Do You Tell Everything? Three Questions to Ask

words-we-write-down

I keep a box in the top of my closet.

It’s full of notebooks of intensely private journals, words meant for no one but me and God.

But since 2008, blogging has become my main writing avenue. I process my thoughts and my faith here. (Many bloggers of the present were once journalers in their past, yes?)

Yet these words are public.

Maybe you blog, too, or write Facebook updates or send out tweets.

If so, you’ve probably wondered about what you’re publicly sharing:

  • Is this too personal to post?
  • Not personal enough?
  • Am I self-promoting?
  • Will my words be misunderstood as too harsh?
  • Too soft?
  • Too trite?
  • Too boring?

It’s hard to put into words exactly what we’re thinking. And not all that we’re thinking needs to be put into words. 

So how do we decide what to keep to ourselves versus what to share with others?

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are three questions to ask ourselves to determine how much to tell.

1. Will it benefit someone else?

If your experience or information or questions would help another person learn something, be comforted, avoid the same mistakes, grow in relationship with God and others, or just be pleasantly entertained, do share.

2. Will it help you to share it?

Sometimes you need to confess or to testify or to say something for your own healing. When telling others will help mend your own soul and won’t take others down in the process, let it out.

3. Will it honor God?

This question may be the trickiest because what one person views as God-honoring, another may view as God-defaming. Thankfully, God knows your heart’s motives. And if your goal is to write truthfully and lovingly—even in your struggles and doubts—your words can bring grace and reflect God’s goodness.

Benefits of Writing

Showing others what we have seen brings blessings with it.

When we give away our words, it works . . .

  • To deepen relationships
  • To provoke conversation
  • To clarify thoughts
  • To validate feelings
  • To witness to God’s faithfulness
  • To promote community
  • To strengthen love
  • To extend grace
  • To spread good news

And in the end, whether we keep our written words private or go public with them, the writing itself is worth the effort. Tristine Rainer says it beautifully:

Even if you never share a sentence of your diary with anyone else, you will share it through your life. Its existence will touch other people by the way it changes you and permits you to develop in self-awareness, directness, and honesty.”

Words we write down are words we can return to.

Remembering how faithful God has been in the past gives us hope for how good he’ll be in the future.

* * *

Do you share your writings with others? Keep a journal for yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing.

36 thoughts on “Do You Tell Everything? Three Questions to Ask

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Interesting post, Lisa. I’m definitely not a journaler, and, except for a few introspective months as an adolescent, never was.

    My blog has become a de facto journal, but I try to keep the themes universal, outward-looking, rather than personal. It’s there to serve; I don’t need at as an outlet for myself (and sometimes it’s terribly hard to write about things I don’t want to be facing!).

    I hope it serves God; I suppose I’ll find out one of these days.

    The biggest benefit to me is community; the prayers of my readers are sustaining me now.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/05/your-dying-spouse-156-why-bother.html

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Your blog has been a beautiful de facto journal that many of us continue to benefit from. Thanks for your diligence in sharing there. We continue to listen, Andrew! Know that I’m in the community that prays for you often.

  2. blankLinda Stoll

    Your observations are a clarifying gift, Lisa. I’m with you on the journaling, although I’ve purposefully kept them a bit vague with very few identifying features out of respect for whoever will read them {or not!} someday.

    But yes, blogging has overtaken the time I used to spend on those lined pages. And I’ve had to examine that because the journaling is conversations with the Lord, which I wouldn’t say the blog is, although my heart is linked with His as I pen and post.

    Thanks for provoking some healthy thought and conversation, Lisa. Good stuff …

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I relate to what you’re saying, Linda, about the balance between blogging and private journaling. I want to continue with both, but I’ve also leaned more towards blogging for awhile now. They both serve different but very valuable purposes!

  3. blankMichele Morin

    I’m hearing in your words the results of being steeped in Life Path for a while. Luci is also making me really evaluate what I write, where I write it, and how transparent I am in my reporting and recording. It will be interesting to discuss this book with the community – and I sure wish that Luci were going to be present for the discussion!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re hearing correctly, Michele! I’ve been enjoying Life Path, trying to go slow enough to actually do the writing exercises. It’s much easier for me to just zoom through the pages just reading, but I think the point is to actually write too. 🙂 I look forward to our group discussion as well. I looked up Luci Shaw…she’s around 88 years old now—yes, it would be lovely to have her in our conversation!

