Praise for my work is as difficult for me to handle well as rejection. In a different way, of course. Praise doesn’t crush my self-esteem, destroy my confidence, and send me to bed with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. But it has the potential to be just as destructive.
Praise for my writing can go straight to my head.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it. But sometimes I love it a little too much. Occasionally I take the very dangerous turn from loving it to needing it. Craving it, even. I collect the glowing adjectives carefully and methodically, like rookie baseball cards, and store them away in my mind to bring out in times of flagging faith in my writing ability.
I forget that this isn’t about me. That I didn’t give myself the gift. I didn’t invent imagination. I didn’t come up with the ideas for the stories. I’m not my own source of creativity. And my glory is not the intended result of any of the above.
It is all from him and for him. This is supposed to be my mantra. I’m having it engraved on a piece of jewelry as we speak. To remind me why I do what I do. How I do what I do.
And I need to be reminded, constantly.
Christians have long found themselves in a quandary over how, when and to whom to extend praise. As a kid, I attended many churches where the congregation refused to clap after a performance. The idea, I assume, was to impart to the musician that he or she should not expect to receive any kind of affirmation or reward for using their talents. God alone should receive the praise.
I understand the sentiment. But even as a kid I had trouble seeing how the awkward silence following a performance, the deliberate withholding of an expression of gratitude and pleasure, truly glorified God.
On the one hand, as believers we are to support and encourage one another, and to give the workman his due. On the other hand, it is true that every gift and ability we have is a gift from God and is intended for his glory and not our own.
I wrestle with this tension, and I suspect I am not alone. Yes, I enjoy and appreciate receiving affirmation of my work and in affirming the work of others. And yes, I believe all glory belongs to God without whom I am nothing and can do nothing. Can these two truths be reconciled?
Only when, through the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit, I am able to examine the attitude of my heart and the motivation behind my work to ensure both are pure.
If my sole purpose for writing is to share the stories he has given me in order to bless others and draw them to him, I can in good conscience accept the affirmation from someone that the blessing has been received.
And when I do, I will thank God for the gift he gave me and for the privilege of using it to bring him glory.
3 Replies to “Oh Yeah, It’s Not About Me”
“I wrestle with this tension, and I suspect I am not alone.”
Yep! You are not alone. Thank you for this post. Now *I* don’t feel alone. Praise God that we can be His empty vessels.
Hi Sara–I enjoyed your article. As a novice writer, I sense the inner hunger to be validated. It is easy to say I want affirmation of blessing when actually I want personal praise. Perhaps this is part of the learning experience for writing as much as weeding adverbs and finding my voice. Perhaps I must also find my truest and best motive. I want to write for the glory of God and for the good of His people. Trouble will follow if I strategize how to get praise before I begin to type.
Thank you for this much needed reminder. We need Him desperately. I believe it is when I allow myself to forget this vital fact, that my focus, and therefore writing – wither. I do have days though where the writing feels like the wind of the Spirit on the mountain top, all the way to the driest valley. The seasons and varied days of life are there to be experienced; I get to choose whether self is the focus, or His great love is the focus. Reminders truly are my mainstay. Thank you. ♥
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