Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On building people up

Hi Everyone! Danica Favorite here, and I wanted to share something that's been on my heart for a while. People often ask if my stories about inspired by my real life, and mostly, I have to say that they don't. But one of the things I am noticing is that when I write about a particular theme, I end up seeing that theme pop up everywhere around me. Maybe it's coincidence, or maybe it's God working in my heart, but I find that once I've written a book, I understand that theme on a much deeper level as it applies to my own life.

The pattern of learning a thematic lesson is especially true in ShotgunMarriage, which is out this month. When I was writing The Lawman's Redemption (July 2015), I wrote about Emma Jane Logan, an unpopular, prickly girl no one liked. Except Mary Stone, who looked deeper and offered kindness to someone undeserving but in desperate need. I'd written it to show off Mary's heart, and Mary's character, but what I found was that I couldn't forget Emma Jane. We all know an Emma Jane. Maybe parts of us have been Emma Jane. I know I’ve had my own experiences where I can relate to the torment she experienced.

 

What changed Emma Jane from girl no one liked to someone who deserved to have her own story told?


The answer is simple: Mary’s kindness to her. I believe that the reason people were so unkind to Emma Jane is that somehow, they hoped their words would encourage her to change. Think about how many times we issue a criticism of something in hopes that it will bring about the change we desire. I know what it’s liked to be bullied. One time, a girl pulled me aside and said, “look, I know we’re hard on you, but we’re only doing it for your own good. If you’d just change these things about yourself, everything would be fine.” Ouch. However, none of that made me change. It just gave me reason to spend hours crying, wondering why I had to turn into the equivalent of a Stepford wife to be acceptable to my peers. Did I have flaws needing attention? Yes. Were some of her criticisms valid? Yes. But the sheer unkindness of her words and actions didn’t give me a safe place to make those changes. What finally brought about change in my life was having genuine friends come around me, loving me as I was, so that when I needed redirection, I knew it came from a loving place and I felt safe in considering their words.

It’s tempting, when we see flaws in others or in their work, to reach out and offer our “guidance” on the issue. But before we do so, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves a few questions based on lessons I learned from writing about Emma Jane.

What is my motivation behind the criticism?

Am I angry, self-righteous, or offended at something the person said or did, and think I need to show my superior position? Maybe it’s time to take a step back and not say something, even if that other person is wrong. It’s not okay to prove your point at the expense of someone else. Like Jesus says, before we can take a speck out of someone else’s eye, we must first take the plank out of our own. The women who teased Emma Jane did so to make themselves feel better, to prove their higher social standing, and later, to get back at her for “stealing” the town’s most eligible bachelor. Maybe there was some truth in the criticism, but it was so tainted with bad motivation, no one could see it.

Did that person ask for my opinion?

I think about all the times we’re offered unsolicited advice. Looking at all the unsolicited advice I’ve been given, I can tell you that it’s probably only been helpful or useful about 1% of the time. Mostly, it’s not what I needed. In terms of what Emma Jane went through, she never asked the women around her what they thought of her fashion sense. She knew her clothes weren’t fashionable, but also didn’t have the means to change it. It would have been a different situation had Emma Jane gone to the more fashionable women and asked, “hey, what can I do to be more fashionable,” but she was so ashamed of her reduced status and had faced so many barbs, it didn’t feel safe for her to do so.

Is my criticism rooted in love? Do I have a deep and genuine love for the person I’m criticizing and my words stem from that love?


It’s so easy to criticize someone we don’t like. Giving that criticism sometimes justifies our dislike of someone else. After all, if that person didn’t do x, we’d like that person more. But ask yourself, would you say it to your best friend? If Jesus was sitting next to you, would you still offer that criticism? It’s so easy to overlook the mistakes of people we love, so give some grace to the people you don’t. In the Lawman’s Redemption, when Emma Jane was sobbing and a mess, Mary didn’t just say, “hey, you look terrible,” but she very lovingly helped Emma Jane pull herself together.


Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but as I look at Emma Jane’s transformation, these are the biggest keys to that transformation. Mostly, though, her life changed because others were willing to build her up instead of tearing her down. We all have that same power to change lives. But the most profound change comes from building others up instead of tearing them down. We live in an ugly world full of criticism and attacks from all sides. So let’s use the power we all have within us to help others in loving way.

