By Nola Passmore
Have you ever written something you came to regret? If so, you’re in good company.
In her pre-Christian days, best-selling author Terri Blackstock wrote novels she later regretted. When one of her readers asked which pseudonyms she had previously written under, Blackstock gave the following response: ‘I don’t like to give that information out, because I don’t want people looking for those books. I’m ashamed that I wrote them, because they contain things that I have repented of. I wish I could gather them all up and destroy them, but I can’t.’
Of course, regrets do not just afflict novelists. Larry Norman, the father of Christian rock music, wrote a song called Reader’s Digest in which he attacked a number of people in the music industry. Comedian Wendy Harmer wrote and performed a parody song entitled Everyone Knows It’s Lindy based on the false assumption that Lindy Chamberlain had killed her baby daughter Azaria. Both of these artists were later sorry for things they had written and said.
By God’s grace, I was already a reasonably mature Christian before I started sending material off to publishers. However, I’m sure there would have been regrets if I’d sent out some of my early work. After all, I did once argue in a school debate that we couldn’t be sure the Bible was real. Although I was a Christian, I reasoned that it was okay to say that in a public forum because you don’t have to agree with the points you argue in a debate. D’oh! And of course, being a more mature Christian doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes in the future. It’s scary to think how much damage even one misguided remark on a blog could do. You can later delete it, but you have no control over how many people have already downloaded it or shared it on other sites.
So what do we do if we’ve written something we wish we hadn’t?
- First, repent. That not only means confessing your mistakes to God, but also determining to do things differently in the future. None of us is perfect, but we can choose to follow God’s plan for our writing and ask Him to guide us.
- Second, if your words have caused hurt, apologise to the person concerned. Larry Norman apologised to John Lennon and Paul McCartney for words he had written about them and changed those lines in subsequent versions of the song. When Lindy Chamberlain was finally exonerated in 2012, 32 years after baby Azaria’s death, Wendy Harmer wrote an open apology in her online column: ‘In pursuit of a laugh, I too carried a burning stick. Such was the firestorm of hatred, all rationality was lost … Lindy, Michael, I am truly sorry for the hurt I caused you, your family and friends. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.’ Lindy Chamberlain’s response? It takes ‘a huge amount of courage to admit that [you] were wrong … Good on her’.
- Third, ask God to redeem the situation and any damage that has been done. Terri Blackstock has had an incredible ministry since turning her writing over to the Lord. She was even able to get the rights back to some of her books and rewrote them to include Christian themes. Her Second Chances series was the result.
- Fourth, pray, pray, pray. Pray as you write. Pray before shooting off that email or blog comment. Pray before entering your work in a competition or sending it off to a publisher. Pray when you make a make a mistake, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again with God’s help.
Have you ever written anything you’ve regretted? What did you do to deal with the situation?
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 120 short pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies (including poetry, devotions, magazine articles, true stories and short fiction). She and her husband Tim have just started their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. She loves writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it ‘nagging’, but she calls it encouragement).