If You're Trying to Sell Me Something

Photo Credit: "Piggy Bank" by Pictures of Money, July 25, 2014 via Flickr. CC2.0

Photo Credit: “Piggy Bank” by Pictures of Money, July 25, 2014 via Flickr. CC2.0

My newsfeed is full of them, and I bet yours is too: advertisements. But not just the sponsored ads and promotions from major companies that we’ve come to expect, but from our very own friends. “Let me help you on your weight loss journey!” “You’ll see results in less than a week!” “Join my team today!” “Earn money wherever you are!” and all the hot sales and special promotions and before-and-after pictures and on and on.

And if I’m being honest with you, I’m getting a little disheartened. Because, frankly, some of these methods saturating your feed and dictating your social calendar aren’t flowing from the values that guide us and the virtues we seek as Catholic Christian women.

The year I moved to South Bend was a big year for me – I got married, got pregnant, and started a new job. But it was also such a difficult year for me because I had a really hard time making new friends. And I was really discouraged by how intertwined social life and person-to-person networking were in my community. Every ladies’ night out was connected to a party where we were invited – and encouraged – to purchase something; acquaintances would reach out to connect with me one-on-one and inevitably invite me to host a party; women would ask if I’d ever considered becoming a distributor. But even though I was connecting with people, there was no connection. No relationship beyond salesman and customer. I always felt pressure to buy or host because that’s how this works. Even though these were wonderful, incredible, holy women who would never manipulate me consciously, the companies they were working for knew exactly what they were doing. And I felt used.

Yes, all sales are based on some kind of relationship, I know this. But while I expect a sales/consumer relationship with my wireless carrier, I just don’t expect it from my friends, or the people I worship with. And while I want to be supportive of people, especially other moms trying to find a way to work from home, I can’t help but feel like there’s a zeal that accompanies this type of marketing that needs to be tempered by prudence.

I’d like to offer 4 questions to serve as an examination for anyone involved in marketing – whether it’s a small business, your own writing, or even a ministry. (These are questions I ask myself in my own work, and I’m offering them here not to shame anyone or make anyone uncomfortable, but because I think, as Christian and Catholic women, these questions are worth asking!)

Am I honoring the dignity of the person?

A mentor in ministry used to challenge me to build relationships for relationships’ sake, not just to build a foundation for later invitation and engagement. People are keen to this; they can sense when there’s an agenda. We ought to tread carefully, because use is the opposite of love.

We have to ask ourselves: Are we engaging in relationship for the sole purpose of selling to them? Do we find ourselves seeing and thinking of people only as potential clients and customers? Have I put pressure or guilt on others?

Am I being genuine?

Especially on social media, I’ve noticed how many posts coming from different people are identical, even when they are meant to describe a personal experience: how it’s changed their life; how thrilled they are every day to be a part of it; and how easy it is, so easy! The thing is, it just doesn’t ring true. Sales is hard. Work is hard. Coming up with original posts several times a day is hard. So tell the truth, because the people you are recruiting deserve it.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and each other: Am I being genuine in my sales pitch? Do I stand by the things I’m saying? Would I buy this product – at the price I’m selling it? Would I recommend it to a friend even if there were no financial benefit to me?

Am I being a person of integrity?

With so many health products out there being marketed person-to-person, it’s important to know the science behind what you sell. Personal integrity requires that we do due diligence to make sure that what we market and sell is safe and good for the person and does not harm.

We have to know: Is it safe? Is there (preferably independent) research to backup its claims? Do I understand at least the basic science behind it? Am I confident that I am doing no harm?

Am I being a good steward?

It’s an important question for us to ask, in any profession or line of business. We have limited resources; and not just time and money, but also our very hearts. God endowed us with a heart for hospitality as a gift, not a tool.

We should ponder: Is this taking undue time and resources from my family? Are the financial practices of this company responsible? Am I respectful of other people’s stewardship?

I can’t help but hope that I still have a friend or two by the end of this. But I’m asking these questions, and asking you to ponder these questions because they are important. Our faith puts a great emphasis on the dignity of work, and how that work can serve the person and builds up society. Are we letting that faith inform our business practice?

What’s your experience? How do you balance the demands of marketing and promotion with Christian values?


Copyright 2016 Megan Swaim.



