Dec

18

2013

Competitive Spirits and Battling Discouragement

Guest post by Roseanna M. White

Roseanna WhiteRoseanna M. White is a writer with a passion for bringing history to life. Her most recent historical series, The Culpepper Ring series (Harvest House) has received rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. In addition to being a writer, Roseanna is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded; the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing; and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers. As a speaker–whether her topic is on what to write, how to research, or overcoming marketing fears–Roseanna invites her audiences to rely on the leading of the Spirit. She lives on the East Coast with her husband and their two brilliant, talented children.

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As a kid, I was used to being the best. Best grades, finished my homework before leaving school, understood everything without needing the teacher to explain it more than once. (Well, fractions gave me grief for a week or two, but let’s just call that a blip on the screen.) Every year, my mom would issue the same warning: “Roseanna, next year the work will be harder. You might have more homework. It might not come so easily.” I took that as a challenge. ;-) And all through school, I proved my wise mama wrong.

Then I hit the real world.

Sometimes, competitiveness gives me the impetus I need to get off my rear and do the work that needs done. But other times? It leads to far less productive places. When you’re competitive, like I am, it can spread to everything. How many comments did my guest post get? How many reviews on my book? How many sales? How many replies to a post on Facebook? Retweets? Likes? Follows? Sales ranking? Awards? And more important–how many did those other people get??

Aaagghh!

Once in a great while, comparing yourself to your peers can make you feel good about where you are and how you’re doing. But it’s a trap. Because even if you win that contest…or sell your very first manuscript on your very first query…or if you win that award…or have great sales…or loyal reviewers…or a huge blog following–eventually, you’ll find that someone’s better. Where someone else sells earlier. Or they’re picked up by your dream house. Someone else hits the bestseller list. Outranks you on Amazon. Sets the media abuzz. Wins the award you’ve always longed to have on your shelf.

And it’ll eat at you.

That’s when the competitiveness turns to jealousy. And jealousy leads straight into the teeth of discouragement. When you have this type of personality and see others doing better, the natural questions that start popping to mind include, Why them? Why not me? What did I do wrong? Why am I not good enough? What am I supposed to do now? Will I ever succeed at this??

I can’t tell you how many times, after others found the success I had prayed I would achieve, that I put my head in my hands and cried out, “Lord, when? When will it be me? What more do I have to do?” And I can’t tell you how many times those questions hurled me straight into the pit of despair. How many times I found myself praying, “Lord, if this is the path You want me on, send me some encouragement.”

And He always did. But eventually, I got tired of hearing myself pray that same desperate cry, time after time. I began to realize that what I was, in effect, praying was that circumstances (encouragement) would defeat circumstances (discouragement). The problem is that circumstances always change. The bad to good, yes, but the good will always give way at some point too. If I wanted to defeat this discouragement that plagued me, I had to change something far more important than circumstances. I had to change my perspective.

For starters, I need to safeguard my heart from this nature of mine. I stopped reading my reviews and checking my ranking. I trained myself to never give utterance to, “Why them instead of me?” I had to give my career, for the umpteenth time, over to God and say, “It doesn’t matter if I sell. It doesn’t matter if I win. It doesn’t matter if I hit any big lists. What matters is that I’m following the path You put me on.”

Any time I walk this path, I have to recognize a vital truth: God does not discourage. When He wants to redirect us, He might use some startling means to get our attention, but when we ask Him if it’s where He wants us, we hear Him in the voice of peace. If we’re instead discouraged, then it’s not God. But then…whose voice is it?

Ah–there we have an interesting question. What voice am I hearing? My own? The enemy’s? Either way, it’s not the voice I should listen to. So why, then, do I let it get to me? Why do I try to fight it off with other words in other voices? Why do I try to overcome it with reminders of my successes? None of which works.

What I need to do instead is stop when I first hear those words in my spirit and say, “No. This isn’t God. I won’t think it. Lord, protect me from these thoughts and fill my mind with Your truth instead.”

