Ready for Pushback?

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13, NIV).

One of the lovely aspects (I’m kidding) of ubiquitous communication in our world today is that nothing goes out without a comment in return. Positive and negative comments abound. Something written in passing or as an afterthought is met with an explosion of reaction.

A single bad review from a book reviewer pales in comparison to a Twitter mob deciding something you wrote eight years ago should be accelerated into a career-ending event.

The writer’s life just became a circus.

When George Bernard Shaw, the late British playwright wrote “A dramatic critic is one who leaves no turn unstoned,” he had no idea what things were going to be like seventy-plus years after he died.

Are you prepared for pushback to what you write? This is another qualifier when you are trying to decide if you are ready to be a published author.

As a Christian writer, you need to have your eyes wide open to the kind of audience you are writing to. And I am not referring only to the unbelievers reading and commenting on what you write.

I’ll ask again, are you ready for the pushback?

Here’s how to handle it:

  1. Don’t be surprised it is happening. (See above verse from 1 John.)
  2. Decide beforehand how you will respond (or not) to criticism.
  3. Practice how you will respond to emails and direct communication.
  4. Practice how you will respond to verbal questions in interviews.
  5. Never, ever apologize for standing up for what is right and biblical.
  6. When the pushback begins, respond slowly and with prayerful thought.
  7. In all, balance grace and truth.

Some Christian authors experience enormous amounts of pushback bordering on persecution, often from people who consider themselves to be Christians.

I can’t think of a type of Christian book that would be immune from all criticism.

“I don’t think you have ever actually lived in an Amish community and driven a horse-drawn carriage. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are a terrible person!”

That comment escalated fast. A lovely note from someone with the spiritual gift of discouragement.

By the way, there is no such thing as having a thick skin for this type of pushback. It is entirely different than the kind of criticism an editor gives to a writer. For that, you need to develop the skill to humbly submit to someone who actually might know more than you about constructing a book.

But the attack for what you write or even who you are is another thing entirely. It will sting, bring tears to your eyes, and make you wonder whether it was worth all the trouble.

Then you remember James, chapter 1:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (vv. 2-4, NIV).

And finally verse 12:

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (NIV).

34 Responses to Ready for Pushback?

  1. Linsey April 22, 2021 at 5:09 am #

    This is SO good. Thank you for sharing such great wisdom here.

  2. DAMON J GRAY April 22, 2021 at 5:25 am #

    Truth from start to finish, Dan. We are an irritant to others merely by holding an opinion, a viewpoint, or by knowing something they do not. I’ve long held that if I’m not getting under someone’s skin, I’m not doing my job.

  3. J.D. Wininger April 22, 2021 at 5:31 am #

    Well said Mr. Balow. I suspect I’ll face that crucible with my next blog post, but it’s one (as you suggest) we must all be prepared to face. I view this as “If I’m not true to what I believe God has placed on my heart, then I am not honoring His calling upon my life.” If you will, dealing with the heat is the price we pay for the honor of being in the kitchen. Thank you for sharing your wisdom sir.

  4. BONITA k BANDARIES April 22, 2021 at 5:56 am #

    While always excellent advice, it is even more so today in a world of silencing voices that don’t agree with theirs. The Christian audience is not immune to criticism and is often more intolerant than the secular world.

  5. Tim Shoemaker April 22, 2021 at 6:05 am #

    Wow, Dan . . . can’t remember anyone tackling this topic in a post that I’ve read before. Great job–and great timing!!

  6. Terri April 22, 2021 at 6:29 am #

    Critics of what is biblical should not change who we are in Jesus Christ. Stand, and when you have done all stand.

  7. Kelly April 22, 2021 at 6:45 am #

    Been there recently… I was told in a long scathing email that “people like you caused the attack on the White House” amongst several other accusations. It was the third letter I rec’d for a particular issue of my community newspaper. I cried. Sucked it up after a day of self pity and got back to work.

    • Dan Balow April 22, 2021 at 7:22 am #

      Keep at it Kelly. I think we are living in a time when Luke 12:49-56 is being played out before our eyes. When being a Christian gained us favor in the world, it was easy. When standing up for Christ “costs” us something, we quickly find out who really depends on Christ every day.

      We also know, God’s grace is poured out immeasurably when a disciple is under duress.

      A different time for sure. An absolutely exciting, dynamic time for followers of Christ.

      Blessings to you.

  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 22, 2021 at 6:58 am #

    They’ll judge me by the cover,
    and never look within,
    condemn me for the colour
    of my Asian skin.
    They’ll judge me by the Bible,
    say I discriminate
    to make the nation tribal
    and that I escalate
    the conflict by not bowing
    to words they think I ought
    to say, to be kowtowing
    instead of having fought
    for the faith that gives me breath,
    though it may one day end in death.

