At the beginning of my writing journey, I wrote a blog post about the Tower of Babel. This story takes place after Noah’s ark and it really inspired me. I posted the blog, then deleted, re-posted, and deleted it again several times in a row. I didn’t have confidence and feared what others would think. I was afraid of criticism, feedback, and letting others see my work. I somehow gained courage to at least share the piece with my husband and a few close friends, and though they encouraged me and said it was great, something still held me back.
I held myself back.
Many of us struggle to share what’s in our hearts because of the same fears. We’re afraid of what others will think, don’t want feedback (even if it’s positive), and we don’t want any kind of judgment or view of ourselves to change. I run into this often. I’ll be working on a blog post, my book, a newsletter, new podcast episodes, or projects totally unrelated to writing and recordings like crafts, DIY projects, etc., and then hit a point (usually right before I complete it) where I pause, hesitate, and pull the reins a little. I hold myself back.
We’re encouraged to not worry about what others will think and still pursue our dreams, passions, and callings. But something inside of us still does. We worry, fear, and hold ourselves back even when we know we must push forward if we want to grow at all. Often, the things God calls us to and what He puts inside of us seem so big and intimidating, we’re almost embarrassed to make it come to pass. So, we hold back.
In the story before the Tower of Babel, Noah could’ve held back. It was socially hard for him to build a giant boat. It would’ve made sense for him to fear what others would think when God instructed him to do it. He could’ve held himself back on this endeavor and on warning people about the coming flood. And maybe, to an extent, he worried and feared. We don’t know. But we know he followed through and obeyed God, anyway. He trusted God with the outcome, despite how silly he may have felt.
Proverbs 29:25 says, The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. When we hold ourselves back from the things we believe God calls us to, we’re not only disobeying God, but we’re hurting ourselves in the long run. We might not see the full picture, nor do we need to, but it’s essential to stay trusting in God because that’s where we’re safe. (Of course, we need to have discretion, discernment, and good counsel for our dreams and goals and passions, because not everything we conjure up in our minds is from the Lord).
From the moment I knew how to hold a writing utensil, I loved writing. I scribbled in every notebook and imagined the stories I could write someday, if not for the world, then at least for my family. But the older I got, the more private it became. I jotted through journals in my teen years and threw away many of them because I felt embarrassed. I suppressed my writing dream and “practiced” holding back.
When we hold back repeatedly, we practice hiding. We practice being embarrassed and ashamed, and then we wonder why or how we become insecure. But all of that is in our heads. There’s a great quote about this which says, The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what other people think (I’m not sure who it’s by). This captures what our thoughts can look like – a prison! It’s important for us to unlearn this practice and to implement healthy habits and positive triggers to help us stop holding back.
I want to share one of my favorite scripture passages with you and weave it into the things we can do to stop holding back. These particular verses help me remember my identity in Jesus, to be bold and courageous, and to connect with others when I want to hold back. I believe they’ll help you, too!
Here are 3 things to do to stop holding back!
1. Change Your View
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.Matthew 5:14
The first reminder is to change our view. When we hold ourselves back, we need to do, think, or say something to remind us to change our view of ourselves, others, and God. This verse (Matthew 5:14) is one of those verses that helps me remember who I am in Christ. Not only that, but it reminds me that there are others who live this out well and encourages and inspires me to do the same. When a city is on a hill, it’s hard to miss! When we think of ourselves in this way, because we’re raised with Christ (Colossians 2:12), it’s a helpful reminder to change our view of our identity.
Changing our view of ourselves, or changing our perspective, is an ongoing process. We are constantly being renewed in knowledge (Colossians 3:10) and need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to illuminate how we should change our view. He helps us elevate our view of ourselves, and not in a prideful or cocky way (when that happens, we need His help MORE). But in a way that helps us learn about our new nature and identity in Christ, which results in increased condifence and a desire to stop holding back. We get encouraged to pursue the things of God and all that He calls us to!
