Edna Murphey had an idea. Her father was a surgeon and was working on an antiperspirant to keep his hands dry during surgery. Edna tried it on her armpits and realized that not only did the liquid keep her armpits dry, it also kept them from stinking. She bottled it and shipped some of the product to an exposition in Atlantic City. At first people didn’t pay much attention, but the summer of 1912 was hot, and over the course of that season people became more interested.
The antiperspirant and deodorant industry is now an 18 billion dollar industry, but 100 years ago, people weren’t so sure. People thought that stopping the sweat from leaving your body was unhealthy. However, Edna and her crew turned that thinking on its head. Leveraging the fact that a doctor had invented the formula, they told people that excessive sweating was unhealthy.
The really effective step, however, was the next one she and her advertisers took. Want to know why no one’s talking to you about your sweaty pits? It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they’re talking behind your back. That’s right. You stink. Your friends just aren’t saying anything to your face.
Edna’s advertisers realized that social pressure and shame went further than a “medical endorsement”.
“If entrepreneurs want to succeed, as venture capitalists like to say, they’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.” (Chip and Dan Heath, Fast Company, November 2010)
Edna Murphey took a vitamin and turned it into aspirin.
Many in the church have done the same thing with the Gospel.
Here’s what I mean. I don’t think I’m perfect; I don’t think anyone is. But what many in the Church’s history have done is made us ashamed of those imperfections. Instead of acknowledging them, and supporting each other as we live imperfect lives, the Church has too frequently sent people to suffer alone in the dark corners of their lives. We have told people they are not worthy of the love of God, the love that we tell them they need.
It’s a pretty smart marketing move in a twisted sort of way. We tell people they stink; we tell them we have the antiperspirant; AND we keep reminding them about that stinky sweat underneath that’s just dying to come out.
But we’re better than that. We need to be. We can be. Galatians 6:2 reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” We can only do this when we all fully acknowledge what those burdens are. What the real burdens are. The broken relationships, the lost dreams, the missed opportunities, the scars that remind us of wounds not fully healed. When we walk that journey together, honestly and authentically, then we are the Church.