An Open Letter to Britney Spears

Dear Britney,

Hi! How are you? Say, I was thinking: If you can possibly afford to, you should get out of show business now. I saw your performance on last night’s MTV Music Video Awards. It wasn’t … your most electrifying performance ever. But you know that. Not like our beloved media is about to let you forget it until … well, until you do something else they can start ripping into your flesh about.

Which brings me back to Point A: Get out. You know something few people ever have a chance to learn: Fame — real fame, on the order you experience fame — is hell.

And as everyone knows, hell is a very bad place to be. And that’s why you should leave it.

It’s possible that, like every single other person in anything near your position, you have extremely mixed feelings about fame. On the one hand, you’re adored and loved by millions the world over. How fun! On the other hand … well, you, above all right now, know more about the “other hand” than anyone should ever need to.

So right around now you might be feeling particularly … stuck.

Love idea of fame; hate actually being famous. That’s the … celebrity conundrum.

But look who I’m telling!

And it’s not like you don’t have raw, rare talent. What a dancer you are! What physical prowess you possess! It’d be weird for you to have the natural gifts you do and not be famous.

So there’s no question but that you “deserve” your fame. Like anyone who’s achieved and sustained your level of renown, you’ve got the goods.

If I may presume, though, here’s the problem: The reason you’re loved by people who don’t know you is because you’re such a fantastic performer; because of how pretty you are; because of how readily you absorb and reflect back to them their highest (or at least most exciting) hopes and dreams for themselves. Right? That’s … the game you’re in. That’s what you do. That’s the nature of your celebrity.

And that’s guaranteed to be what it’s clearly turned out to be for you: Hell. It’s horrible. And do you know why it’s horrible? Do you know why you now feel so desperately lost?

Because it’s a terrible thing to be loved not for who you are, but for what you do.

That’s just … the worst possible thing.

None of your adoring throngs love you for you. They don’t even know you. What they love is the way you make them feel about themselves. That they’ll pay good money to experience. But that’s not love. That’s … emotionally immature narcissism.

Listen: You’re not breaking down because you’re a loser. You’re breaking down because you’re a human. And humans must be loved for who they are.

Your performance at the MTV Shallow-a-Thon was the sweetest kind of display. All it really showed is that you don’t want to be a “star” anymore, that you don’t want people to go, “Oooo! She’s back! She was dynamite! She’s still got it!”

Because you know that then you’d have to … have it, again.

And all the evidence suggests that, whether you yet know it or not, you have had it with having it.

Get out. To heck with ‘em. You’re not their toy. You’re not their moving poster. And you sure as heck don’t need to be their attack fodder.

You’re a mother now. Take that seriously. Drop off the radar for awhile. In your entire life so far you’ve not yet had a chance to naturally discover — let alone naturally become — who you really are. Do it now. Take some real time to do it, too. Getting yourself together — discovering and then centering yourself in the part of you that could give a rat’s backside for whether you’re famous or not — isn’t something you do over two weeks at E!’s Celebrity Self-Esteem Camp, or wherever. It’s not a dalliance. It’s what you were born to do. It’s what every human must do if they’re not going to get swallowed up in their own awful, deeply tweaking confusion about the difference between being loved for who they really are, and being loved because of what they represent to whomever’s then “loving” them.

Your performance last night wasn’t sad. It was beautiful. It showed how in touch you still are with the unadorned humanness inside you.

Listen: Go be alone for awhile. Turn inwards, and find yourself. Find the little girl you were before all the ugly nonsense of show-business started spinning you every which way. Find the wise, solid little kid you had to leave behind in order to go make your way in the world, the clear-eyed, honest girl who, for one, can still smell a liar and a creep coming from half a mile away, and who still knows the difference between healthy and right, and poisonous and wrong.

Go into your soul, and find there the little girl you were — the little girl who has always been pleased to patiently and lovingly await your return.

Be with that kid for awhile. Hug her. Kiss her. Apologize for being so long getting back to her. Share with her everything you’ve gone and are going through.

