quoi, but for most of us, our impact will be confined to a small circle of people, beginning with our own family – a micro influencer of sorts. Personally, I find that commission daunting enough.
The life of an influencer may seem glamorous as companies clamor for their endorsement, but I don’t think I’d enjoy living my life through the microscope of social media. First of all, it’s not that exciting, and there are plenty of moments I wouldn’t want exposed to the masses. Regarding my fashion sense, no one will ever look to me as a model of chic, and rarely am I ‘camera ready.’ Quite frankly, I’m just too lazy and at my age no one’s looking anyway.
I’d like to think I’m a bit more camera ready when it comes to my Christian beliefs, but sadly they too wouldn’t always hold up as a model for anyone. I’ve been known to get lazy in this area as well. As I considered this fact, I wondered whether my failings (and how I handle them) could be an even greater example than a life falsely represented as perfect. Could I, like Kim Kardashian, take my biggest flaws and use them as an ‘ass’et? You bet!
There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian. I don’t need to hide or disguise my shortcomings the way I use long tunics to conceal a multitude of sins. We’re all stumbling through life as best we can. Our most inspiring messages will always come from our messes and our scars because they offer hope. The most helpful two words people in pain can hear are, “me too.” How you suffer will speak more loudly and carry more influence than any erudite sermon. God’s grace in action needs no words.
Webster defines an influencer as “one who exerts influence: a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.” As frightening as that sounds, I’m all in. What’s the saying? “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.” There’s my niche. If making bad decisions could gain celebrity status, I’d be famous instead of infamous. The Choose Wisely effort wasn’t started because of any divine wisdom I was bestowed. Whatever insight I have has been earned the hard way – one foolish decision at a time.
I don’t need an extensive following, and I certainly don’t want anyone following me ‘religiously,’ including my own daughter. That place of honor is reserved for Christ alone. He is the ultimate arbiter of all that is good. His aesthetic never changes. He is the “same yesterday and today and forever.” If you are looking for an influencer to follow, He is always the wise choice. When you choose to let His je ne sais quoi shine through you, it will be attraction, not promotion, that influences others.