  4. blankNancy Sturm

    Great insights, Lisa, on why we write and why we share our writing. Often, we learn as we write. Writing helps us to clarify our thoughts and bring some order into the chaos of thoughts jumbled in our minds. For all the reasons you mentioned, and for my own learning process, I write and share what I’ve written. Thanks for sharing your writing.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Nancy. I don’t quite understand how writing works in our souls like it does, helping us to clarify our own thoughts, but I know it does and I’m grateful to God for that. I’m glad you share your writing! I learn from it and it prompts me to worship God through it.

  5. blankCarly

    These questions are really helpful. I used to journal all the time but since I started blogging that has taken over and I do sometimes wonder if I need to get back to journalling more. There are definitely benefits to both but they are different. Either way, writing is really important in helping me process things, but this is something to think about some more.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like we feel the same way, Carly. I see benefits too to both journaling and blogging, but I definitely blog more than I journal now, for better or worse, I’m not sure. Either way, writing has always been a way that I process my thoughts too. Thanks for sharing!

  6. blankfloyd

    Absolute home run, Lisa. You nailed it quite profoundly. Those questions tend to point me to humility, and in the Light of Who we serve that’s the perfect place to be. Thanks for the thought and heart provoking post, sister.

  7. blankJean Wise

    You know I am a journal lover. I fully expect my kids to read them some day and your three question are clear guidance to remember as I write. I would say I am 99% honest but have been intentionally vague on occasion knowing other eyes may read. BUT my struggles, fears, prayers praises are all there. hope you are having a terrific week!

  8. blankBarbara H.

    I haven’t kept an actual journal since I as a teen-ager. It was in the years just before I became a Christian, and I threw them away because I would have been embarrassed for someone else to read them. Sometimes I wish now that I still had that glimpse back into who I was then, but maybe it’s for the best.

    I used to keep notes on my Bible reading, but eventually felt I was spending more time on my writing than reading, plus it took a lot of time, so I stopped. But it does help to solidify truth in one’s mind by writing it.

    My blog is the primary outlet now. Sometimes it is cathartic or clarifying just to get ones thoughts out – I’ve compared it to having all these tangled threads in my brain, and when I write, I can pull them out one at a time, examine them, and arrange them in order. Sometimes that exercise is all that’s needed. Sometimes I think it might help someone else, so I share it.

    Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between sharing enough to be real and authentic, and sharing more than in necessary or edifying. I think you gave some good principles.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’ve torn out several sections from some of my older journals too, Barbara. I didn’t want them to end up in the hands of anyone else, and I wasn’t too keen on re-reading them myself because of their content. 🙁

      I agree with you; there’s definitely a balance to be kept between reading and writing. I still lean heavier on the reading side. I love your analogy of pulling out one tangled thread at a time in your writing. Very apropos for me too!

  9. blankElizabeth

    I do process through my writing, but being in ministry I have to be careful what I share about struggles at church. When I share family stories, I try to be sensitive to how my loved ones feel about what I share as well.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Good insights, Elizabeth. We definitely have to be extra careful when our stories involve others because privacy must be respected and people need to be honored. Thanks for adding this!

  10. blankBeverley

    Thank you, Lisa. I am sure i have sat here for hour upon hour wondering whether i should or shouldn’t share something or other for all the reasons above and some times i do and some times i write it just for myself, but that’s enough too. I think of my blog as mine, and it it not my desire to upset others by my words but if they are honestly spoken then they remain true no matter what others think or do about them.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I do that sometimes too, Beverley, wondering if I said too much or shared something I shouldn’t have, etc. And occasionally I’ll go back and delete a line or two from a post if I don’t feel right about it. And yes, writing just for ourselves is enough too!

  11. blankDonna @ Soul Survival

    Lisa, I’ve always written in one form or another: journaling, magazine articles, and now, blogging. I love your 3 questions. I believe it’s important to be wise with what we share, especially in this electronic age, while trying to be honest and transparent about our own failures. Thanks for sharing. Blessings!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Excellent, Donna: Wisdom is definitely needed when we put our thoughts out to others. Whether online or in person, we need to weigh our thoughts carefully before we spew them on others. Thanks for sharing; praying for wisdom should be something we do daily!

