Rejection and failure are facts of our existence. When an artist's work is rejected or negatively critiqued, he or she is often told "don't take it personally, they are not rejecting you, just your work." This is a reflection of post-enlightenment thinking that considers art an end unto itself. It considers art in a vacuum, unrelated to the context in which it was created or the purpose it serves because to our modern way of thinking, those considerations are irrelevant.
I don't think any artist of any genre has ever been consoled by the thought that "they are not rejecting you, just your work."
Why is that?
If our work is less than what we are capable of, then it should be critiqued. Negative criticism should spur us on to better the quality of our work. But first we have to understand the proper use of our gifts.
As Christians we have been sent out into the world to preach the message of the Gospel, the message of Christ. We have each been given different gifts to accomplish this. These gifts are unique to each one of us, they are part of who we are, part of our identity. Whether we are painters designers, actors, writers, engineers, or accountants, our gifts are part of what makes us unique individuals. To criticize an expression of our gifts is to criticize a part of our identity.
In order to spread the Word with our gifts, we are taught that we are to become the Word to such a degree that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. A properly formed Christian will preach Christ in all his words and actions using the gifts God has given him.
This means that the properly formed Christian artist will always produce work that reflects that message whether it is a portrait that shows us the light of God shining on and emanating from an individual, or a cartoon that brings us joy which is also from God. To a Christian artist who has discovered his true vocation there is no separation between himself, his work, and his mission.
So when we do encounter rejection we have to consider that we have failed in our mission to convey the Truth. And so it is our responsibility to develop our talents to the highest degree that we are capable of. The gifts we have been given by God are merely a starting point it is our obligation to learn and study and return to God the gifts He has given us a hundred times over. We cannot let rejection settle into our hearts, for then we will allow ourselves to be content with less than we are capable of. Rejection is simply a way to let us know we still have work to do.
But there will be times, when even that is not enough. After we have studied, and trained, and practiced, and developed our gifts to their fullness, we may still encounter rejection from people who reject the message and the messenger. And in that case God has told us what to do, shake the dust from our feet, and move on. (Matthew 10:14)
This article originally appeared at www.DeaconLawrence.org.