Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Validation of the (Self) Righteous

I’m not a big non-fiction reader, but I’ve recently finished Lost and Found by Kendra L Fletcher. It’s about a mother who finds her way out of a legalistic church background to freedom in Christ without managing to kill any of her eight children (seriously. Three almost die. Her end point is great, but her journey isn’t one anyone would want to emulate).

Her writing is full of thought-provoking quotes which address some of our beliefs as Christians. 

Like any good writer, she highlights places where we tell but don’t show, or where what we do and how we live contradicts what we say we believe.

Here’s one example which hit home to me as a writer:

I suspect most writers can relate to this. It’s certainly something I see in a lot of the writer forums I frequent. It seems writers continually seek validation:

  • Bloggers seek validation through website visits and comments.
  • Social media experts seek validation through follower numbers.
  • Unpublished writers seek validation in contest finals and wins.
  • Contest winners seek validation through signing with an agent.
  • Agented writers seek validation through signing their first contract with a high-profile trade publisher. Or a lower-profile small press.
  • Published writers seek validation through sales and contests, seeking the validation of a bestseller ranking, or a contest final or a win, hoping success will bring the next book contract, and the next.

Some authors choose to step outside this circle of external validation and self-publish. They say they don’t need agents or editors to validate them—the only validation that matters is that of readers, as measured by sales and reviews. Ideally five-star reviews, although they’ll take a one-star review as validation that not all their reviews are from friends and family.

Yes, yes. I know this is wrong. And I'm not saying everyone does it. But it's a trap I see people falling into, and one I'm working not to fall into myself.

It's all to easy to forget we shouldn’t be looking for man to validate us. We should be looking to God, who has already validated us, who approves of us just as we are:

Kendra Fletcher points out that when we're seeking to please man, we can become self-righteous:

There is no objective standard, so the only way we can feel better is to compare ourselves to each other. Bad idea.

Publishing is driven by numbers, which gives us so many things to compare! Follower numbers, email subscribers, books published, reviews posted, copies sold, royalties earned (and these last two are the only two which aren’t public information, although Author Earnings are doing their best).

So we follow the latest marketing must-do in the effort to build our blog or our email list, to get more reviews, to sell more books. And what do we forget?



Because it’s easier to follow a checklist and check off all the correct boxes than to listen to the gentle, faithful leading of the Holy Spirit.

Kendra Fletcher wasn’t talking about publishing and marketing when she wrote Lost and Found, but she might as well have been. When it comes to publishing and especially to marketing, we’re relying on that checklist to reach success. And hoping we’re using the ‘right’ checklist.

Yet that’s not what God wants from us. Sure, we have to put in the work—learn to write to the standards required by publishers and retailers, learn to tell stories that will touch our target readers, learn the best ways to find and engage those readers.

We have to seek His will for our writing and walk in obedience to that. I've spent the last two months on a project that wasn't on my to-do list for the year, but the feedback I've received is that it has blessed others. That's a win. A God-given win.

Because in the end, our success (or otherwise) up to God. My job is to write and publish to His plan. Not mine. Then my blog posts and my books will be exactly as successful as God intends them to be. I know and believe that. So I have to let go of my definitions of success and focus on His. Focus on my word for the year, to be a blessing.

And remind myself that all I need to do is follow Him. 

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. thank you. Encouraging and timely. An interesting balance to get right. Putting in the work (not sitting back and 'letting go and letting God') but also trusting God for the results and that he will reach exactly the right number of people with any book we write.

    1. Yes, it's a balancing act ... one of many in the Christian life. I'm glad I was able to encourage you - you encourage me. Thank you.

  2. Great word, Iola. It's challenging isn't it? We writers are like no others really as we struggle to allow God to guide our efforts. It's so easy to get caught up in the "checklist" mentality as you describe it and strive for our own version of success whatever that looks like but have we done it through loving others and our Lord?

    But what we have is each other to serve as encouragers and sometimes we need to help fellow authors to question why they're doing what they're doing. With gentleness of course.

    That's why posts like this one of yours is so helpful. May the Lord keep challenging you to seek Him first and not the next item on your checklist.


    1. I don't think checklists are all bad - I dread to think what my family would eat if I showed up to the supermarket without a list. So lists can be good, but not if we're using them as a substitute for God.

      Thank you for your encouragement, Ian. I appreciate it.

  3. Such a good reminder, Iola. In everything we do as writers, we've got to remember Who we serve. And it's not ourselves! I love how Paul continually compared himself to Jesus and no other. He understood his mission: make His name known. I love that we get to be a part of the same mission. It's easy to get sidetracked by success. But in the end, making His name known is how I want to be successful :-)

    1. You're so right - it's about making Jesus known. Our roles, our platforms, our successes ... they're all tactics God will use in fulfilling the mission of making Jesus known. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Appreciate the very important reminder, Iola. So important.

  5. Excellent post. How easy it is to ignore that still small voice in a big loud world. How important to remember what God says about who we are - and whose we are. You are a blessing!

    1. Thank you!

      Yes, it's important to remember our identity is in God. Not always easy, but important.

  6. Great, Iola! There's a lot to consider here. To be successful in an industry sense we need numbers. To be successful in God's eyes, we need to do what He is prompting us to do and reach the people He wants us to reach.

    It's a tightrope we all walk on. (Cliche alert!)

    I love that you ask these questions!

  7. Thank you Iola. It's so easy to get caught up in all the advise posted online. Most important is to keep our focus on glorifying God in all that we do, especially our writing. If God wants a book to get out there in the hands of readers, I am trusting Him to take it. My skills in the area of marketing are inadequate indeed but He is sufficient in all.