I’m giving away two sets of The Lawman’s Redemption and Shotgun Marriage so you and a friend can fully experience Emma Jane’s transformation. Because there is so much value in friendship, I want you to be able to give a friend the same encouragement. To enter, tell me about the friend you’d give the second set of books to. For a bonus entry, I’d love to hear your suggestions for ways we can build up those around us who need it. I’m booked with conferences and events over the next week or so, so you have two weeks! I’ll draw a winner on April 20th

About the book:


Conveniently Wed 

Forced to wed to protect their reputations after being trapped overnight in a mine, Emma Jane and Jasper Jackson's marriage is one in name only. Resenting the choices taken from him, Jasper's determined not to lose his heart. But it's not so easy to stay distanced from his new bride when a gang of bandits abducts them both.

Other young women might be ecstatic to land Leadville's wealthiest bachelor. But Emma Jane would rather have Jasper's love than his family's money. A true bond with her handsome husband seems impossible…until their ordeal leaves Emma Jane caring for an orphaned baby. In reach now is the one thing neither expected—the chance to turn a convenient marriage into a forever family.

12 comments:

Keli Gwyn said...

This sounds like a wonderful story of transformation, Danica. I understand the impact love and acceptance can have on a person. I felt quite down and unworthy after my first husband's twenty-fifth birthday present. Instead of a card or a gift, he told me he wanted a divorce.

I endured dark days after that, but God brought a wonderful man into my life, a long-time bachelor who saw past my cracked exterior and fragile, broken interior and loved the real me, as did his godly parents. Over the years their steadfast love and belief in me brought about healing. I'm still a work-in-progress, but the steady diet of love and acceptance, coupled with God at work in me, have brought me to a far better place.

Missy Tippens said...

What a wonderful post, Danica. So true! I also learn as I write my books. And it does sometimes seem as if God starts working on me, too. :)

I love that you gave Emma Jane her own story.

Missy Tippens said...

Keli, thanks for sharing your story as well. I'm so glad you met your husband!

Beth Erin said...

Insightful post! I would love to share a set with my friend Jessica! She has been my friend since junior high and we only see each other about once a year now but that bond is still as strong as ever. We both enjoy reading Christian fiction too.
It is so encouraging when someone understands what you aren't (or aren't able to) express with words. Just slowing down to really see and listen to each other is so important.
Thanks for the encouragement and giveaway!

Danica Favorite said...

Wow, Keli, thanks for sharing! I'm so glad you were able to find a place (and wonderful husband!) of acceptance. I think that's what we all need. Hugs!

Thanks Missy!! It is funny, how God does that. The book I'm writing now deals with forgiveness, so of course God is pointing out all the things I need to work on forgiving in my own life. :)

Beth Erin, I love this! I have friends I don't get to see as often, and you're right, the bond is still strong. So glad you have a friend like that!

Ann707 said...

Enjoy reading everyone's post. I would share a copy with my friend Ginger. We meet in graduate school and we both love to read and enjoy history. We see each other about every other year but e-mail and talk on the phone often. Ginger's mom passed a few years back but she was like one of my grandmothers so we both understand what was happening with few words. Sometimes the best encouragement is to listen and be available.
Thanks for the story and the giveaway Danica.

Danica Favorite said...

Ann, what a sweet story about your friend Ginger.

Jackie Smith said...

Sweet post/comments! I would share with a high school classmate who only loves to read LI books. I see her when I get to attend our monthly lunches, and I always have books for her. With her/dh health and mine, we don't get to attend the lunches but about 4-5 times a year though. This is class of (uh oh telling my age) '54. She especially loved Missy's books 'cause she is now in a church Missy's dh served. Thanks for your giveaway, Danica!

Danica Favorite said...

Thanks Jackie! What a nice way to connect with your friend!

Sherida Stewart said...

Danica, these are all good ideas for making people feel better about themselves. What a sweet book and theme!

I'd give a set of books to my sister who is one of my best friends. She is facing some challenging situations right now.

I agree with Ann707....talking the time to reach out to people and then truly listen to what's going on in their lives can be the best way to let them know they are valued.

Thank you for your post.

Terri Reed said...

Nice post Danica and good advice.

Trixi said...

My book friend is actually my sister-in-law! We do book exchanges quite often by giving each other the books we've read already. And most of the time, I buy books with her in mind, especially ones I know she'll love :-)

Ways to build each other up....how about being a listening ear when someone is hurting or needs to talk & not judge them, or speaking truth to them when they are being handed lies by the enemy. Or just encouraging them in everyday life, sending a little text to let them know you are thinking of them or sending a "just because" card. Maybe offer to take them for coffee (or tea or whatnot) & conversation. I think it's the little things that count in big ways :-) Be the kind of person you want someone to be for you!