How Safe Begins to Feel Unsafe

Photo Credit: evokilla (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: evokilla (Creative Commons)

I belong to a writers’ group. This group is filled with people from a variety of places, backgrounds, faiths, family structures, and ages. We all focus our writing around different themes, but we have one thing in common. We share the burning desire to write and to improve each day.

We give and receive feedback on our writing from each other. Oftentimes it is complimentary, but sometimes thoughtfully constructive. I have grown very fond of this group. I am inspired by the risk my fellow writers take each day, by bearing their hearts to their readers.

I find courage to do the same by their examples. When I grow up as a writer, I want to be like them.

The most beautiful aspect of this group is the sense of community. I had the opportunity to spend 90 minutes on a Skype call with another member of this group. Even though we had never talked face to face before this call, we both walked away from the conversation feeling as though we chatted with an old friend. Such is the power of true kinship.

But an unexpected event occurred in the broader writing group which has given me pause, and caused me to reevaluate this community. A newer member of our group was offended over the spiritual content of some of the writers in the group, and excluded himself from us.

I have a myriad of emotions over this. I feel a sense of sadness because this person walked away from such a great and diverse group of friends and fellow writers. I have disappointment, because there was some level of unwillingness on his part to allow for others to write on topics that are uninteresting or offensive to him.

I am concerned that it was my approach to writing – which is fundamentally faith centered – which drove him away. At the same time, my resolve to continue the walk into my voice has been strengthened. I know that not everyone will find resonance in my writing. If everyone agrees, then my message is likely not worth writing.

Beyond these reactions, I am worried on a deeper level whether this community that I have so enjoyed is a place I should continue to share my art. If the group is not open to faith-based writing, then most of what I share becomes inappropriate for this audience.

The unfortunate result is that I may gravitate away from this wonderful community. Right now, I feel stifled in my creativity each time I consider further involvement with the group. I feel the suffocation as I consider whether to share my writing with these folks who have quickly become so valuable and encouraging to my growth as a writer.

At the same time, part of what makes meaningful relationships so important is the ability to disagree on topics, even important topics. If everyone has the same opinion on everything, there is no sharpening of skills. No growth. No challenge. No pushing each other to get better. To write stronger.

I am still in process on whether to step away from this group right now. The benefits to me as a young writer have been overwhelmingly positive. But the constriction on my art might overwhelm the goodness I would gain moving forward.

There are several individuals in particular who have given me strength to keep writing, keep pushing, keep risking. I hope I do not lose these mentors if I pull away from this writing group. But I value my momentum as a writer, my creative push, more than anything else. Even if it may cost me community.

28 thoughts on “How Safe Begins to Feel Unsafe

  1. Joan

    Chris – much of my writing, although not entirely, is faith based. And yes, I have shared it with the group. I never felt that it wasn’t welcomed – truthfully, I didn’t give it a second thought because it is what I do.

    Ultimately, we must make our own decisions whether to go or stay, however I would like to encourage you to stay on. I plan to do so – I have formed many friendships through this group that I hope to continue – group or not. I don’t think any of us should feel as if we should leave because of the actions of one person. (And I think our leader would agree.) Someone commented (who doesn’t share mine and your beliefs) said that they had never felt out of place. They went on to say that often it is due to someone being afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone, rather than the course content or the community.

    Thank you for baring your soul here, Chris, and may God bless you in whatever decision you make.

  2. sometimeshope Post author

    I never felt my writing wasn’t welcomed either. I never considered that I might offend anyone, because of the openness of our group. Now I guess I find myself wondering.

    I have found my greatest source of encouragement and courage to risk through our common group. I hope that I am able to work through my reservations and stay. Just not sure yet

  3. andthensomemorebrianna

    “At the same time, my resolve to continue the walk into my voice has been strengthened. I know that not everyone will find resonance in my writing. If everyone agrees, then my message is likely not worth writing.” Yes, friend, this is profound truth.
    The group is not about what we write as much as it is about THAT we write, and HOW we hone the craft of it. It’s difficult to deal with from a vulnerability standpoint, because it makes us wonder if we shouldn’t share our work. But you know what? I believe that even this experience is helping to sharpen our voices and define our niches. So, anyway, thank you for sharing this work of yours. Truly.

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      I agree with you about the sharpening and defining, Bria. More than anything else, this stirred up some unexpected nervousness and insecurity. I find more and more that I work through feelings like this through writing. Even the process of writing this helped me to come to a better sense of where I sit through this course of events.

      Thanks for taking the time to read!

  4. laurenhuss

    Writing from the heart is the most vulnerable art. It is also, in my opinion, the most valuable. When we are are brave enough to do this, we are bound to offend someone. Especially if we write from a place of faith. I believe, as I think you do, as well, that I am called by God to write about my faith and that it is an act of obedience to do so. Being called, however, doesn’t take away the fear…in fact I think that it actually makes writing more scary. I could write about decorating or shopping, that would be easy, but easy is not the road God calls us to. I trust that God will give me the courage to step out & share with others within our group & without. With every step, He has strengthened me a bit more, and He is doing the same for you! Writing this post, in particular, was incredibly brave! While we always want to be loving and gracious to all people, we can’t do anything about those who are easily offended. We can’t let them stifle our voice, our creativity or scare us away from our calling. I am unaware of the particulars in this situation but I am very sorry that you feel somehow responsible for this person’s actions. They made that choice & they will miss out because of that. Please don’t pull back. Your contribution is valuable and appreciated.

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Thank you so much for pulling my mind’s eye back to where it should be, to the call to write for others. The obedience aspect of being faithful to what God calls us to.

