Thoughts on Becoming Influential. Or, the Night God Told Me to Chill Out

microphoneI started thinking seriously about the importance (or non-importance) of becoming influential a few years ago when I was in the process of trying to become a famous writer.

I was learning all that I could about how to become a successful blogger – about building your platform, about getting lots of comments and inbound links and subscribers. I was on the computer for hours every day, reading things like 10 Habits of Highly Successful People. I was learning about SEO and online marketing and finding your tribe. Everything I did was focused on becoming influential.  I watched my Google Analytics carefully, kept fretful track of my Alexa ratings.

My motives were kind of noble – at least ostensibly. See, I felt I was called to spread God’s Truth through my writing. I always had. I wanted to become an influential writer so that I could touch people’s lives and share God’s love. I wanted to become God’s tool to spread his Kingdom, and I was pretty sure that I would be most useful as a famous writer.

And I needed a platform in order to do that.

I was working hard at becoming a famous writer for God but I was going nowhere, nowhere, nowhere.

Then one night, I kind of snapped.

It was in the middle of the night, and I was sobbing hysterically in my bed. I was so exhausted. I sat up, my arms tight around my legs, and rocked back and forth, Ben sleeping quietly next to me.

I was despairing over how hopeless it all felt. I was going nowhere. I was a nobody. I was investing all this time and energy into being a successful blogger, but had no real numbers to show for it. My eye sockets were in constant pain from staring at the computer screen all day, my body felt stiff and tight. And for what?

I thought you wanted me to be a writer! I said to God. All my life I’ve felt that was my calling. But it’s hopeless. What is a writer without readers? Nothing.  I’m just some dumb girl writing to herself on the internet. What’s the point?

And that’s when God spoke to me.

Now. I’m not one who’s given to frequent or particularly dramatic religious experiences. As far as religious folks go, I’m on the tamer end of the spectrum. I’m skeptical. I’m doubtful. I’m critical. I feel like maybe I’ve sensed God speaking to me three or four times in my 26 years as a Christian, and even of those I’m skeptical. But I thought I heard God speak to me in that moment.

I thought I heard him say something like this to me:

“I may or may not use your fame as a tool to do my work in the world. I’m not going to tell you. But regardless of how I choose to use you, you need to be satisfied with the reality that you may never be very influential.”

Maybe that was just my subconscious talking to my conscious self. And maybe that still counts as God speaking to me, because maybe he implanted that wisdom in my mind through fairly natural means. I have no idea.

But I’ve taken that message very seriously.

Almost immediately, I began to feel peace. I stopped caring whether or not I ever become a successful writer.

I started to realize that the almost universal desire to “leave our marks on the world” is essentially egocentric. At the end of our lives, we want to feel like we mattered – that during out time on this earth, we did something meaningful and important with our lives.

This desire is opposed to the Christian teaching that we are inherently important to God regardless of what we do, simply because God decided to bestow value on us. We can’t earn merit. We can’t add value to ourselves or to our lives through what we do.

And besides that, it’s focused on ourselves and our own feelings of self-worth.

In trying to become famous (in order to spread God’s love and expand his Kingdom, of course) I was first and foremost trying to prove to myself and to others that I was important and that I mattered — that I was able to do good. I wanted to feel worthwhile based on what I accomplished.

But God doesn’t necessarily call us to be effective or influential. He just calls us to be humble, loving and joyful. He asks us to accept his love and then spread it to others. And maybe he’ll make us useful by making us influential. But he might not. And that shouldn’t be any our concern.

If our goal is to become influential in and of itself, we’re missing the point, and any fame is therefore valueless.

I still forget this from time to time. I still get caught up in thinking that I’m only doing well as a writer if I have lots of readers.

But I try to remind myself of what I felt so strongly that night: that my worth is the same no matter what I accomplish, and that the number of people I influence is not really my concern.

Have you ever struggled with anything similar?

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  1. What powerful words of wisdom. Our value has been determined by God when he invested in us on the cross. Our pastor on Sunday quoted these words, “If the value of an article is dependent upon the price paid for it, Christ’s death made our value skyrocket. Let no one say we are worthless. God is not a foolish speculator; he would never invest in worthless property.” — Erwin W. Lutzer. Take that as an encouragement! I agree that we are to be faithful to God and allow Him to be the Person of Influence, not us. We are simply an instrument of God, drawing attention away from us toward Him. A great challenge for all of us in this narcissistic society in which we live.

  2. For the record Kathleen, you are very influential in my life and I kinda think you’re one of the coolest people I don’t know! I have a dream of someday meeting you and of our daughters being pen pals….

    I have just recently realized that all the grand things I used to want to do now seem dwarfed in comparison to this role and mission of motherhood. I have never felt so at home doing something in my entire life and I have no doubt that this is my calling and career! My little (for now) family is my mission field… and if I succeed in raising Godly children who do indeed love the Lord with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, I shall consider myself influential. By reaching them I shall enable them to reach others and that is a beautiful thought.

  3. @Maria: great quote! Thanks!

    @Raeanne: Aw, Raeanne, you are too sweet! Wouldn’t that be amazing? And I feel exactly the way you do about motherhood. I am finally where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes I forget that my family is my mission field — what a good reminder that what I’m doing — even just taking time to listen to her and respond to her — is vitally important!
    Kathleen Quiring recently posted..Thoughts on Becoming Influential. Or, the Night God Told Me to Chill OutMy Profile

  4. Right on, Kathleen darling

  5. Oh my goodness…how extremely timely this post is! I was just writing in my journal yesterday about this very topic. I struggle over this so so much. I intellectually know what you are saying…that we are important by our very nature of existing and I try to let this sink in as deep as possible. It’s so hard though to really, really feel this deeply, with my wild ego always bouncing around and getting in the way.

  6. Never commented but I love your writing, here and on ProjectM where your honesty has meant a lot to me on subjects not many people will talk about.
    Yesterday, I thought, Jesus was 30 before he started his real work and mission. What happened before then? Preparation, ground work I guess. I do not doubt he was always willing but God knew the time wasn’t right.
    You have a great vision and are clearly a godly woman. God is already using you, but maybe this is only the ground work for something more.

  7. Yes! I am right there with you, Kathleen. It is such a hard lesson to learn, but once you do, it’s great. (Not that I’ve mastered it, but I’m on the right path.) I found that the only way I could start growing in humility was by realizing that I am nobody – just like millions of other women throughout the years. Would I still love to be an influential writer? You bet. Would I still love to at least have a great-granddaughter who someday reads my blog archives? You bet. But in the meantime I’m trying to remember that I will probably be forgotten in only a few generations – and that’s not a bad thing.
    That Married Couple recently posted..My work here is doneMy Profile

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