Do you know what I discovered His truth to be? That God cares more about me than about my success. God cares more about my heart than my bank account. God cares more about my name being in His book than having it on the cover of a novel with Bestselling/Award-winning author of… written beneath it. God cares that I’m on the path He set out for me. And He never, ever compares my path to someone else’s.

Maybe I’ll always battle this competitive streak–maybe sometimes it’ll catch me unawares and send me back into discouragement. But at least now I know where my focus needs to be: on God, and on my relationship with Him. As long as I keep that in mind, then I can accept with peace whatever comes my way. Because I know nothing takes Him by surprise. I know it’s all part of the road He wants me to walk.

And I know that as long as my feet stay on that path and don’t try to jump onto one that looks more alluring to me, He’ll lead me to places I couldn’t have imagined.

37 Responses to “Competitive Spirits and Battling Discouragement”

  1. Jackie Layton December 18, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Henry McLaughlin December 18, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Thank you, Roseanna, for this post. it feels like you’re writing me. I struggle with competitiveness and jealousy. Thanks for showing where our hearts need to be.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      I think a lot of us struggle with it, Henry! But I also believe it’s one of the few struggles we can beat. We can’t change our physical limitations or our bigger circumstances, but we CAN help our perspective. =)

  3. Dina Sleiman December 18, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    Great post, Roseanna. No wonder I like hanging out with you so much :)

  4. Cheri Gregory December 18, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Roseanna –

    I’ve been prayerfully pondering jealousy and envy for the last few weeks, so this could not be more perfectly timed!

    I’m adding “I began to realize that what I was, in effect, praying was that circumstances (encouragement) would defeat circumstances (discouragement).” to my quote binder.

    While I am always grateful that God sends a whisper of encouragement alongside a thundering disappointment (i.e. a kind e-mail from a blog reader on the day yet another publisher rejects a proposal), you’re so right about circumstances being an unstable foundation for my sense of worth and purpose.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      I’m always so grateful for those encouraging words too! But I found myself relying on them too much (personally speaking). So glad I could add to your prayerful pondering today, Cheri. =) Merry Christmas!

  5. Mary Johnson December 18, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    This post spoke to me right at this time of my writing life. I’ve been quite discouraged, not about the writing so much, but about making time to do it in a busy life. And of course, the weakness I see in my recent plot. And whether those writing hours could be more profitably spent doing something else. And how much my poor husband should have to endure to support something that doesn’t bring in much income. And how I’m too old and everyone else is getting published but me. Join me in the refrain, everyone!

    Thanks for your reminder that God does not discourage, and if we’re feeling discouraged, someone else (maybe–gasp–me) is causing it.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      I hear ya! It’s easy to let those voices drown out the One that called us to begin with, isn’t it? I need to remind myself of this often, so hoped it could benefit some others too.

  6. Sherry Carter December 18, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    You wrote this just for me! Since I started my blog, I’ve been caught up in numbers: why aren’t more reading it – after all, I know it’s great! Why are more people reading other’s posts – what am I doing wrong? I’ve been focused on that and not on writing!

    I’ve been drawn off God’s path. I’m called to write for His glory, period. He’ll take care of the rest. Readers – one or a thousand, that’s His job, not mine.

    Thank you for reminding me of that!

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      So glad it spoke to you! And you are so right about needing to remember what our job is in this crazy writing world.

  7. Rebecca Lorraine Walker December 18, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Great post, Roseanna! We must stay focused and follow where He leads. He desires that we trust Him. Discouragement and jealousy are creativity killers and have no place in the writer’s life, and surely not in a Christian’s life. Thanks for sharing.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by! You’re right about how those things are creativity killers, for sure.

  8. Tedd Galloway December 18, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Sound advice for all of us that give our energy in building up the Kingdom. As a new writer trying to make an impact discouragement can be deadly. My problem is with pride. I am a good writer and everybody on the planet should know it. When I wake up and smell the coffee I need to remember I am called by God to be faithful, not necessarily successful.