      I am learning much about stepping up to fear, looking it right in the eye, and moving forward anyway. Maybe this is one more step for me — sure seems that way

  5. Stacey

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the honesty you brought to them Chris. I think these are all questions that we face one way or another, no matter what our art form. So much about art and the drive to create is about un-censoring ourselves from the various voices we hear and struggles we experience. I hope that you will continue to share your art as much as I hope others will as well. You are a writer and you have something to say. This is where the rubber hits the road.

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Thank you Stacey for reminding me of the artistic process. Of the struggles to dissociate myself from potential fears and differing opinions. It’s so kind of each of you to take the time to read and respond to me both here and on our wall to encourage me. I so love the warmness and care each of you share with me.

      1. Stacey

        You are certainly not alone! I have and do worry about this same thing from a different angle. I think at the heart of it we are always wanting to hear that people like us. It’s the human condition. It’s scary to put our creations out there for all to see. What if they reject us? As I have been putting my toes in the water these last several months I can promise you the risk is worth it ten fold! Thanks again for sharing this. It’s been on my mind today and yesterday a lot as well.

  6. Sundi Jo (@sundijo)

    Remember that it’s not the group that was against Christianity. It was a single person. Don’t move away from writing about your faith, and please don’t move away from the group. Satan would love for us to give up at the first sign of discomfort.

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Sundi Jo —
      The biggest thing I learned from our great leader is to be strong with my voice, and not waver when others disagree. For some reason, this commentary really put me on the defensive. I am not even sure why. I knew it wouldn’t go away until I wrote about it. I decided to publish and post this piece in the hopes of getting some responses from you guys.

      I have not been disappointed. Your concern and encouragement is so motivating and life-giving to me.

  7. annepeterson

    I thoroughly agree with Sundi Jo. Satan is loving this whole thing. Satan loves division, and he hates community. I can’t count the number of times people have said how much they love the community of this group.

    One person verbalized his/her feelings. That one person left the group. It was a choice made. Unless the group changed and we were prohibited to write about what we want to write about, I can’t see how leaving the group would be a benefit.

    It is your decision Chris and I think you and I are similar in that, I process by talking about things. Your writing this out is your processing tool.

    To think that it was your writing is another tool Satan is good at. Blame. He loves blaming us and making us feel guilty. So, it looks like he is the happiest with all of this. Division, disappointment, discouragement. All of the things Satan likes the most.

    Hope you work it out, Chris. You are a part of this group and you would be missed.

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      I hadn’t very deeply considered the spiritual implications of it. That does make a lot of sense. I will have to ponder this aspect of the events a bit more.

      I definitely wrote this as a processing tool. More and more I discover things become clearer in my mind by writing it out. Even the editing is very important. It becomes a matter of me asking myself, “Do I really believe this?” Often times, I find when I reread a draft, I don’t believe some of what I wrote. For example, this looked much different in my first draft.

      As always, I value and deeply appreciate your input Anne

  8. Robin

    Once again, I strongly admire your honesty and your ability to be real with your readers. I relish in the thoughts of watching you grow in your writing — become stronger and write what you know you are to share. Follow the lead of the Savior as to the words you write, and you will always be right on target.
    Forward, march!

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      I guess I don’t know how else to be other than honest and real. Just learning to deal still with the unexpected reactions that arise from it. I am learning it just builds strength and resolve in me and my desire to writer though.

  9. Audrey Chin

    HI Chris

    Thank you for posting this. You should speak your truth as you are led to. If someone is offended by it, then it is their choice to leave the group. As long as your stance is one of loving empathy, then, you have nothing to fear.

    If its’ something worth saying, it will be controversial. Continue to write the way you are. It’s only if we all do that and also practice acceptance, trying to see the other perspective, and empathy that we can grow as a community of diverse people (who may or may not be faith based).

    All we can do is pray for the person who didn’t want any part of it.

    I’d consider this feeling you have a challenge. It means you’re moving to a higher level. Keep on!

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      It always seems like your words are wisdom to me, Audrey. I am so glad we met in Jeff’s course. Thank you for the encouragement to keep pushing through any strangeness or negativity that might come against my art. Or even perceptions of strangeness and negativity.

      I did a heart check, and my intent is and never has been to come at others with a sense of judgment or arrogance. Indeed, I have been hurt by both far to many times myself.

      You are a true encourager to me in my life — thanks!

  10. Christa Sterken (@Csterken)

    Chris, if you decided to pull away, everyone would lose. I value seeing your growth, your perspective. I understand the issue, and your title captures the essence of my feelings as well. But then, I go back to this- my personal experience in this group has been nothing but positive. I will not let someone elses decisions dictate my content. If we did Chris? We’d lose out. Our writing would be inauthentic. And our words deserve to be spoken. Thoughtfully, articulately. And truthfully

    1. sometimeshope Post author

      I too value seeing everyone else’s growth and perspective. I enjoy the writers who have different thoughts than I do at least as much as those with whom I share a worldview. I have grown so much in understanding who I am as a writer, what my voice is, and how to take risks because of our group. I am going to share a bit more of my thoughts later, but I don’t disagree with anything you said.

      Thanks for challenging me to stay authentic.

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  13. Elise Daly Parker

    Your processing helps us all process, which is likely part of what you’re supposed to be doing here in this space. I want everyone to like me and approve of me…and that can stop me from talking/writing truthfully about some topics. At the same time, I need to be true to God’s leading in my life. There’s a balance. I think you should push past your discomfort and stay with TW. Sounds like the value and encouragement outweighs the discouragement. And I agree with Audrey…being challenged is an opportunity for growth!!

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