Spend some real time with her. Get to know her again. Bring her back out into your life. Bring her back out to play.

And then you’ll know yourself. Then you’ll be okay. Then the two of you, holding hands together, can look back out at the world, and see what real place you and your children might have in it.

And once you’ve done that — or before, or at anywhere along the line, or now — see what you think about the idea that throughout your life someone has always connected to, nourished, and protected everything in you that’s best and most precious. See if you don’t think that someone is God.

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  • Brian Shields

    Excellent post, John.

    I think this case points out the danger of turning children into marketing machines. From a young age, she's been told how talented she is while what she had was marketing and image. Now she continues to be this Jerry Springer style morality play instead of a real human. She serves the useful societal purpose of annoying people like WindyBlue.

    It's also why I for the most part refuse to pay attention to the celebrity garbage. It distracts the public dialogue from unimportant things like the environmental, space exploration, and that war.

  • Martin Zimmann

    Spot on as usual. Now, what to do about 50 Cent?

  • Sabina

    I agree, that she has lost herself in the industry and would be wise to take time for herself to get to know who she is and what she really needs. It's very easy to criticize her because she's there exposed to the public everytime she makes a mistake, but she is human, she is young and she is worthy of better than she's getting. We who are not famous get to lick our wounds privately (or at least just around family).

  • harvey melton


    That was a very mild and kind open letter to brittany S. But the truth is that she is some kind of voyuer when it comes to exposeing flesh on TV. I've seen more modestly dressed prostitutes.If she enjoys the trash life there is one place it will lead, in the gutter and without change real change an eternity in hell.have you heard of the conversion to christianity of the guy from the group''korn''? wasn't that great. britany has time right now for the same kind of change, but time is not on our side as we all know.Thankfully i don't emulate my life after the ''stars'' since when have you ever heard of them actually helping any down and out family? What the ''stars'' do affects my life in the least.I am not impressed by them in the least. But i myself on the same note, dont lead a perfect life either.I realise that when you are famous for whatever you do there is a world of pressure to do anything at any time, but this is where a thing called''character'' comes in at. sometimes we have to stop, look, and listen, then''apply'' the healing salve. life, its hard, but we need to also learn from it. I hope she does, but above all, i hope that she meets a saviour in Christ Jesus.-harv

  • mm

    I sincerely hope her husband doesn't get the children. He already has a child-with someone who has considerably less money, and he was a terrible father to that child.

    His interest in those children stops and starts with the child-support payments he would receive in turn.

    And obviously, i do not know how much support her family can provide. Look what Brittany's mother pushed her child towards?

    Getting out is the best thing she can do.

    Sadly Sarah Silverman(whose probably one of the most unfunny people on the planet) did say it best "You're 25, and you've already achieved everything your going to".

    Sadly that is the truth. Focus on your kids. Move out of Hollywood. Go back to Georgia if you want, or wherever. It makes no difference. Go somewhere where pop-culture does not define everyone.

    Change your name. Raise Your Kids. Disappear. Save the money you earned.

    On a side note: John, I really enjoy your writing. I'm not a Christian(Raised Semi-Catholic but turned away from the Church Years ago, but have spent alot of my life in churches( i went to an episcopalian(sp?) school, so i deeply respect those who have faith and promote it humbly), but you have a fantastic voice!

  • Windy: What you're saying makes enough sense and all, but do you think maybe it's just a tad harsh?

    Brian: I do think the best thing any of can do for our mental and spiritual health is to just opt out of the frothing media craze. I know I'm a lot … I don't know if HAPPIER is the word … but a year or so after ditching my TV, I know I definitely prefer not having one. (I mean, I DO have a TV; we watch DVD's on it. We just don't have cable, or watch … I don't know … whatever TV we might be able to get without cable, which I think is none.)

    Martin: 50 Cent! You know you love him. You know you MOVE when his stuff's on.