About Author

Megan Swaim lives in South Bend, IN, with her husband, Josh, and daughters, Lucy and Mary. Together they are navigating the beautiful (and crazy) adventure of marriage, parenting, and ministering to the young Church. Megan is a high school youth minister and was one of the administrators of the My Year of Faith blog and app for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. You can read more from Megan at www.myyearoffaith.com.


  1. Megan, this speaks so much to many dynamics I have experienced recently. Most specifically, with other women. I have stopped attending all “parties” that involve pitching a product. This decision came after I was invited for a girls night that ended up being a Mary Kay party unbeknownst to me (sorry, Mary Kay!). I spent the evening being told to look at a mirror at all my trouble zones on my face while everyone picked themselves a part. What a way to dishonor each other as women! It is disheartening and can be hard to navigate. Thanks for taking the time to really examine and challenge. Peace!

    • Megan Swaim on

      Thanks for sharing, Emily. I’m sorry that you’ve also had some disheartening experiences, but I’m so grateful for women like you who are joining the conversation, sharing their experiences (even when negative) and what can be learned from them!

  2. This needed to be said. Sales is invading every industry and it certainly dominates the work-from-home sector. I too want to support moms who are trying to make ends meet while staying home with their kids, but sales-based businesses too often cross the line into manipulation.

  3. Excellent, excellent post! I have a personal policy to not by from MLM companies, because I disagree with their business principles. I’ve had too many times where I ended up feeling used, but I also feel like the rep is being used by the company!

    • That’s a good insight, Sarah! You’re right that many companies manipulate or exploit their reps. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Agreed x1000! Although I probably would’ve been a way bigger jerk about it and would definitely have no friends by the end, but you did this very gracefully and tactfully– way to go!

  5. And then the other thing I find disheartening and sad is when someone I haven’t heard from in months (too busy, not enough time to talk, etc.,) is all of a sudden texting and emailing me to get together and I am all happy to hear from her that she finally has time for me…but its only to sell me something!

    I want to support my friends, but I find it kind a of bummer that the only way some people have “time” to talk to me is when they want my money!

    I am much more inclined to buy something from someone who actually makes the time to be my friend, than for someone who only finds time when she wants me to buy!

    • Megan Swaim on

      I think a lot of women can identify with what you’ve shared. It sounds like you’ve found a good balance, too, in supporting friends and avoiding the sales pitches from those who are just using the connection for profit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mari!

  6. Agree 100% with this post. I’ve fallen for mlm before and my feed too is filled with them. I don’t think I’m wrong in wanting people to want to enjoy time with me, not just for me to buy from them. While I do want my friends to succeed at their calling, I worry when it takes over their life…

    • Megan Swaim on

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Robbie! I don’t think you’re wrong either in wanting that, and appreciate how hard it is to find that balance.

  7. I often feel guilty if I don’t attend a MLM party — and then especially so if I do not buy anything! That being said, I know a couple Catholic women selling really good products but there seems to be no pressure…just more of a “if you need this, you know where to find me” attitude.

    The thing I am struggling with right now (and so found this thread while searching the topic) — I currently have an online etsy shop and have more recently got involved in social media (to promote my shop) – and found that I love providing inspiring content to Christian women …and feeling called to start a blog that is a bridge between Christian and Catholic…introducing them to the joy of being Catholic. However, I need to help bring in some income – and feel guilty about trying to blog for income… Any Advice?

    • Megan Swaim on

      Hi Kristin, I’m glad your search landed you here – welcome! I don’t have a lot of experience in blogging for income, so I can’t give you much advice on that front (but! any of you ladies out there who do, chime right in! Please!) But, I can offer you a few thoughts…
      First, I want to clarify that I don’t want to seem like I’m vilify all marketing or MLM or promotion because there are lots of folks out there doing it really well and setting a great example for the rest of us! My hope here is to raise some questions and get us all to examine our current practices and see if there’s room for change and growth.
      Second, I want to affirm you because it seems like you are already doing this! You are asking good questions and thinking about how you can turn your passion into your work – and how to do that with integrity. Just keep asking yourself these questions as you grow your business and blog.
      Oh! And St. Zelie Martin! She will be such a friend to you as you discern!

  8. Thank you Megan! I appreciate your reply back – and while I knew of St. Zelie Martin, I guess I missed her occupation as a lace maker! She is a great saint for this! I have been asking Mother Angelica to pray with me! But of course, they are tied together through St. Therese! I am still discerning…so we’ll see! Thank you so much! Blessings!! Kristin

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