After a crazy week at the hospital, I checked my email and received a disturbing message. A concerned reader of Teachwithjoy told me that there is a blogger who is cutting and pasting from my articles and putting it on her site. This is different than sharing the articles or passing them around. She is using personal stories and reflections of mine and putting herself in them. Or, hacking up things I have written and using the insights as her own.
At first I was just shocked. Who does this? Especially from a site that is about a woman’s grace journey as a wife, mother, and homeschooler. It’s not like the content is that juicy! This is not about the life of a celebrity or famous person. It is not the kind of stuff that people would normally want to plagiarize. These are deeply personal reflections and stories about me and the people I love. These are spiritual lessons I have picked up along the way. They are meant to be shared and passed around in their integrative wholeness, in context, to bless others. But seeing them hacked up, butchered and stolen in this way is hurtful.
So this is what it feels like to be a victim of plagiarism. Ouch.
Admittedly the selfish and carnal me was offended on two fronts. First, any decent, educated person knows that this is plain unethical and inappropriate. Second, my thoughts were…Write about your own life instead of borrowing someone else’s. Don’t have a blog if you can’t do so. It makes you a thief, not a writer.
I did write the blogger to express my concern and sentiment about what she was doing (it was worded nicely) but I have not gotten a response. Hmm…maybe I was too nice? It doesn’t really matter at this point. If she has been doing this for a while, I doubt that a little note from me is going to bring about radical change. The reality is the digital world swarms with people who do this sort of thing. And by putting content on line I would be an ignorant fool to think that it was “safe” to do so. Of course this reality doesn’t make it less troubling.
Last night I told some of my family members about it just to get their perspective. One person was like, that’s kind of a compliment, right? (Umm…no. Violated was closer to how I felt.) Another one offered to spy on them, digitally speaking (also known as stalking them on social media.) Yet another suggested that I put her name out there and expose her publicly. Bingo! For an instant, this seemed like an attractive idea. But Edric cautioned me against doing so. Okay, okay. It would have been in bad taste if I did. It would be morally wrong, slanderous, to be more accurate. Furthermore, I don’t want to turn this site into an avenue for personal agenda.
I kind of let the whole thing go but this morning, my frustration mounted when, out of curiosity, I read another link that Ms. Concerned Reader sent to me. It was an article the blogger posted — a cut-up version of “The Rise of the Unloved Woman”. My agitation grew and I was tempted again to use my site to do an exposé. But the Holy Spirit stopped me.
What do you hope to gain? Isn’t this site supposed to be about God’s grace? Would that be an act of grace?
Of course not. It would be an act of ugly pride.
Here were some other questions the Lord prodded me to answer…
Why are you upset? Do you think you own the content on your site? Have I not given the insights to you and inspired you with the personal experiences to write? That content belongs to me, not to you. Furthermore, do I not know all things? I know what this person is doing. Why should you trouble yourself? I am better able to convict her to stop what she is doing. And if I don’t stop her what is that to you? Is it so bad that someone is copying your articles? Are you going to pick a fight over this and let it steal your joy?
Remember…”The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:14 NASB)
I had to acknowledge my selfish thinking and say sorry to the Lord. This blog may be personal but the spotlight is not supposed to be on me. This site is something I have dedicated to the Lord, to minister to others. It is supposed to highlight Jesus Christ. So if people pretend that the thoughts, ideas and stories here are theirs, well, it is a crime they can take up with God. He is the owner of everything I have written here.
It is easy to fall prey to the entitlement mentality. But the truth is I own nothing. Not even this site. God owns everything. He has the liberty to decide what ought to be done with the people, possessions, ministry, and gifts he has given me. A tell-tale sign that I am trying to take God’s place is when I become controlling, anxious, or upset when these things are “messed” with, or when circumstances don’t seem to favor what I want. Pride says, “Hey! That’s mine! Hands off!” It also says, “I deserve to be treated better. Don’t do this to me!” Or, “I deserve respect, recognition. I deserve more! Give me what is due me!”
When I was younger my mom read to me the Pineapple Story. It is a story about a missionary who loved pineapples. He had the locals plant them for him but they stole them when it was harvest time. Angered and frustrated because they kept stealing the pineapples, he began to lose his effectivity as a missionary. It wasn’t until he realized that the pineapples didn’t belong to him but to the Lord that he stopped getting angry. The locals noticed a remarkable difference in his personality and wondered what happened…why he wasn’t reacting to the stolen pineapples. He told them they were not stealing from him but from God. This convicted the locals and they repented and changed. But the real victory was this — the missionary began to bear fruit in his ministry because he was not consumed with self-centered thinking. He focused on what he was supposed to be doing — being a blessing and bringing Jesus Christ to the lost.
Similarly, I need to guard against the entitlement perspective in my own life which can side-swipe and cripple me from being used by God. If I am so preoccupied with fighting for my rights when they are trampled upon or taking up a defensive stance to protect what I believe to be mine then I lose the very purpose for which I exist — to lead others to Jesus Christ. When the entitlement mentality infects me, it becomes about me. But, it’s not about me, it’s all about Him.
I am actually thankful that this unpleasant discovery happened. Being a victim of plagiarism made me reevaluate why I write. Is to exalt myself or is it to exalt the Lord?
If it is to exalt the Lord then I need to keep focusing on the priorities God wants me to…growing in intimacy with him, loving my husband, kids, the ladies I disciple, and faithfully teaching my children so I can keep writing for his purposes and glory, plagiarized or not!