    Sabina: Exactly. Perfect. Thank you.

    Harvey: If every anyone in the public eye was ripe for conversion, it's our girl B. She's FROM the part of the country where they know a thing or two about seeing the light. It'll happen.

    MM: Thank you for your very kind words about my stuff. And, of course, I'm with you on your Britney read. She'd do well, as we've said, to take one serious time-out.

  • Thank you.

  • windyblue

    Britney Spears needs to get out of show business for ever.

    how can she be a mother to a child with her drinking and drugs.

    That woman has no idea how to be a mother and I hope her husband gets the childern, and not her.

    And on MTV wearing a bra and thongs, well they should have booted her off right than. Or had her arrested, on the spot.

    She needs to get her head together get some very serious counseling

    she is one sick woman.

  • Ahhhhh, compassion. Something there's too little of in this world. Something I often forget about myself. Thank you for reminding us that we are all, indeed, human and we all fall down from time to time. And it's not how often or how far we fall, it's the lessons we learn and how we rise again that build our characters.

  • Somewhere in Kentuck

    THAT WAS A*W*E*S*O*M*E !!!!!





  • Allen Randall

    Good job John. Although Christians are naturally outraged at a deeply decadant and dying culture, we DO need to be full of compassion for those chewed-up-and-spit-out by it. Mercy and compassion for lost and lonely people trying to find the way–and themselves.

    Blessings to you bro!


  • John:

    Very good post. I'm not sure it was great, but it was very nice. And your obvious care (and considerable insight—were you famous once, before you took up this gig?) is commendable. Way to go.

    Two quick things: your comment to the friend above who wondered if BS should have been arrested was a tad too nice. Windy? What kind of Christian, after John's plea for compassion and understanding, would want to have her put in jail? You know there is a chance—it is a long shot, but there is, in God's world, the chance–that she might actually Jon's lament. Of course her tawdry outfit (as you describe it at least) might have been inappropriate. But why use such nasty language after Shore's kind missive? Wow, we Christians too often wanna kick people when they're down. And to that, I say: repent. (And anyway, Windy, if you are so offended by that sort of attire—and I think I'd tend to agree with you, there—why were you watching it so? If you're so angry at her, what were you tuning in for anyway? Just to judge them and get angry? Perhaps rather than being put off you should be heartbroken…

    And, secondly, Jon: the psycho lingo was okay; I think the tenderness and truth of your remarks may be just what she might ponder and, along with all of us looking over your shoulder, we might be moved to do just what you said. But surely you know that the inner child stuff is not quite a Biblical, or even a very grand image. Why didn't you also call her to greatness; to a vocation of service, to using her gifts for others? Could it be that to say that she should just to get into her self maybe was part of the problem in the beginning, that she was encouraged to do just that? Instead, why not suggest that she lose herself? Somebody pretty knowledgable of the needy human heart once said that, ya know.

    Anyway, thanks again. Like the famous ones say to each other, "Love your work, baby."

  • "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

    So. I mean, seems Biblical enough to me.

    To my mind, in this case: First things first.

  • (Oops…hit "send" button too quick. All I was going to add, though, was that I certainly do see the value and truth of what you're saying.)

  • Um. That was an awesome letter John and if I were Britney–I’d listen to your wise words. Fame is HELL and the sooner the rich and famous catch on to that scary fact, the better we’ll *all* be.

    Your fan,

    Sadie Hartmann

    (Sadico Junction)

  • Teacup

    Bravo on the love letter to Britney. She is a pain-filled young woman whose every move these days cries out for help. I agree, John, thank God she is no longer able to pretend that show business meets her every need.

  • Hey, Sadie! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the ever-crafty Sadie Hartmann, one of my first and best blog friends. (One a blog of hers she once wrote a wonderful review of my book, “I’m OK.”)

