Are You Seeing Red?

isaiahIf you read my last blog post, you know that one of the accomplishments of my “summer vacation” was that I wrote a book. I turned this 125-page Word document over to a friend of mine, well-versed in editing, to review. It took me two weeks after I’d written the last word to place the book in her hands.

My guidance to her was simple. “You are not my friend when you read this. You must put on your editing hat and give me honest, constructive feedback.” She agreed. Since this book is a narrative of the challenges I have faced during my life, some not shared with anyone, you can imagine my trepidation.

However, this fear paled in comparison to that of the dreaded red pencil.

Red pencil? You know the one. The one that teachers used to grade your papers. The one used to place a big fat “X” on incorrect test answers. The one used to draw your attention to what you did wrong. Its current-day equivalent is the Track Changes function in Word.

I love Track Changes. I’ve used it throughout my corporate career and in other circumstances to make changes to other’s work. If you were the recipient of my edited documents, you likely were bowled over when you opened the file and saw an abundance of crossed out text (your text) and my replacements in big bold red print.

Gone were your original words and in their place were mine. Sure there was good reason for some of these changes – poor grammar or a typo. But for the most part, I would take what was written and re-write it leaving the person wondering why I’d assigned them the task in the first place.

I suspect many of my former employees might’ve felt this way. However, in my defense, since I have been quite a bit older than my young team members and their generation has, well let’s just say  – a different way of using the English language in business writing, I felt they needed some help.


However, today during my morning workout, the teacher on TV made a statement that resulted in me immediately pausing both the TV and the treadmill. “Do not judge others because they can’t do something as good as you can. The only reason you are good at something is because God gave this gift to you.”

Big. Fat. Yikes.

I began to ponder my overuse of this digital red pencil and its impact to those in receipt of it. Was I truly trying to assist the other person to be a better communicator or was I secretly showing off my writing prowess? Double Yikes.

Upon giving my book to my friend, she informed me that it might be a while before she’d be able to look at it. Since I had no real timetable, I put it out of my head.

A few days later, while in the mall with my daughter I received the following text message:

“I’m in chapter 3. I love it, love it, love it!”

Tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t speak. My daughter and her friend asked if I was ok. I showed them the text message. “She loves it! She loves what I wrote!” I exclaimed. I felt like Sally Fields at the Oscars. “You like me. You really like me!”

No red pencil. No track changes. No failing grade.

I don’t share my friend’s comments to show off that there’s at least one person in the world who loves my book and that I’m the best writer ever. I share this because her deficit of harsh judgement was in complete contrast to my –  at times surplus of it.

About a year ago, I was asked to review a speech for someone sharing her testimony at our church. Key word – review. She didn’t ask me to edit it. She didn’t ask me to do anything other than review it for clarity and consistency of message. Same thing I asked my friend to do for me.

The difference? I got a sweet, uplifting text message. The person who asked for my review got a Word document full of track changes. Ugh…

One might say that it’s the writer in me that made me do it. Some might say it’s my love of words and my need to make sure they are used appropriately. Still those close to me might say that my desire for others to always be their best is the reason.

As I contemplate these various rationales, there’s truth to all of them. However, my awareness of my tendency to judge or over correct must be paid attention to. No one wants to be criticized. No one likes to have their faults or mistakes pointed out to them. We all innately know when we mess up – it doesn’t have to be shoved in our faces.

What I’ve come to learn through my faith is that while I certainly deserve to have my mistakes shoved in my face, God does the complete opposite. He takes a “so what?” approach to them. I imagine, after I ask for His forgiveness, He says something like “No worries. It’s over. Let’s move on. I love you no matter what.”

We all have a tendency to be our own worst critics – overusing our personal red pencils. But that is not what God wants for you. He does not want you to go around feeling bad or guilty about your mistakes. He’s forgotten them and you need to as well. And on top of it? He gives you the strength and wisdom not to repeat them.

So as you go about your day, I encourage you to be mindful of your own potential red-pencil tendencies keeping in mind that mistakes are our best teachers. Instead of regretting them, let’s be mindful of the lessons they teach us.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Jen’s Gem: Mistakes are lessons in disguise. Learn from them.

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