Dealing with Discouragement
Jenny* was running late. She grabbed the first seat inside the door, and acknowledged the teacher standing on the opposite side of the room. He welcomed her, unfazed by being interrupted.
We were sharing our homework. A 250-word piece on “Daring to Kick the Universe”.
We soon got around to Jenny. She prefaced her work by sharing that she’d experienced her first troll on her blog that afternoon. We invited her to tell us more about how she felt.
Shock, anger, and frustration reflected in Jenny’s response. I could relate having only the day before read a very unflattering review of Angelguard. It didn’t matter that I had a bunch of other really flattering ones; this one review had bugged me for a day or so.
Just like Jenny, I’m new to this type of negativity. She confessed what I too had contemplated: responding with a curt reply. Neither of us did.
It riled us and we were unsure what to do with the negative emotion it produced.
“You’re going to have develop a thick skin,”
“Don’t worry about it, its’ blah blah, blah,”
“Don’t these people have something more interesting in their lives than to openly criticise someone’s work.”
Encouragers expressed all of these statements and more. Our teacher reiterated the over-sensitive nature creative types typically have: they put their work out into the world without any protection hoping and praying it will be (and only) well received. But the well-wishers only served to diminish the flames, not extinguish them.
A few days later I read a few more such reviews and understood why many creative types refuse to read reviews.
My mind, as it can do, spiralled into a pit where I became fearful of what those closest to me would think having recently given them a copy of the book. I recalled the advice I gave Jenny: don’t let the negative emotions linger for long. Discouragement can quickly turn into a little seed of bitterness.
As I put my head on my pillow later that night I turned to the Lord. I sensed the question, “Is this that important?”
“No,” I responded.
“Then let it go. The only one holding onto it is you.”
So I let it go.
And prayed for all those who’d reviewed Angelguard, especially those whose reviews were negative. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, says we should “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(5:44). I’ve always found this douses the fire of discouragement in my heart.
The enemy is intentional in his strategies to unsettle us. Discouragement is one of his key weapons.
What strategies have worked effectively for you when you’re feeling discouraged?
* Jenny is a pseudonym for one of my creative writing classmates.
** I was drawn to a doughnut for the photo to this post as I read this quote from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”:
“The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.” (Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, April 2003, p90)
I had a silent troll on my Facebook art page Ian. Didn’t say a word but the name and image made me curious so I clicked on the name to discover it was someone into devil worship. My first thought, “YIKES! I DON’T WANT THAT ON MY PAGE!” My second Holy Spirit inspired thought, put my hand on the screen and pray for this person. I’ve gone back a few times now to pray for her. Amazing how God worked in this. She thought to intimidate me and instead she’s getting her soul prayed over! Take that Troll! I’m sensitive also about criticism but I’ve come to realize that when you are doing what God had planned for you then the only critic we need be concerned about is our Maker! Love that doughnut Ian! 🙂
Good on you, Joanne. And I was very tempted to go find a chocolate doughnut, but I resisted.
Thanks for popping by.
Ian, thanks for writing such an honest piece on such an emotional topic. While it’s all too human to feel stung by anything negative–whether a snide remark about how we look in what we thought for sure was our Sunday best or our fiction where we’d bled our heart over on each page–I applaud you for how you’ve handled these criticisms. Good lesson! But… I hope only great reviews will be in your future.
Thanks Elaine. The negative reviews will come with whatever we’re doing in life, but it’s how we learn to deal with them that is God’s great lesson. Fortunately, God also understands it can be hard for us to act in love, however, He calls us to. It’s in the acting out of love, we are able to draw closer to Him, I believe.
If I don’t like a book, I won’t review it. Being an aspiring author, I realize there is a real human who put their heart into their work. Everyone’s tastes are different and it’s impossible to write something that will capture everyone. So no need to cut someone down.
Negative reviews are one reason why I didn’t pursue writing earlier. But, I guess it’s all part of the process. I like your suggestion for dealing with negative and sometimes, mean-spirited, reviews.
I like Joanne’s comment about doing what God us called you to and not worry about the rest…as hard as that may be at times.
It has definitely made me think about some of my past reviews. So often we forget there is a person at the end of it. It’s funny, how we can get a little proud when we write a review thinking we’re providing good constructive feedback when perhaps the better approach is to write an email to the author offering one’s feedback? Or as you suggest, just let it be and move on to the next book to read.
Thanks Cherie for your considered response.