Friday, November 22, 2019

4 Reasons Writers Should Clothe Ourselves with Humility

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Eight years have passed since I received this email from a writer about an article she’d submitted: 

I’ve submitted several articles to the previous editor of this magazine. She never edited my work like you’ve done. If my writing was good enough for her, it should be good enough for you.

I prayerfully responded:

Each editor brings different gifts to the publication table. My goal as your editor is to polish your writing and enable you to communicate the message God has given you as clearly as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable with the edits I suggest, I certainly understand if you choose to withdraw the submission.

She allowed me to publish her article with the edits I suggested, but she never again submitted her work for my consideration. While I can’t presume to know her heart, I suspect pride may have been at the root of her defensive reaction.

As a freelance writer and book author, I often sit on the other side of the editor’s desk. I’ve received editorial suggestions on work I considered perfect and had articles and book proposals rejected more times than they’ve been accepted. Every time this happens, I have the choice to accept the feedback pridefully or with humbly. 

Today I’d like to share four reasons why we, as writers, should clothe ourselves with humility.

Reason #1: We don’t know everything.
While critique partners, editors, agents, and publishing houses also don’t know everything, they know a lot. Before we get defensive, it’s wise to take a deep breath, step away from the feedback, and ask God to help us view it objectively. 

Multi-published author Jerry Jenkins observes, “The natural response to criticism is defensiveness.” When he received difficult feedback, he’ll often set it aside for 24 hours or more to regain his perspective. Time enables him to see the value in criticism despite the pain or disappointment. “Remember, the critique is on your side and may have a point. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, only that you need to keep working to make it your best.”

Reason #2: God uses others to direct our writing path.
As much as we’re convinced the time to publish our article, devotion, or book is RIGHT NOW, this may not be true. God uses publishing professionals to determine if the publishing climate is right, if our work is ready for publication, if the market can handle a book like ours, and if we’re ready for publication. Oftentimes God uses rejections to redirect our project or our course. 

A series of book proposal rejections two years ago led to a brainstorming session with publishing professional Steve Laube. Our ten-minute conversation helped me refine my focus and rework my proposal. The result was a much stronger book idea, one that Our Daily Bread Publishing accepted. Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible releases May 5. 

Reason #3: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” 
(James 4:6 ESV).
When we stubbornly demand our way, assume we’re always right, and reject opportunities to improve, we stunt our growth and alienate those who can help us. Even worse, we invite God’s opposition. 

When we respond pridefully to an edit, a critique partner, an agent, or an editor, Scripture says God opposes us. In love, he withholds the grace he reserves for the humble and hinders our success. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom,” Proverbs 11:2 cautions us. Because God cares more about our spiritual success than our publishing success, he’ll do everything necessary to correct us. 

Reason #4: Humble people are Christ-like people.
When we conduct ourselves with humility and grace, we accurately represent Christ. 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,” Philippians 2:3-8 reminds us, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

When we put others first; share our contacts, knowledge, and gifts; and interact with others in a way that honors and imitates Christ, we guard our hearts against pride and invite God’s blessings. “Humble yourselves before the Lord,” James 4:10 says, “and he will exalt you.”

More than any book contract or industry award, I want to feel the warmth of God’s pleasure. I suspect you do too. Will you join me in rejecting the path of pride and embracing the humble road?


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of several devotional books. Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women won the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award. Her most recent book, Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible is due out in the spring of 2020. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. Writers who improve their craft are humble. You need humility to be teachable.

    1. Yes, Ingmar, I agree. It's only when we admit that we don't know everything that we are free to begin to learn what we don't know. Thanks for joining us today :)

  2. Lori,thank you for this timely post. I'm currently working on edits for a book and am working with two different editors. Unfortunately, like Jerry Jenkins said, my first response to the edits was to be defensive. But now that time has passed between getting them and working on them, I can be more objective and open to instruction. I just wish I didn't get so defensive initially. Your post convicted me by showing me that pride may be my problem. Lord, forgive me and help me to be more humble.

    1. Oh, my, Marilyn, you are preaching to the choir here. I think it's because we pour ourselves into our writing that we take criticism so personally, don't you? Instead of being able to distance ourselves from our writing, we take every critique as a criticism, and it's not usually. Just an editor's attempt to polish our words and make them shine. Lord, may we all be humbly teachable so we can learn and grow. Thanks for your honesty, Marilyn. May God's hand rest upon your project.

  3. Well said Ms. Lori. I used to have a sign in my office that read "I can afford to be close-minded; I'm right." Note I said I used to have. God continues teaching me many things in my Christian writing journey. Chief among them is that I am a much better writer with a good editor (one that seeks to partner with you and help you improve rather than embarrass) than I am without. Am blessed God has brought some great ones into my life to date.

    1. I agree, J.D., when I've had the wisdom to step back a few feet from critique and stuff a gag in my prideful mouth, I usually have to admit that my editor at least has a point worth considering. Many times I've found that my critique partner calls me out on things that niggled at my internal editor, but I was too lazy to listen or not confident enough to trust myself. Thank the Lord for kind critique partners and top-notch editors.

  4. A great message Lori! I pray I am a humble writer and speaker.

    1. Me too, Melissa. Me too. Thanks for chiming in today.

  5. When I began writing I didn't want anyone to see what I wrote. I wanted to work on it alone until it was perfect. Ha Ha! I know no one is perfect but it was my reason at the time. I have learned to submit to my critique partners and listen closely to their feedback. This is another way God has for me to learn the craft of writing. Thank you, Lori, for an inciteful article.

    1. You are most welcome, Thele. I felt the same way you did. Sometimes I still do. May God give us both courage and skill to take our writing out of the safe zone. Blessings to you.