    Sadie: As you can see, I’ve survived (so far) in Blog-o-Land! Thanks for all your blogging inspiration! I checked out your new crafts site! I can barely tie my shoes without ending up in the hospital needing a digital amputation, but I DO appreciate all things … crafty! (Actually, lately I really do. As of this past week, I’ve now been to Michael’s [huge crafts store throughout CA; I have no idea if they’re national, or what], like, FIVE TIMES for reasons I’ll spare you all. So, suddenly, I’m DOWN with the crafts thing, man.) Anyway, thanks for stopping by to say hi–and for the kind words. It’s great to hear from you.

    Teacup: Man. “Bravo”! Who ever doesn’t like to hear someone say “Bravo” to something they’ve done? So, thanks for that. I sure appreciate it. And of course you’re right about Britney. I’ve never given her much thought at all, but given her whole … whirlpool of late, I actually fear for her. How surprised would any of us be to learn that the poor thing had seen to it that, at least, she’d never be forgotten?

  • Now that is ‘accountability’ – firm, not sugar coated, compassionate and hopeful. If only she could hear this. If only some of those folks over at E/Fox/CNN/MSNBC et al could hear this.

  • Taryn Anderson

    Loved the letter! I agree with you. Instead of trashing her for all the bad things she’s done, she simply needs someone there to hug and love on her. And maybe a loving mother who can teach her how to be one. I honestly feel sorry for her, because no one in the media seems to care about her personally. As long as she makes the news for some new scandal, they’re happy; all the while destroying even more of the girl inside. Again, great letter! Love your blogs!

  • Perhaps you should send that on to Britney herself, that is IF her handlers (who only see her as a meal ticket, I'm sure) will pass it on to her.

    She should drop out for a while, raise her kids, get away from that leech of an ex husband of hers (she's his meal ticket, too). She might like being just Britney so much she may never want to come back. She should live for Britney and Sean Preston and Jayden James… not for her "fans" and certainly not for "Fed Ex".

    This is the first time I've been by your blog, and it won't be the last. Excellent post!

  • John,

    An obviously well thought out letter. Great job. May I submit a list of other celebs who need this kind of good counsel?

    So many are so famous, so empty.


  • Thanks, guys. All wonderful feedback, which I deeply appreciate you taking the time to send. Bless you for it. (Hey, Aaron: I suppose it would be more efficacious to send a list of celebs who DON'T need good counsel. Um. Let's see…. Well, if you think of one, lemme know! [To all Hollywood celebrities whom I'm sure are reading this: I kid! I know lots of you are sane! Not those of you currently working, of course, but I'm sure many of you who are, say, waiting to see if your pilot gets picked up by one of the cable networks, are not completely whackers. AGAIN, WITH THE JOKES! Forgive me. See, the problem is that we little people are secretly envious of the love and affection poured upon you famous celebrities like a kid pours Hershey's syrup on his ice cream. We try not to be, but we can't help it. We see the glamorous lives you lead. We see how popular you are. It drives us crazy. On the other hand, we CERTAINLY see the pain being famous brings you. The truth is, you need LESS of the trappings of fame, and we need more. So why don't we do this: You give us a huge percentage of your money. You keep being famous, because you're good at that and that's what you do–but send most of the money you make to we everyday average nobodies. That way the weight of your burdensome lifestyle will be lifted off your shoulders, and our lives will dramatically improve. It's a win-win! Please contact me, and I will tell you where to send your sacks of celebrity simoleons. Trust that when I receive them, I will immediately distribute them to those little people whom I feel certain most deserve them. Thanks! Looking forward to hearing from you!)

  • Ooh yes please. Me too.

    Honestly though, I enjoyed this post. The only problem is that we are so dang prideful that we often resist things like that (stepping back, taking stock, getting grounded etc) until they're forced upon us, and once it finally happens it takes a while to appreciate it. Though from what I've heard about the performance, her adorers are dropping like flies, so this could be her time…I just hope she has some good people who love her (as you put it) to help her sort it all out. Of course there's always therapy, but it needs to be joe-schmoe-solid-counselor from, like, Kansas or something, and not pop-psychologist-to-the-stars who will end up with a reality series detailing "Britney's Return to Sanity."

