How Can I Write?

The first step of wisdom is to admit, with good humor,
that there is no reason why our ideas should interest anybody.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Writing publicly is a strange thing. I want the whole world to read my words and yet I am more comfortable if no one does. To write is akin to setting a land mine. We put all of our power into it and then walk away, hoping we are not too close when someone encounters it, yet close enough to know when they do.

To write is an act of hubris. Indeed, it ought to be so.

No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all,
unless he thinks that he is in truth and the other man in error.

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

This is true even in telling a story. The reader is not necessarily wrong, in that they are mistaken. They are lacking, in that they do not know the story. I have no reason to tell my wife of the trip I took with her, only the one I took without her. She knows the first, not the latter.

But as a Christian, the writing impulse hits a stumbling block.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29 (NRSV)

Jesus holds up high standards for us in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the Gospels. Yet, he calls us to imitate his humility. If we exercise humility, it would seem to work counter to the ego inherent in writing. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves,” Paul instructed the Philippians. This seems counter to the Chesterton quote above.

So what is a Christian to do when he takes pen (or keyboard) in hand? Certainly the Church has benefited from those who have done just that throughout the ages. Without believers bearing the pen, we would not have the Scriptures. We do well to remember, though, that much harm has also been done by the stroke of a pen. We know of so many heretics because most of them wrote their thoughts and sought to propagate them.

We must write with conviction. Committing words to paper half-heartedly should not be done. But we must also write with humility. That means we should examine ourselves and our words carefully. To walk in humility means to walk in the truth. We should work diligently to possess and pass on the truth. We should beware of presuming that we have the truth within our grasp. We must be open to correction.

This is a narrow way and few find it. A narrow path is hard to remain on. It is easy to stray toward arrogant presumption on one side or indecisive rambling on the other. Neither edifies a reader. Though it is a narrow way, let all of us who work with words seek it out.


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