In recent weeks, I published a post about joy.
Ironically, it was a sad day for me.
Within hours of posting, I received an email from an author, kindly asking me to remove a previous post in which I’d reviewed her book. It was a complex scenario in which I felt sadness from three different angles. I assure you there’s a redeemed ending, but bear with me—if you would—through the hard part, first.
I felt regret. I realized that the author had received my review really hurtfully. Besides the fact that she’s a sister in Christ, she had poured her heart into her book. She had been vulnerable and pushed past the doubts and fears to achieve publication. I wonder if my words summoned back old doubts, whispering to convince her that maybe her book shouldn’t have been published after all or that she didn’t have anything worth saying. It was a sinking feeling to learn that I’d hurt someone like that.
I felt self-pity. My efforts seemed taken for granted. The author thanked me for taking the time to read and review her book. But a lingering doubt—perhaps a thought that I need to war against—caused me to wonder if she really understood. I don’t review books nonchalantly. I read back over my words again and again. I’m honest when something crosses my convictions, but I don’t say anything just to be mean.
I felt hopelessness. The situation was a lose-lose. No one (seemingly) had gained anything from the experience and we were both left feeling dejected. At first glance, it didn’t seem like any good had risen from the situation and there was no doing it over. I wondered if I would ever be able to review a book again in complete honesty about both the positive and negative aspects of my reading experience.
But where the Lord is, there is hope, after all. There is the potential for restoration if we seek Him. There is the potential for me to ask for forgiveness and to consider what I might do if I find myself back in the same situation. There are at least three lessons I’ve learned.
#1. Sensitivity to the author
I’m an author, too. When I review a book, I know I’m reviewing a personal piece of craft near to the writer’s heart. A review by a blogger feels to an author like hardcore scrutiny. The heart and soul behind the book were hand-crafted by the Creator, carved out with unique delights, sensitivities, and insecurities. I’d thought I was already aware of this. But perhaps there’s always room for growth. Perhaps I can always be more aware and never too aware.
In this scenario, the author’s book was on a blog tour. It was a big moment for her—one of the climax moments in the release of her book. Participating in her tour was my opportunity to acknowledge the ecstasy of a sister.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
-Romans 12:15 (read the context in your Bible or here)
#2. Sensitivity to the Occasion
Then there’s the question of convictions. There is such a thing as right and wrong. And there are times when the truth is harder for us to discern. I want always to stand by what I believe to be true and reject the path of flattery. I’m not talking about shooting down every minute discord until the author lies buried beneath stones. I’m talking about offering a fair and balanced survey which openly pleads subjectivity.
But to the author—especially the new author—any negative element tends to jump out of the review while the affirmations fall limp and forgotten.
This is where, I believe, sensitivity to the occasion comes in. There would have been other chances for me to share my honest review. But during a blog tour… perhaps it would be wiser to choose another type of post. An author interview, for example, is more conducive to hearing an author’s heart, empathizing with them, and learning the nuances of the impact their book has had own their own life.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 (read the context in your Bible or here)
#3. With the Lord is renewed mercies
The point of the Gospel is that sinners can be forgiven. We can be washed clean of our mistakes—by the grace of God—to walk in newness of life.
After hearing from the author about how I’d made her feel and receiving her request that I remove my review, I felt was convinced that I’d made a mistake and felt sorry for it. Praise the Lord that He can use something as uncomfortable as sorrow to bring about the potential for restoration.
The promises of forgiveness and restoration are frequent throughout the Bible, but let me share just two verses that speak of these miracles.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
-Psalm 130:3-4 (read the context in your Bible or here)
The messed-up book review experience was unpleasant. But it tells of how the Lord met me in my circumstances. He stretched me and shaped me according to His ways, and He can use unpleasant experiences to do the same for you. Like the Israelites’ numerous stone memorials, this blog post stands as a witness to the Lord’s redeeming work.
Unless someone asks me to take it down. 😉
- Have you ever gotten to meet an author and hear the nuances of how their book shaped their life? How did it influence the way you thought about them and their work?
- Do you see any other lessons that both you and I could learn from my experience? What would you etch down as number four?
- How has the Lord worked in your life recently? Add your comment as a memorial to His redeeming work!