“…for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:43
Whether shopping, traveling, or looking for a good book, it’s impossible to miss the relatively new phenomenon of publicized personal opinion. From the beginning of time, people have had opinions, but only recently has there been an avenue for complete strangers to express and access those opinions. Yes, I’m talking about reviews.
Want to find a restaurant? Run a search and check the reviews. Let’s not eat anywhere less than three stars. 93% of people like this movie. That’s worth the price of admission. This computer is more highly rated than that one. Wonder why? Read the reviews. I doubt there are many of us who don’t find this a valuable tool, even considering the top product reviews are often bought and paid for. If the one star reviews are personal issues or sour grapes, you may assume the rest are pretty accurate.
As consumers, researching the opinions of others can keep us from wasting money and time on poor quality things and experiences. None of us will agree on everything, but it warrants consideration when a number of people create a consensus. A high percentage of rave reviews can direct us to discover something we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
As authors, we can’t ignore the reality of reader reviews, and my question is, should we? The answers to that are as varied and individual as we are. For some authors, reading their own reviews is anathema. It seems like seeking human praise when the ratings are good or self-flagellation when they’re bad. It is a valid position to avoid reviews as a source of pride or pain, especially if it impacts our ability to do this thing we’re called to. I respect and understand that.
I have a different viewpoint, however. For me, reviews are a way to see God’s hand. I write because I need to. I publish because I’m called to. I give God the best I have, and when people post reviews it’s like a harmony to the melody I sing. Someone out there has added their voice to this work of God through me, and I’m so privileged to have them. I’ve been brought to tears by the recognition of God’s gift and been lifted from discouragement more times than I can say. I’ve been reminded of his purpose and power by the words of readers I’ll never know. This is precious and life-giving to me and to my work.
Are there sour notes in this song? Yes! I love that God gave me a sense of humor and a thick hide. There is nothing a reader can say about my writing that I haven’t thought myself plenty of times while ripping out and writing over. And then there are those who find God distracting or offensive, and what a great opportunity to pray. Lord, find them, touch them, heal them. Open their eyes. If I hadn’t read the review, I wouldn’t know their need.
But for all you readers who take the time to post reviews that encourage others to read and support the work I do to build the kingdom of God, know from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I read the words you take the time to write, and I’m blessed. I pray for others who will read your words and join the chorus, not for human praise, but in joyful recognition of the Source.