All writers face obstacles. My list of obstacles is probably pretty similar to a lot of writers:
- Other urgent tasks and a busy schedule
- Too-busy attitude (not making space for creative thinking)
- Lack of organization
- Others’ criticism
- Inner resistance: doubts, fears, difficulty slowing down, etc.
- Complications in shaping material
- Lack of skill
Up till now, I have used this blog to address mostly the inner struggles: the doubts and fears that make us hesitant to pick up the pen (or in my case, the automatic pencil), or to create that new document and start typing away the blankness. Today, I’d like to shift gears and reflect on an external obstacle: criticism.
When I first started writing my latest book of meditations on self-esteem in the light of Scripture, I was deeply surprised to face opposition from some mature, spiritual-minded Catholics whom I respected. They expressed the concern that, in light of our culture’s preoccupation with selfishness, self-esteem is no longer a relevant topic for true followers of Christ, if it ever was. The opposition surprised me, and, for a couple of weeks, stopped me cold.
After much reflection and prayer, I decided I radically disagreed. However, I also realized that our disagreement could depend on what was meant by the word “self-esteem.” I was using it in the typical sense that most dictionaries give as a first definition: self-respect, or a healthy regard for oneself. Those who disapproved of the idea of my book referenced a second definition some dictionaries add, in which self-esteem is equated with pride, or a conceited view of oneself.
When I use the word “self-esteem” now, I do so with that first sense of self-respect, but with an added nuance that I developed in light of the comments I received. Self-esteem is a healthy, truthful view of oneself in the light of the reality that we are created by God in his image, and that we are precious in God’s sight (cf. Isaiah 43). The negative comments forced me to clarify the focus of the book: less about psychology and more about our relationship with God.
While the criticism stopped me from writing for a few weeks, it helped me hone the book and enabled me to address some common misconceptions. I am sure that on some levels those who criticized my idea won’t agree with the book as it stands now. But in the end, I think the book is the better for the criticism I received.