  12. blankJune

    Excellent tips, Lisa! You know I do both, journal and blog. I am careful about what I share. Scripture cautions us about sharing things that shouldn’t be spoken of even in secret. If we keep our motivation reined in with your three questions, we will do well!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, June, keeping our motivation pure is so essential. Not easy, but essential! It’s when I forget about checking it that I can get most in trouble….

  13. blankDeb Wolf

    Thank you for this, Lisa! Not everything shared is ours to tell. There are two sides to every situation and I think often people are hurt because something is put out there with a very one-sided perspective. Your questions are perfect. I think I’ll make a list and keep it close at hand. Blessings to you!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Oh yes–you’re spot-on, Deb. Too often that one-sided view is a killer to relationships. 🙁 We just think everyone should think like we do, right?

  14. blankDolly@Soulstops

    Lisa,

    I journal much more than I blog. When I blog, I try to keep things vague when it involves other people. Blogging has stretched me because when I began blogging, I didn’t even put my name or photo on my blog. I aim to write what encourages others and brings God glory because He is the main reason I write and I hope/pray one day that He is the only reason I do but this side of heaven, sanctification is a process :-)….much slower than I’d like…but God is gracious.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Keeping things vague about others is a good approach, Dolly. Unless it’s a compliment, of course! 🙂 You definitely do honor God in your writings. I am always encouraged when I visit your words!

  15. blankLaura Thomas

    Love this, Lisa. “Words we write down are words we can return to.” I’ve been journaling my quiet times (not every single day, I’m not THAT disciplined!)) for 12 years now, so I’ve filled a few books! Some I’ve been able to springboard from to write Bible devos for publication or even for blogging ideas, but many are just for me. For us wordy types, that is often how God whispers to our very souls, and I love that I can keep some of it for myself… not in a selfish way, but for my personal spiritual growth. Those words I “can return to” are beyond precious! I’d love to publish a devo book one day, but that’s in God’s hands and in His time. Thanks for sharing… Blessings!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      That’s incredible that you have 12 years of journaling behind you. I’m very impressed, Laura! I’m sure it’s been a great blessing to you…and as a result, to others. When we spend time getting healthy ourselves, the world in general is also healed a little bit more. If it’s meant for you to publish a devo book, I pray that God paves the road straight and easy for you. 🙂

  16. blankLori

    I was never a journaler in the past. It was something I tried but could not get into it. Four years ago, I began journaling my Bible reading and what I learned from it. I did this, so my son and future generations would have my thoughts on certain passages. I have my grandmother’s Bible and seeing her little short notes on pages is what triggered this for me. As for blogging, when I’m sharing something on the personal side I have my husband and/or sister read it because I’m scared of being a “self promoter” after being accused of being one on a post about why we do a certain thing. Self promotion was far from what I was trying to say at that time but after hearing from someone who thought I was, it caused me to be more conscience of what I share now. Thank you for linking up with Thankful Thursdays.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      It’s neat to me how some types of journaling may not click with us, but then another type will magically turn the key. I’m glad you are doing Bible journaling. What a blessing it will be in years to come (not to mention benefits now!) for those who read your words. That’s so cool that you have your grandmother’s Bible. I have one of my dad’s bibles and it is one of my most treasured possessions.

  17. blankPam

    The questions you offer as criteria are excellent! The dilemma is real for each of us, not on every post perhaps but on many. I, too, was first of all an avid journal writer who rarely missed a day. Since starting my website, I seldom journal now since so much of my expression and reflection appears in my blog. Even so, your article gives me pause to consider whether or not I might still do more of that personal journaling where I am pouring out my heart and listening for and recording what I sense from Him that can be far too intimate to share publicly. A good nudge to think and consider once again. Thanks, Lisa!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like we’re in the same place, Pam…rethinking if we should add journaling back into our lineup of writings instead of only blogging. I do keep smaller journals (one-line-a-day, Bible journals) but they’re not very personal. I have been journaling a bit more lately through two books I’ve been reading (not intentionally to journal, but God just worked it out that way!), and I am remembering the benefits of a good ol’ private journal. 🙂

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