    • Dan Balow April 22, 2021 at 7:23 am #

      Always getting to the heart of it. Thanks Andrew.

  9. Julie Surface Johnson April 22, 2021 at 7:09 am #

    Thank you for the encouragement. My Dear Julie blog (an advice column for Christian women) is currently under review by Facebook and I believe it’s because it is unashamedly Christian. It saddens me because I’ve worked diligently over five years to build up a loving community of women (over 12,000) who pray for each other and share biblical advice out of their own experience. Yet, I know God is more powerful than Facebook and I am trusting him to make a way through this or to lead me in a better direction.

    I have made past efforts to move these people to my website, but without success. It seems the back and forth responses made easy by Facebook encouraged interactions. I do wish I had printed off a list of my followers and encourage other blog posters on FB to do that.

  10. Dan Balow April 22, 2021 at 7:30 am #

    I think we all know at some point Jesus will constitute hate speech and blocked by some. But we also know the more the evil one oppresses the godly, the more God pours out his grace and allows ministry to be fruitful and multiply.

    Get ready for a wild ride. Your work might look a little different, but you might find yourself ministering to 10 times the people you are now!

  11. Bill Bethel April 22, 2021 at 8:11 am #

    Dan,
    The devotional I read this morning was about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their determination to stand for God even if it cost their lives. Your post today reinforces that call.
    Several years ago I wrote a song for the Hispanic kids my wife and I taught on Sunday evenings in South Texas. It transmits a similar thought. (Maybe I can sing it for you sometime.)

    “When the Music Starts to Play”

    Tic-toc, tic-toc

    Shadrach, what will you do,
    Bow to temptation or love God true?
    Shadrach, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Will you stand for God and face the fire,
    Or bow to sin? What’s your desire?
    Shadrach, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Tic-toc, tic-toc

    Meshach, what will you do,
    Bow to temptation or love God true?
    Meshach, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Will you stand for God and face the fire,
    Or bow to sin? What’s your desire?
    Meshach, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Tic-toc, tic-toc

    Abednego, what will you do,
    Bow to temptation or love God true?
    Abednego, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Will you stand for God and face the fire,
    Or bow to sin? What’s your desire?
    Abednego, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Tic-toc, tic-toc

    Christian, what will you do,
    Yield to temptation or love God true?
    Christian, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?

    Will you stand for God and face the fire,
    Or bow to sin? What’s your desire?
    Christian, what will you do,
    When the music starts to play?
    When the music starts to play?

    Tic-toc, tic-toc

  12. Lynda Irons April 22, 2021 at 8:17 am #

    Very timely. Thank you for the thoughtful article.
    We do need to be like Daniel and his friends… they did not have to think about how they would respond to ungodliness.
    We must please God rather than men and that is becoming less and less popular as time goes on.

  13. Roberta Sarver April 22, 2021 at 9:16 am #

    Dan, thanks for this timely post. It raises a question that’s been circling my mind. I read in a post from a literary agent, that Christian writers should avoid commenting on anything political, as it could hurt future book sales. Where does one draw the line between speaking the truth and following this advice? Are we never to comment or “like” a controversial comment on Facebook? Of course, I wouldn’t want to make a practice or hobbyhorse out of controversial issues, but when is it okay to push back to some of the ridiculous rhetoric going around? Thanks for your insightful posts.

    • Dan Balow April 22, 2021 at 9:38 am #

      I wrote this in 2017, and not everyone was happy with my advice. https://stevelaube.com/non-partisan-author/

      Politics has become a wedge the enemy of God finds useful to divide people. Yes, an opinion could hurt book sales. And it works both ways. Not every political opinion is Godly and righteous.

      • Roberta Sarver April 22, 2021 at 10:12 am #

        Thanks, Dan. You’ve stated it very clearly. That’s why you are the agent and I still am learning. Good advice.

        • Dan Balow April 22, 2021 at 10:25 am #

          I consider myself a teacher struggling to stay one page ahead of the class in the textbook.

          Learning something every day.

  14. Wendy April 22, 2021 at 9:48 am #

    Dan,

    Thanks for the sound advice, and for bringing this issue to the forefront. Because of my book’s topic, I think of it often. As a Christian healthcare whistleblower, I endured some intense attacks for speaking the truth and taking a stand. I won’t sugarcoat the experience–it was excruciating–but I would do it again.

    Many Bible verses helped sustain me during the retaliation and a three-year legal battle. Perhaps the passage that was most paramount, especially while preparing for my two-day deposition and subsequent trial, was Ephesians 6:10-18, which instructs Christians to put on the full armor of God. We are in spiritual warfare. Armor up, Christians.