  9. Heather Klein December 18, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    “What matters is that I’m following the path You put me on.”
    Loved reading that line. Competitive people are also a people very hard on themselves. We leave little room for error in our own lives. When nine of all that matters to God.
    Thank you for this post!
    nobeautyqueen.com

    • Heather Klein December 18, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      This is what happens when posting from your phone lol! NONE of that matters.

      • Steve Laube December 18, 2013 at 11:49 am #

        We all thought you were a cat and theologically were stuck with nine lives.
        “When nine of that matters to God” makes perfect sense in a feline congregation.

        Steve

      • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

        LOL, Steve! My cats agree completely. =)

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      So true! We focus so much on success that we often miss the real reason He wanted us to go a certain way. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Stephanie Morrill December 18, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I loved this, Roseanna. As you know, I’m in a really funky “So…what now?” place with writing, and this was a great reminder.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      I *may* have been thinking of you a little as I wrote this too, Stephanie. Peas in a pod as we are…

  11. Catherine Hackman December 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Thank you for this post. Looks like I’m not alone in needing your words of wisdom.

  12. Catherine Hackman December 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    My last post didn’t show up–it didn’t come out as I meant it, so just as well. I meant that I am glad I am not the only one with this problem. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I have been struggling with this lately.

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      You’re definitely not alone, Catherine! I’m glad you stopped by and can see that it’s a struggle many of us share…and hopefully that we can fight against it.

  13. Grace Olson December 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Thought provoking post, Roseanna. I’m definitely one of those competitive people, so this post was a good reminder. My favorite line (paragraph): “…God cares more about me than about my success. God cares more about my heart than my bank account. God cares more about my name being in His book than having it on the cover of a novel with Bestselling/Award-winning author of… written beneath it. God cares that I’m on the path He set out for me. And He never, ever compares my path to someone else’s.

  14. J.D. Maloy December 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Roseanna, thank you for being brave and raw with us today! It seems that this topic is one that we creative people battle with more than others. Thanks for the reminder that God is the perfect conductor in the orchestra of life. Have fun getting your Christmas on :)

    • Roseanna M. White December 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

      Just got the gingerbread cookies finished. ;-)

      • J.D. Maloy December 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

        Yeah, girl! We start on Saturday. Eek, I can’t wait :) :) Christmas cookies deserve a double smile.

  15. Tedd Galloway December 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    I realize that my calling is in communicating the message of transforming love through Jesus Christ. I have been a pastor for almost forty years. Now I find that my communication is found in writing and public speaking. I took my lumps many years ago standing in front of people and I learned. I need to learn and earn my lumps at the keyboard and your post certainly helps keep me aware. Blessings.

    • Roseanna M. White December 19, 2013 at 3:44 am #

      Definitely our first and foremost calling, however we’re called to achieve it. Blessings to you too, Tedd.

  16. April McGowan December 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    I so needed to hear this right now! I’m a very competitive person- if I play a game, I play to win. Nicely, with very good sportsmanship, but to win. I’ve found my worst competition temptations come from my own expectations, though, rather than competing with or being jealous of a particular person. That bar can get pretty high sometimes!

    • Roseanna M. White December 19, 2013 at 3:45 am #

      Exactly, April! It’s one thing to be competitive in what everyone knows is a game or competition. But when we’re competing with our expectations in EVERYTHING, it can quickly be too much for us to keep up with.

  17. chris granville December 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    Roseanna
    Great post and Great that you found your answer…
    God bless you
    Chris Granville

  18. Lynn Johnston December 27, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Thanks so much Roseanna for posting your perspective on writing. I can identify with your prayer. I use to agonize over a similar prayer to get discovered by an agent. Now I have stopped trying because I have decided to spend more time polishing my craft than relentlessly pushing to sell an imperfect product. When the time is right,I will try again.

  19. J.D. Maloy December 27, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Lynn, yes, amen, you get it! Polishing the craft is key and its wonderful that you’re wanting to be patient and wait until you and your story is ready. What a comfort that we have the Spirit to lead us through this learning process!

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