By Dawn Owens @DawnMarieOwens
Now that we have a firm understanding, you and I, of the challenges we face as approval addicts, let’s have one last conversation about the publishing process.
In case you missed my first two posts, in Part One I talked about the struggle we can have as writers and authors in striving to please others around us. I offered three ways to help you overcome the constant need to please. In Part Two we talked platform. It’s a must in this industry and in doing so, an approval addict can have the challenging balancing act of seeking God and pleasing others.
Today we are going to discuss how an approval addict can experience joy and peace during the process of querying agents and/or acquisition editors.
Yes. You read that correctly. Joy and Peace.
You may be in the process of waiting for an answer from either of these two types of people, and you are probably thinking…”Yeah right! All I feel is a mix of anxiety, impatience, with a side of a need for control.”
If you are feeling all those emotions with me today, I want to speak a word of grace and love over you. Because I have been there and done that; just last week.
Let’s face it this process is not for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. It takes gumption, discipline, and some serious self-control. We sometimes have to obtain a whole lot of no’s to get to our “yes.” That is if you are willing to stick it out that long.
Here is the thing. As approval addicts, we are always seeking the need for people to agree with us, to like our ideas, to affirm us in our callings. We are addicts; this is what we do. But we have to learn how to die to that constant need for approval by learning how to overcome the fear of rejection.
Because that is what it boils down to: we are all terrified. We are scared to death someone is going to say no to the book idea we have taken years to craft, or the article where we poured out our hearts. We are afraid the agent we want will say they won’t represent us and even if they do, it’ll get to editorial board after editorial board and be cut, over and over again.
I am here to say to you today, do it anyway.
I wasn’t able to understand how important it was for me to do the very thing that I was most afraid of until God put a vision in my heart for something bigger than me. It was over six years ago that God shook up my entire world and the writing/speaking ministry that I had thought He was calling me to, was the very thing that I had to give up. Abraham and Isaac style. Surrender it never knowing if He’d bring me back to it. In its place, He put a ministry to relationally love the poor in a southern, conservative town, where you were judged successful by who you knew or as the southern like to say, “your kin.”
I was a Yankee. A woman. And besides my husband and in-laws, I knew no one.
There was nothing about me or my situation to suggest I had any chance of being successful in this ministry. And even less in being the one that God would call to lead it.
But God loves to take what looks to be impossible and make it possible.
It was not easy. I had to trust God more than the person’s responses on the other side of the table. I had to get over my fear of their no’s, knowing that their no could lead me to a yes. The only way I was able to do this was realizing that the vision God had for my community, was more important than the plan I had for my life.
You can call me on the carpet if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure, you and I are much the same.
God has given you a message. A story. Testimony. You take a look around, and you see the more successful around us…the Edie Melsons, the Bob Hostetlers, and the Bethany Jetts of the world. You think “God won’t, can’t, couldn’t use me like that, ” and I am going to tell you right now, you are right. He will not.
He is using you to tell your story, not theirs. He’s got a new, fresh message for you to share, completely different than the one He has done in their life. We can’t all be the go to on supporting military families and best writing blog editor. Nor, can we all be geeked-out passionate about Shakespeare to align his words with the Bible and well, let’s face it, we can’t all be as Brilliant as Bethany is, that’s just reality.
But those things do not matter from God’s view. He created each of them to write those words, be passionate about that group of people, and equip the body of Christ in those ways.
I wish I could tell you that overcoming the fear of rejection is easy. To just start believing that God created you uniquely, one-of-a-kind, knitted together in your mother’s womb. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).
But saying it and doing it are two different situations.
Allow me to suggest a few ways to help in the process of overcoming your fear of rejection and breaking your bondage to the addiction of approval.
First, you are going to have to get over the idea that pleasing man is more important or urgent than pleasing God.
The Gospel of John says, Yet at the same time, many even among the leaders believed in him (Jesus). But because of the Pharisees, they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be kicked out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God (John 12:42-43, NIV).
For these important and influential people during the time of Jesus, it was too much to sacrifice the approval of others to follow Jesus. They chose human praise over God’s favor and paid for it—eternally, perhaps. This was during a time in which Jesus was standing right before them, clear as day.
If overcoming the fear of rejection was challenging for them, how much more challenging is it likely to be for us, who must believe without seeing (John 20:29). In my case, I had to realize that what God was calling me to was bigger than myself. I knew the plight of the poor. I heard their stories, walked with them, and had my heart broken over their challenging situations. The vision was bigger than me because I knew what was at stake.
That’s true for all of us. God never calls us to do things that include only us. God’s call on our lives always includes more people, more resources, and more talent than we could ever muster up on our own.
Next trusting God is vital to overcoming the fear of rejection.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted” (NASB). I get the sense that the author of this proverb wrote from experience. He knew it could be easier to follow man than God. His words encourage us to recognize that when we trust God, He will exalt us. If we get trapped by the fear of others, we will lose the blessing God wants for us. There is a blessing in trust and an exaltation that follows obedience. This should offer hope to all of us. There were naysayers in my journey, and there will be naysayers in yours as well. But how strange is it that we often choose to listen to those negative human voices rather than hearing and following what our gracious, loving God tells us to do?
Finally, you will need to get and maintain a razor-sharp focus.
Jesus said that the enemy of our souls comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus intends to give life in abundance (see John 10:10). If you succumb to the fear of rejection, you are handing the enemy the very weapon he can use to steal, kill, and destroy you and everything you hope for and love in your life. However, if you get focused on seeking God, choosing to trust him, and being obedient to him whatever the cost, you will be blessed.
Where does that leave us now?
You and I are going our separate ways, for now, but we have something that will always bind us together. To maintain this road of recovery from the addiction to approval, we’ll need to decide every day to make better choices.
Choices to surrender our need to please over to Him.
Choices to trust God, rather than seek what others may think.
And, choices to maintain a razor-sharp focus realizing that what He has called us to is bigger than us alone.
As we make these choices, we will start to experience more joy and more peace and less anxiety and worry about whose approval we need today.
You’ve stuck with me on this journey, and I am so very grateful. Allow me to leave you with a prayer.
Father God, you are a good, merciful God who is gracious, compassionate, abounding in love, slow to anger, and relenting in calamity. You know what we need before we do. Our hope is in you. Our trust rests in you. Remind us as we go through the process of seeking representation, finding a publisher, or acquiring freelance writing opportunities that our identity rests in you, not in their no or their yes. May we make choices each day that aligns with your word helping us to experience more of your joy and peace, and less need to please in Jesus’ name, amen.
Dawn Owens serves as the Founder/Executive Director of a ministry to the poor in Cullman, called The Link of Cullman County in Cullman, AL, which serves over 3,000 people a year. She just finished her first manuscript, Like Me…or Not: Overcoming the Addiction of Approval and is currently seeking representation. She likes to blog about inspiring others to seek God and His glory at http://www.dawnmowens.com. She’s a wife, mom, and friend to anyone who loves lattes incoffeehouses. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or not. It doesn’t matter much to her.