The other day I was listening to the local Catholic radio station, as I am wont to do. On this occasion the show featured an interview with a man who is known as an "author, speaker, and personal success coach." I listened as this success expert held forth on how we should take certain principles of success in the business world, and apply them to the family. For example, a principle such as "connecting with your teammates," which in the business world might mean being sure to have an effective staff meeting on a regular basis, was translated to the realm of the successful Christian family to mean that you should be sure to have dinner together at least two or three times a week, etc. Another example would be something like this: in the business world it is good to make sure your "team" has recreational time together, so a successful family ought to be sure to go on vacation together at least once a year. There was a whole list of similar analogies made. I don't recall them now. But the whole matter jumped out at me, as it were, and cried out for some general comments.
I find it funny, first, to see these "success coaches" employ such cheap tricks as holding up certain truths, or at least accepted truths, of one popular or valued realm of life, as analogy for success in another. We see it all the time. You can go to a motivational business seminar (which I once attended because I was urged by an employer, and was given a free ticket, and was curious), and see speakers use the analogy of the family to show you how to get more sales in your business. In the case of this catholic radio show, it was the same thing, only the analogy went the other way. Or sometimes you will see the sports analogy, like what it takes for a great football team to go down the field, and finally score a touchdown, as a way to convince an audience of how to grow in one's spiritual life. The possibilities for these "creative minds," who come up with strategies for success in life, are endless.
Not only does it strike me as contrived, but indeed, it betrays the truth that, though there are analogies that can be made in life, the best way to success in a given field of endeavor, or to fully appreciating one's vocation in any realm of life, is to see it on its own terms. There is probably something especially American about this fixation on the work place in our life, that a speaker would find it useful to employ it as an analogy for the family. But it is not particularly healthy. And as I say, it does not do justice to a true appreciation for the Christian family.
A discussion such as this ought not go by without mentioning that all too often this trend obtains in the pulpit as well. If you can't preach the gospel, based upon the pericope of the day, without using your own favorite thing in life as an analogy for whatever point you are trying to get across, then I'd rather not listen. Moments like that make me want to "tune out" if not actually walk out, and come back when the liturgy kicks back in.
Finally, this is an example of a trend whose true home is among the Evangelicals. Namely, the idea of setting up a handful of principles, or a set of steps, and promoting them as a way to a certain spiritual end. This is a view of sanctification which is particularly, and quite harmfully, egocentric, and works oriented. Dr. Hal Senkbeil, in my view, did a splendid job of trashing it in his book, Sanctification: Christ in Action. Please read it, or read it again.
Anyway, I've had it with motivational speakers in all areas of life, except comedy. Frankly, the only motivational speaker I appreciate is Chris Farley.