Whenever someone said "It's not personal, it's just business," it always bothered us. But until we heard this great quote from Meg Ryan's character in the romantic comedy "You've Got Mail," we never could put words to that feeling.
In the movie Tom Hank's character (a businessman who ran Meg Ryan out of business) said, “It wasn’t personal.” Meg Ryan's character reacts by saying: “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s “personal” to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway? . . . Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
This issue came back again when Hilary Rosen, a democratic activist, criticized Mitt Romney's wife for being a stay-at-home-mom. In her apology, she said, "It's not personal." But our response to her would echo the words of Meg Ryan's character. "All that means is that it wasn't personal to you." It was very personal to the person she was attacking - Anne Romney.
When we share our ideas it is always personal. There is no impersonal transfer of facts when we are engaging each other on the media platforms of the day. Even wikipedia entries showcase the author's passions for the subject. Whether you are on the radio, sharing at a book club, writing a blog, speaking at a local event or addressing the nation on television, your ideas are very personal . . . to you and to those you are addressing.
In fact ideas are meant to be personal - that is what gives them life. It has only been since modernity that we have tried to strip ideas from their subjective value and shell out "just the facts." In the end the reality is that there simply aren't a list of facts anywhere that you could share without building in your personal values, perspectives and opinions.
And just as Meg Ryan's character came to realize, we don't believe that is a bad thing...necessarily. Any time an idea hurts someone the way Rosen's did, it is to be condemned. And, we need to value objectivity when it is called for. There are times when we need to strip away feelings and provide the key information. But most of the time our personal investment in the idea is what brings it to life, makes it personal and adds value to those who see us as a thought leader. It is also what shows our true feelings and our character.
So next time you feel like holding back your generosity because the information is your personal opinion, remember that your personal input is part of what makes it valuable. Just make sure that the power of what makes your idea distinctively yours is used to honor God and those around you. Otherwise your generosity becomes a weapon instead of a support to your audience and the world.