  15. Carol Ashby April 22, 2021 at 10:15 am #

    Good post, Dan. “They” say write what you know, and I’ve had enough conversations about faith with nonbelieving friends to be able to write such conversations. All of my Roman-era novels have conversations between pagan and Christian as a main character wrestles with what to believe. It’s my prayer that someone who buys CF will share one of them with a friend who will get caught up in the total story and think about those conversations.

    I’m very careful to make the faith element obvious in the blurb, but I expect sometime there will be a person who didn’t expect it, hates what I’ve written, and lets me know it. But maybe that’s a sign that the book touched a raw spot in that person’s soul. My formerly atheist friend who took delight in trying to argue people out of faith in his 20s accepted Jesus through the example and conversations with a believing friend. He said the closer he got to having to admit the truth of it, the meaner he got toward that friend. He ended up a missionary teaching around the world for 20 years.

    So, painful as it might be, maybe each attack is a sign of the Spirit working on someone who’s not yet ready to yield, and it’s time to keep praying for that person.

  16. Tyrone Harris April 22, 2021 at 10:46 am #

    Steve, thanks for carrying Dan’s brief, but very encouraging article. I am in the process of trying to get a manuscript on fatherlessness published and I have been contemplating possible criticism the book and I might receive, and most important, How to handle it. Dan’s article is a good starting place for any Christian who has published or is in the process of publishing a book. Dan, thanks for the words of wisdom and encouragement. We all need to remember James’ message regarding trials and remember there is a purpose behind our trials. Thanks, Again!

  17. Kristen Joy Wilks April 22, 2021 at 11:45 am #

    With prayer … one should respond (or not) with so so much prayer!

  18. Norma Brumbaugh April 22, 2021 at 12:31 pm #

    It is a defining time for people of the cross. Our words of truth carry weight, whether they’re believed or not. Our joy is in Jesus. One can’t complain when He is the author and finisher of our faith. Good post.

  19. Kathryn April 22, 2021 at 3:21 pm #

    Thank you very much for your helpful message, Dan. I have appreciated reading it and the comments following.
    It encourages me to be strong.
    It also reminds me to treat others as I wish myself to be treated and keep to myself any unhelpful comments that rise in my head about the work of others. We need to support one another and lift one another up, praying for wisdom about what’s important and necessary to say and what’s not. Bless you.

  20. Louise Sedgwick April 22, 2021 at 6:10 pm #

    Thank you for your post. It is a timely reminder of the battle all around us. God help us to stand firm in the evil day.

  21. Peggy Booher April 22, 2021 at 6:45 pm #

    Dan, thanks for your post.

    All Christian writers, editors, and agents need to have prayer support. One person who feels alone or isolated may fall, but those who know people are praying for them are strengthened. This goes for anyone, but all those whose work goes out into the world need it more, particularly in these times, when people are so ready to jump down one another’s throat.

  22. Charlie Seraphin April 22, 2021 at 8:40 pm #

    Excellent advice Dan. Thank you. Every edit, every revision, every rewording is preparation for negative feedback. As Christians in the modern world, it’s something we live with every day. Our words reflect our values. As long as we adhere to that principle, defending our words is a much easier task.

  23. Sonja Anderson April 23, 2021 at 8:22 am #

    So true, and I appreciate the encouraging verses! The worst pushback I’ve ever received for my Christian children’s novel isn’t from the many Muslim children who have read it, but from a Christian woman who saw the book on a table at a school holiday bazaar and told me kids would go to hell if they read it, because my main characters MEET Muslim characters.

    Jesus said to love one another, and to treat others the way we would like to be treated. Doesn’t that include getting to know one another and showing simple respect? My Muslim students need love, acceptance, and respect from me, AND from the characters in my novel.

  24. Linda McKain April 23, 2021 at 8:04 pm #

    Dan, I love your post especially the point abt the ‘spiritual gift of discouragement.’ My WIP will certainly b awarded with many spiritual gifts of discouragement. I’m gonna print out your post & keep it on my bulletin board for future use.

  25. Carol R Nicolet Loewen April 24, 2021 at 2:16 pm #

    Thank you Dan. I appreciate your reminder that we need to expect the world to hate us if we follow Christ. I think the criticisms that hurt most are those coming from those within the believing community, i.e. the writer with “the spiritual gift of discouragement.”

    So important to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who suffered such deep hatred from the world around him. And he still suffers that today.

    Blessings!

  26. Ash April 24, 2021 at 8:54 pm #

    What a great reminder. Sometimes I look at the book I’m trying to publish and wonder if “Christian” publishers will tell me it’s too Christian, that no one will read it because of its content in comparison to what the world accepts today. But more than pleasing those who might pushback, I’d rather please Jesus and let my writing be a witness to him. It’s good to hear Christians in the writing world giving encouragement on the subject. Thank you.

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