Guest post by Roseanna M. White
Roseanna 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.
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??
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.