Before I get into today's blog, a couple of things~
#1. Welcome, new subscribers!
#2. I apologize for my long absence. I never intended to take such a long sabbatical, and I deeply appreciate your kindness and understanding. I once heard someone say, "I don't have to say something, but I do have something to say." Today, I do have something to say.😄
If God spares time and my life until October 1, 2023, I will have blogged at Homespun Devotions for 12 years, and the Lord has helped me publish three books—Biblical Minimalism, Homespun Devotions: Volume One, and Homespun Devotions: Volume Two.
One of the many things I have observed as a longtime online writer is the ebb and flow of the opinions of others. Putting yourself out there, being real and transparent, and sharing from your heart opens the door for others to react and respond. The freedom of speech that enables you to say what you want/need to say works the same for those who want or feel the need to offer their opinion on what you said. Social media and online platforms provide ample opportunity for us all to give feedback and voice our opinions, both good and bad, and so often, things are said online that would never be said face-to-face.
I so admire the Apostle Paul's outlook in Philippians 4:12, and I was especially intrigued by the word "abase" in this verse. Here is what I found on Bible.cc about it.
"Abase = to make low, to humble, to level, reduce to a plain
With the believer, 5013 /tapeinóō ("show humility, true lowliness") happens by being fully dependent on the Lord – dismissing reliance upon self (self-government) and emptying carnal ego. This exalts the Lord as our all-in-all and prompts the gift of His fullness in us.
Metaphorically, to bring into it humble condition, to assign a lower rank or place to; to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded; of one who stoops to the condition of s servant. Philippians 2:8.
To lower, depress one's soul, bring down one's pride; to have a modest opinion of oneself, to behave in an unassuming manner devoid of all haughtiness, to confess and deplore one's spiritual littleness and unworthiness."
Paul had reached a place in God that enabled him to keep pressing forward regardless of whether he was being abased or abounding. No matter what others said or did, he continued to fight the good fight, unscathed and undeterred in the mission God had called him to fulfill. One minute he was being exalted by those who thought he was a god. (Acts 14:11,12) Soon after, he was stoned and dragged outside the city, and left for dead. (Acts 14:19) All because of the opinions of others.
Here are 12 lessons I've learned over the past nearly 12 years and some unsolicited free advice that is not only for online authors but can be applied to anyone who deals with the opinions of others. Don't we all?
1. People's opinions are as varied as people themselves.
They hold the potential to elevate you to pedestal status one day, then to trample your name (and work) in the mud the next. People's opinions are fickle and as unstable as water. They vary immensely from one person to the next. A thousand people can read your written words and come away from them with a thousand interpretations. Those interpretations can be so completely off-track with what you, as the author of the words, actually mean, or on the flip side, the reader can totally "get" what you are trying to say.
2. Stay true to God.
Remember who you are trying to please.
"For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." I Corinthians 7:23
If you are 100% certain that you are 100% clear with God in your actions, why does it matter what others think of you? At the end of life when you reach eternity, you won't be standing before others. It will be you and God. His opinion is the only one that will ever matter.
3. Stay true to yourself.
Don't be swayed. Don't second-guess yourself. Stay true to who you are and what God has called you to do. My dear, sweet husband always tells me to do what brings me peace, and following his advice is extremely liberating. Continue to do what gives you peace and allows you to lie down at night with a clear, clean conscience. Don't conform to what others think you should do, say, or be.
4. Praise isn't always what it seems.
There are those who have mastered the art of being able to ruin a perfectly good compliment by adding a subtle insult to the mix. I think the term used for that these days is "passive-aggressive."
5. Jealousy is cruel.
Your success can and will bring out the worst in others. Song of Solomon 8:6 says, "Jealousy is as cruel as the grave." People who are driven by jealousy are much more likely to lash out online than insult you to your face. If someone is jealous of you and/or your work, remember it is their problem, not yours. Press on unfazed by the issue(s) of those who criticize you.