As we challenge and change our views, we will realize that no one else is thinking what we’re thinking. When we hold back and hesitate, no one’s going to know what’s truly getting processed in our hearts. Only God knows and sees the fear and worry and overthinking that takes place. So, our fear of what others will think, say, or do, is kind of a waste of time. In essence, holding back is a waste of time. When we hold back, it’s important to think about that. Unless we can officially confirm our fear and worry of others’ thoughts through their words by persistent questioning and etc., we will recognize that we no longer need to hold back.
Light cannot hold back. It doesn’t think about whether it should or could shine. It just does. It doesn’t worry about the darkness’s whereabouts, nor does it care what darkness thinks. Light penetrates darkness and makes it leave. So, when we want to hold back, let’s change our view of ourselves, others, and look towards God to make His light shine through us (Psalm 18:28)
2. Get Familiar with Discomfort
No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but instead on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.Matthew 5:15
The second reminder is to get familiar with discomfort. The more I dwell on it, the more I realize that what God put inside of us isn’t just for us. It’s for everyone. He didn’t put us under a basket when He lit us but lifted us up to do the very things we’re called to do. Just like Noah, God assigned a significant task to Noah because of what he had inside (faith, obedience, gifting, skill, trust, etc.), and He instructed Noah to tell others about His will (to shine)!
I love how Matthew 5:15 states the obvious. There are so many parallels and analogies we can draw from this verse alone, and yet, on its own, it is thought-provoking. It will always be easier to pull back and keep quiet about the things we want to do and accomplish, including when it’s for the Lord. But the desire is still there, and it often feels like a burning inside the pit of your stomach! We want to make it happen so badly, but our mind stops us. Our emotions get in the way. And we recoil and hide what we truly want to do.
We must get familiar with the discomfort of not pulling back. Even if it’s a little at a time. We need to be in it for a little bit, so that we can grow, learn, and develop our skills for the things we’re pulling back on. Often, we pull back because we’re embarrassed by our goals and dreams. Maybe they’re too big and audacious, so we wonder why would I, of all people, pursue this or that goal. When we think that, we need a positive trigger or something to help us take the next step. Our goals and dreams should embarrass us (for a little), but they shouldn’t stop us.
Embarrassment is momentary and it will disappear once we get after what we need to get after. Embarrassment could be the discomfort we have to deal with for the moment. Once we get familiar with it and move past it, we will have stopped ourselves from holding back. Remember, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but on a lamp stand. God didn’t light that desire in us to be put under a basket, but instead to be put on a lamp stand (where we’re at) and to give light for all who are in the house (in our life).
3. Connect with Others
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:16
Finally, the third reminder is to connect with others. It’s always easier to pull back and keep quiet, to go under a basket and hide. But God made it clear that He put the light inside of us and we are to let it shine before others. Again, this isn’t with pride and haughtiness, because people who hold back fear being seen this way. For too long I held back, and still sometimes do, because I got fearful of looking prideful. But unless we change our view and look at God who keeps our lights shining, unless we feel the discomfort and move forward in obedience, we WILL end up prideful and selfish by holding back.
When we connect with others, we can let our light shine so that others may see and give glory to God. If we’re unsure about the specific dream, goal, or task we want to accomplish, we need to ask ourselves, will it glorify God? Will others give glory to God when they see this or that? By connecting with others, I mean to open up about the ideas and dreams that are inside. And in turn, to listen in to what other people dream and desire to do as well. If you haven’t shared your idea with anyone yet, you will definitely continue to hold back.
To this day, I often hold back what God tells me to write. So, I challenge myself to change my view, get familiar with discomfort, and connect with others (including here) when it comes to my writing projects and endeavors. I encourage you to take a step closer to what you’ve wanted to do for a while and do the same! Maybe you want to start a blog and make your writing more public; maybe you need to write that book; maybe it’s a podcast, a speaking engagement, or a YouTube channel; maybe it’s music, painting, gardening, or inviting your neighbor for coffee.
Whatever it is, stop worrying what others will think, say, or do, and go for it!
Change your view, feel the discomfort, and connect with others – start by commenting below! 🥳
You are the light.
You are the city.
You are the lamp on a stand.
LET your light shine.
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