I was a bit surprised while reading an article this week to find that it said the very things I’ve been saying for years. I don’t mean that it shared my values and views; I mean it used my exact words and phraseology and did so without a hint of attribution.
I struggled for several hours about how I should feel about this. I will be teaching preaching at Chicago Theological Seminary this fall, and if one of my students wrote something like that they would receive a failing grade. Plagiarism is considered theft in academic circles, but this was not an academic article.
This certainly isn’t the first time this has happened. Twice over the years, members of my congregation have attended another church while on vacation only to hear a sermon that I had preached just a few weeks before. Lord knows I’ve “borrowed” tons of information and inspiration from my colleagues throughout the years, but these incidents made me more sensitive to giving them credit.
In the end, after getting very angry and then resentful, and after considering contacting my attorney, considering the article contains copywrited material from books I wrote years ago, I decided that I am not responsible for the ethics of the author. I am responsible only for my reaction. This was a case where I need to practice what I preach.
The great motivational speaker and Sunday school teacher, the late Zig Ziglar often said, “”It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I’ve quoted that a thousand times over the years. I think I always have given Zig credit because he had more credibility than I do, though I learned this week that it is attributed to President Harry S. Truman. What I also discovered this week is that I haven’t learned to live by that wisdom.
What difference does it make to me if someone else takes the credit for my work? I didn’t do the work for credit; I did it to accomplish something that might help others. While it doesn’t justify the other person’s behavior, Zig and President Truman helped me to remember that it is my attitude and behavior for which I am responsible, and, for a little while, I wasn’t doing such a hot job with that.
So, if anything I write in Liberating Word is helpful, you have my permission to use it without attribution, but if I am quoting Zig Ziglar or the president, please give them credit.
Rev. Michael Piazza