6. Stay grounded.
As I prayed one day, the still small voice of the precious Holy Spirit whispered, "There will be highs. There will be lows. The important thing is that you are affected by neither." Whether someone left a one-star rating or a five-star review changes absolutely nothing. I wrote what I wrote because I felt certain God wanted me to. He is pleased. I am okay. Whether I am being "abased" by a scathing rebuke or "abounding" as a result of kind words and accolades, all is well. "The Master's approval is the servant's best wages." Author unknown
7. Toughen up.
Grow a thick skin. The reason I have such hard, layered callouses on the ends of the fingers of my left hand is because of the countless hours I have spent playing my guitar. When I was in Bible college, I used to drive home to spend every weekend I possibly could with my parents, and during that time, my Daddy was in the process of teaching me to play the guitar. He would teach me something new on the weekends, then I would go back to school and practice during the week. My fingers would be so bruised and sore that I could hardly stand it, but I persevered and pressed on. Why? Because I wanted, with all my heart, to play the guitar. Now, I can play for extended periods of time with little to no pain because my fingertips are tough and calloused.
Get used to dents in your armor. That is why you wear it. Every dent shows that it has done its job and protected you.
8. You're in great company.
Jesus dealt with the continual instability of people's opinions of Him. One week they were casting palm branches in His path, crying out "Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." John 12:13 The next week, they were crying out, "Crucify Him!" John 19:15 People turned on Jesus on a dime countless times throughout His earthly ministry. Why would we expect to be treated any differently?
As I mentioned above, one minute, people were calling Barnabus "Zeus" and the Apostle Paul "Hermes," thinking they were gods, and were ready to offer an oxen sacrifice to them. The next thing you know, they were stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city, supposing he was dead!
Some will love you. Some will hate you. Jesus said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." John 15:18 What an honor to follow in His footsteps!
9. Stay the course.
Don't lose sight of your original intent. Don't waver from what you meant when you said what you said. Don't be swayed one iota just because someone or even a million someones disagree(s) with you. Imagine the innumerable times Jesus' words and the rest of the Bible have been misunderstood, misconstrued, mocked, and rejected. When I think about the way the eternal Word of God has been reacted to, I realize that criticism of anything I ever write is completely insignificant.
10. Papaw was right.
He pastored the same church for right around 40 years. He dealt with accolades from those who called him "The Walking King James," and he endured abuse from those who didn't agree with and/or like him. He had a remarkable way of remaining completely unscathed and unfazed by what other people thought of him and used to say that other people's criticism or talk didn't "amount to any more than an old dog barking." Another thing he often said was to just "let it roll off like water off a duck's back." Whether someone else's opinion of you/your work compelled them to grace you with a heart, a thumbs down, or an angry emoji, let it affect you as much as you would if you heard an old dog barking, shake it off like water off a duck's back, and keep pressing on!
11. Don't waste time or energy on what and who doesn't matter to you.
One of the most valuable life lessons I ever learned was to stop and ask myself this question—is this person anyone important in my life? When dealing with criticism and a plethora of other negatives, I have asked myself that countless times. Each time the answer is "no," it is very easy for me to follow Papaw's advice. Though I know a lot of people, I keep my circle small, and I am extremely selective as to who I allow in it. To be honest, God's opinion and the opinions of those few, carefully selected, special people are the only opinions I care anything at all about. Jesus had many disciples, but He only allowed 12 into His circle. Of that circle, He only allowed three into His inner circle. We need to pay attention to that.
Keep perspective and stay focused. People's opinions are just that—their opinions. They don't change who you are. Ask yourself, "Who is important in my life?" Make a list. Then, when you are dealing with unfavorable opinions, ask yourself, is the person who is saying this on my list? If they aren't, why do you care what they think of you or anything you've done? Who are they anyway? Refocus on what and more importantly, who matters to you. Stop caring about the rest.
"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them." Mark 6:11
12. Ignorance is bliss.
Sometimes it is just best to stop reading comments, chasing down reviews, and trying to find every single thing anyone in the world is saying about you. You have done your best. You have put your best work out there. You have minded God and made the best attempt you could. It is not necessary to know what others think about it.
Let it go, move on with your life, and always follow Jesus with all your heart.