  • Ross

    John I've got to agree with the above Byron Borger. If Brittany were to look inside herself and actually find her inner child, she would find the same sinful person that she is today. She like all of us was born into sin and who she is today is the result of many choices she made. No, her only hope is to have the gospel given to her (and boy is she ripe for it…and I agree with you that we should be concerned for her) and her receive the Lord into her heart.

    Leaving Hollywood and going back to Georgia to live simply and focus on child rearing makes sense to us, but I don't think that that is a decision should could possibly make at this time. She's in the grip of Hollywood celebrity and the life that it entails, even though the price to live it is high, I think it's impossible for her to give up. Like telling a Heroin addict, "just stop doing Heroin" ….to us it seems clear. Actually it's probably harder for Brit to turn from the life she lives than to kick Heroin.

    Also, I might be exposing myself as a simpleton here but I think it's possible that in this case, as in all cases where people become self destructive, that there could be some demonic influence. I almost feel embarrassed typing that. But, the Bible is clear that we fight not against flesh and blood….

  • Teacup

    Wow…so many good things written here. I don't know….as someone who has, in my own way, experienced where she is (not in degree of fame but in brokenness) and been rescued by the Lord, in my opinion there is no way that we on the outside looking in at this young girl can tell that she is ripe for the gospel. Only God knows when and if that happens. John, I think much more than what you told her may have been over-doing it.

    I know the heart of Jesus breaks for her as it broke for me, and continues to break for me if I get off the "straight and narrow" path that leads to life. My instinct in the past would have been to judge, condemn, DO HER IN with a ferocity that is to me, looking back, frightening. But we forget that those who are not of the household of faith are not bound to live by the same standard, because without being redeemed by the Redeemer, they are not able. They will be judged someday for not accepting salvation through the blood of Jesus, but not for not living up to a standard that is for us alone.

    May our hearts TRULY break for the lost.

  • Thank you! You put words my heart that is broken for Brittney (many brittney's for that matter). Will she/they find this letter among the deluge? I dunno… but I found it, so there's hope.

    In fact, I found out about John Shore through this post. Suddenly Christian at 38, eh? Apparently, I am a bit more stubborn than you. I was 39 before I stepped, ahhh, fell off the treadmill.

  • Man, have I been lagging in the Comment on Comments department. Sorry, all. (Um. Not, I imagine, that anyone CARES all that much. Still. If someone comes to your house, you can at least … offer them a COOKIE.) I've got this BOOK that's due 'ere long, so I'm very busy now watching movies in my furious attempt to divert myself from my Actualy Responsibilities. But:

    Taryn: Hi! Still in college, I hope! (If I'm remembering right.) Thanks for all the loving words. And, yes, of course you're right: That girl just needs love. As do we all. CLEARLY she's gotten way, way too much of the wrong kind of love.

    Justin: Perfect said. GET OUT! I'LL SAY EVERYTHING PERFECTLY HERE! (You know, somehow that looked funnier in my head.) No, but beautifully said. That simple truth is soooooo … encompassing.

    Kentucky: Awesome. Thank you. WAY TO BE EMPHATIC!! I love it.

    Allen: Hey, Allen! (People: I KNOW Allen! He runs a church soup kitchen for poor people! He does more solid good for more people in two hours than most of us will ever do for others EVER. Well, more than I ever will, anyway. A lot you seem awfully…charitiable. Thank God. Right on with what you said, Allen.

    Shikes! I'm at a Starbuck's, and my computer just told me it's going to die NOW! No warning! Bye! Love!

