I picked up my phone for the umpteenth time that day to check my latest stats, and that’s when it hit me. I was starting to let numbers determine my value.
I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone. We all know the feeling. We post a picture on Instagram and keep checking to see how many people loved it, or even better – commented on it. We share a witty meme, angst of the day or cat picture on Facebook and go back about every 10 minutes to see who liked it. Well, those who know me also know that I would never post a cat picture, but you get my point. I’m not sure there are that many of us who post something and then never think to go back and see what kind of effect it had on people. Am I right?
So my particular epiphany happened over a blog post. I’ve been writing a blog for 6 years now. 300+posts. I write even though the blog hasn’t broken any records for views and it hasn’t shown up on any notable person’s radar. I keep doing it, because I think I have some things to share. But honestly, I know that the desire for affirmation and approval lurks just slightly below the surface, and all it takes is just one negative comment or low-stat day and I start to question what I’m doing. I start to question if God still wants me to write and if I still have anything of value to say. I briefly consider stopping altogether.
How quickly I forget why I started to write in the first place. I wanted to encourage others by sharing the lessons God was teaching me. My unique perspective as a single woman learning to trust God in all areas of my life (not just the relationship ones) gave me a voice and a platform to encourage others. God opened the door, but He never told me that I needed to encourage hundreds of others. Or thousands of others. So if He didn’t specify the scope of my writing, why do I let myself get so anxious over it?
That anxiety is a sin issue, yes. Be anxious for nothing, right? But a tangled “web” hasn’t really helped the situation.
I know that the internet allows me to communicate with people who aren’t part of my immediate circle. That’s what blogs are all about, aren’t they? We’re only one click away from people on the other side of the country and even the other side of the world. Unfortunately, it’s also the web that feeds my insecurities about whether or not what I’m writing is valuable. It reminds me that others are more successful, have more views, more readers, more shares, more likes. It tells me that if my blog isn’t referenced on popular websites or by popular people, my message is somehow less important.
I joined an online writers group recently. I sincerely wanted to know how to get better at what I do. It turned out to be not as much about actual writing, but about how to “Grow your email list! Hook them with a giveaway! Make money from your blog!”.
That “increase your traffic!” message was hard for me. At first it seemed innocent enough, but then it became the goal. Numbers. It became all about the numbers. And the next thing I knew, I was checking my phone every 5 minutes to assess those all-important views.
Had I become more focused on my numbers than on my message? Was I allowing those numbers to determine the value of what I was sharing? I had only 32 people click on my entry one day. If I had 32 people in a Bible class at church listen to what I had to say and respond well to it, I’d consider that a good crowd. But because we’ve been so trained to have it be all about the numbers and clicks and likes and shares, we think we’re failing or not measuring up. We need the numbers to feel validated and that’s not right. What if our stories only need to encourage a few people to be “successful” in God’s eyes? What if we’re not all going to end up as highly notable authors and speakers who have 100,000+ followers on social media and name recognition and incomes generated from blogs and websites? What if God gives us a platform that encourages just a handful of people at a time? The internet has brought the world closer, but that doesn’t mean our ministries all have to become world-wide in size or scope.
While processing these thoughts, I got a message from a woman who said she shared my blog post with her discipleship group at church. I felt like God was saying, “See? You do have an influence. That post you were so worked up about needed to be read by a few women this morning. You did good.” God was validating my work. God, not 100 clicks, not 100 “likes”. But the One whose opinion I value the most saw what I had done in His name, and blessed it.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16 NLT
My part might not be the biggest, flashiest or most popular. There are a lot of body parts that don’t get much recognition or attention, but they’re still vital and still valuable. My little blog will never take the internet by storm, will never go viral or take down a server because of too many hits. But it’s what God has enabled me to do. He blesses it and uses me, not always in big ways (by the world’s standards) but in little faithful ones. I’ll continue to seek out ways to improve what I do and make my writing better. But it can’t be for the numbers.
Your ministry may be small by the world’s standards. Your circle of influence may not be as big as some. But that doesn’t make your role in God’s kingdom any less important. He has gifted us all differently, and puts us right where He needs us to be.
So go ahead and share and write or do whatever it is you have been called to do. And do it well. But leave the validation to the One who called you to do it.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24