The Peril of Stolen Words

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So.  I am feeling a little prickly tonight.  Y’all are OK with me being wide-open, gut-level real, right?  If you’re not, well… I’ll give you a moment to go read something else for the duration of this post.  😉

I came across some websites from folks I once knew during my days overseas.  I always default to thinking the best and giving people 529 chances to prove my intuition wrong.  I should have listened to my gut.  But I didn’t.  And I paid for it.  Big time.

I stumbled across the current websites a few days ago and I about fell over.  Right off my seat.  It felt like being sucker punched, the wind knocked right out of me.  There was a logo that looked very similar to one of mine. It wasn’t identical but too close for me to be comfortable with it.  Benefit of the doubt.  Loads of people like dandelions, right?

My stomach dropped several notches as I read through the content and updates and landed on a beliefs page speechless. I have a very distinct beliefs page that has been online since 2011 virtually unchanged (and I have proof of that).  Now with a very thin veneer of adaptation, my words stared back at me from a site I did not write.  And if that wasn’t bad enough.  I clicked over to a second site and words lifted verbatim, letter for letter, from my business site were living there.  I’m going to have to write knowing whatever I say may be “borrowed” without my permission. But at least I now have a little line on my business website that says:

Copyright © 2016-17 Michele Perry | All Rights Reserved. USING CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION IS STEALING & I know you are way too amazing to do that.

That’s direct enough, right?  But still kind.  I do want to be both.

The absolute worst part is.  Things like this happen all the time in the Body of Christ and no one bats an eyelash.  Those stolen from are encouraged to forgive and move on.  For the record, I have forgiven and I will move on.  But I am also taking necessary steps to protect myself from such integrity issues in the future.   And I’m calling this behavior for what it is:  Stealing.  Inspiration, recognizable influence from those we admire, using content with permission (seriously, just ask- I love to share) or quoting something with credit (quote away with appropriate attribution) is one thing.  Theft is quite another.

God calls it stealing too. It isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.  Jeremiah 23 talks about it at length.  Talk about consequences. Eeek.  No, thank you very much.

“For from the prophets of Jerusalem
Profaneness has gone out into all the land.’ ”
Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They make you worthless;
They speak a vision of their own heart,
Not from the mouth of the Lord…”

Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord.”

Jer 23:9-30 (selected.. read the whole section.  It is jaw-dropping.)

I’ve been doing a lot of chatting with Jesus over this because it gets my justice side all riled.  Integrity is such a huge thing to me.  Without it, you have nothing.  As a creative, I have spent decades of my life finding my own sound, honing my words with my life before they ever find their way to page or screen.  I’ve invested all I am into becoming more of who Jesus is asking me to be, into creating original content that brings Life and serves people well. Of diving deeper into His counsel, His heartbeat directly so what I carry is authentic rooted at the deepest levels of my being.  Jeremiah 23 has been a passage I’ve taken seriously since I was a teenager.

Maybe the saddest thing of all is that when we fall into the trap of comparing and using someone else’s words, we rob the world of our own voice, our own original, beautiful identity that God has created within each one of us to cultivate and share.  It’s there.  It really is.  No matter the pain and the loss and the grief, true beauty is always found in the ashes.  And no success is genuine if we succeed at being an echo of someone else’s sound, rather than becoming the full expression of our own. 

There is so much more, beloved.  So much more.

Thanks for listening.  Prickly bits and all.  And now I’m off to paint some cactus inspired wedding invitations… grateful I have something valuable enough anyone would want to copy it in the first place and praying for those who do.  It is a very fast way to wind up on my prayer list.  😉

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