A Prophet is not Welcome

It’s a vexatious thought to consider: you have a message, a very important message. Should you share it? You consider the ways that the message could be delivered in a tactful, unassuming way. You try to be considerate of the recipient’s feelings. You consider the implications of the delivery of your message. You open your mouth for the first time with a trusted friend. She listens, but you get the idea that she’s only listening because she cares about you, not because she’s actually interested in what you have to say. You see her again later that month, and the same topic comes up. She’s slightly more agitated this time and politely changes the topic. The friendship continues, but it’s clear that something is driving a wedge between you two. Is this message worth the relationship? Yes. It’s that important. I care about her, and she needs to know. As the relationship continues to center around this topic, the tension grows. The conversations become shorter. The dialogue about anything else that used to be foundational to the relationship dwindles. She stops returning your calls and texts. She’s gone. You’ve lost a friend. Why? Your message is perfectly clear. It makes logical and common sense. Why won’t anyone believe you? Why are you the only person this is obvious to? Do people think you’re crazy? It doesn’t matter which way you spin it. The result is the same: you’re unwelcome, off your rocker, or even worse a lunatic. This is especially true if you’re right.

Such is the life of the prophet. I’m not speaking in Biblical terms alone. It doesn’t matter if you’re Edward Snowden or Jesus. At some point, friends and family write you off as the black sheep. We’ve all been there. A friend comes to us with an urgent “message”. We hear the words, “The sky is falling! Take cover!” Yes, yes. I know it is. Thank you for sharing. Please, let me resume drinking my beer and watching Big Bang Theory. We wouldn’t be wrong for responding this way. He’s wrong, and I’ll just be polite until he quits telling me about it. Another round! If he’s right, then I have some hard work to do. What if he’s right, though? Have I even considered that possibility?

The global and historical response to the “prophet” is essentially the same: “You are not welcome. Your words are uncomfortable to my ears. I don’t like the fact that I’ll have to do some soul searching or potentially change my life in order to heed the warning. This is hard work, and I don’t like the idea of being inconvenienced by what may or may not be true in your message. Right or wrong, I don’t care. I just want to get on with my life.” We’ve all been there. We’ve all been the prophet. We’ve all been deaf to the prophet. We’ve all been the crazy prophet with a crazy message, and we’ve all rightly become annoyed at the craziness of his message. It’s not a constant state of being in one role or the other. At times we have urgent messages we’d like to deliver to friends and family. It might be the latest MLM scheme or something of much greater importance. If we’re bold enough, we vocalize. Other times we don’t. For fear of being ostracized, ridiculed, or beaten, we shut down. We are the prophet, and society passively beats us into submission until our voice is silenced. In other circumstances we are on the other side as the recipient. We hear the crazy talk, and in the worst case scenario lose a friendship because this issue is the issue that is of utmost importance now. To not take the issue seriously is to not take the prophet seriously.

In my own life, at some point, I’ll be entrusted with a very important message. Most of the time, I’m pretty vocal. My fear is that I’ll be unable to communicate a very important message clearly or that ostracization will drive me to keep my mouth shut. On the flip side I’m afraid that someone in my life will come to me with an important message, and I’ll be too concerned with the meaningless activities in my day that I won’t hear that, this time, the sky is indeed falling.