  • Hi John, what an excellent post. It was painted with the strokes of compassion and encassed in a frame of care. I personally did not watch Britney's performance, neither did I have an inclination or desire to. After reading your post and going through all the posted comments, I hear an intentional cry for help from a scared and lonely child who is in need of attention, acceptance and approval. Her case is that of the prodigal in search of a comeback. Britney has obviously thrown a challenge out to us Christians. This is our chance to pray for her and lead her on the right track. She is ripe for the plucking on the harvest fields of souls. We must not let her rot out, or banish her to a world of seclusion and utter damnation. This is not the time to throw stones at her already shattered castle, but time to dig her out of the shambles. We all must remember that if it were not for God's grace, we too will be wandering in prodigal city.

  • Wonderfully said, Sukky. Thank you.

  • jeffmo

    B Spears is another example of a soul swallowed by the world that is now being destroyed but the world that she once loved. Being a youth pastor I see so many young people being sucked into the glitz and glamour of popular culture. Do not think for a moment that non-Christians are the only ones obsessed with such talent search programs such as American Idol and other like programs. Ask the young people in my youth group who their favorite performers are and if they are honest they will rarely reply with the name of a Christian song writer or performer. They also watch the same secular TV shows as the rest of the world, many full of sex and violence and a lack of morality. It is sad, but it is the truth. People want to deny the truth and hide under a blanket, and the church can blame ourselves for it. We claim the name of Christ but live like the rest of the world. All to often we claim to reach out to people and witness to them, and tell them about the love of Christ and how He died for them and they do not get the message for two reasons: (1) They do not understand what they are being saved from, because we do not tell them about death, eternal punishment and hell, the results of breaking God's commandments, and (2) We speak one thing and live another, thus making one believe that we are all the same regardless of what we believe in. This is why Pilate when looking into the eyes of Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, said "What is truth?" in a sarcastic manner. He lived in a time when people claimed to be followers of the One True God, but were lying and manipulating their God's commandments to empower themselves. We to can blame ourselves for speaking the name of Christ in one breath, and pursuing worldly lusts and fantasies in the next. It is like me before I was truly converted, standing in the bar with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other trying to witness. It was absurd. And since I have lived this and was once blind but now made to see by wonderful grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, I must say in love to you: please read your letter again. You speak a lot of finding the "inner girl". This sounds very much like some sort of secular psychology or eastern world philosophy. Do you really think this is what Jesus would say to Britney if He approached her as He did the woman at the well? " Hello Ms. Spears. I know that you have broken my Father's Holy Commandments and have sinned and are in danger of dying and being sent to an eternity in Hell, but don't worry about all that. I love you! Please close your eyes and seek out the little girl you used to be, and take her by the hand and skip off into the sunset and maybe some where along the way you'll discover Me!". Is this how Paul or any of the other disciples taught us how to witness? John, just like so many today in the church, you have a heart to want to help people but you are missing the main point. You do not help people by trying to make them happy in this life time, if by doing so in the process you leave them in their damned state. And if you think I am being harsh here, let me point out the term you used in your letter about "a rats backside" was hardly the vocabulary a follower of Christ should chose to use. Let us be Holy, seperated, a peculiar people. Let us declare the truth about the realities of sin, death, and the coming judgement and the wrath of God. This is the only thing that will convinct the world of the state that they are in, and their need for a Savior. Then they will be ready to meet that Savior, and we can introduce them to the God Man, Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven and earth by which men can be saved. The the Spirit can work on their heart and by the love of God one more lost, hopeless soul can be saved from the fiery pit of hell. Thanks, and God Bless you.

  • Hephaestion

    Great advice. Whitney Houston should also leave showbiz for the foreseable future. The fame is killing these gals, just like it did Elvis and Michael Jackson.

    Britney & Whitney don't need fundamentalist Christianity; they need freedom to be themselves and breathe….


  • John,

    I’m a long time reader of your blog because of the characteristics displayed in this post. Warm, intuitive, humane and, most of all, speaking from a deep place of wisdom. A place you only find having gone on a long and, probably, painful journey (heck, maybe even a ‘spiritual’).

    I respect you.

    Also have been glad to watch the growth in appreciation of your work. (Proves I’m right!)