No Apologies – Wisdom From Lauren Winner

by | Oct 2, 2012 | Uncategorized

There will be no apologies about your words. It’s what Lauren Winner says, swiping her arms like an umpire yelling safe to the writer.

I push back, press into the rungs of the ladderback and insert my breath into the collective sigh. We’re fifteen writers learning from an author of hardcovers.  I’ve held all of her books in my hands, alongside a highlighter.

She travels the country, teaching writers and scholars in prestigious institutions and our idealistic views about writing, they expose themselves in her silver horn-rims at the front of the room.  Views that hold creativity captive to imitation.

We notice how much we do it. How we let the air out of our thoughts by prefacing with an apology. How it flattens the essence of who we are.

She sheds the idealism by extending a hand of permission, to be ourselves.

It’s a game changer.

Because we do apologize.  Often. For how we look, what we say, for the behavior of our children, the dinner we cook or don’t cook. We apologize for the messy sprawled out on the playroom floor, for the dirty dishes on the counter, for the soiled seats in our car. For not being spiritual enough.

And Jesus rejoices over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Not when you wear the latest trends, compose the perfect sentence, cash a check for all your hard work, recite the perfect prayer. Now, in your pajamas at noon, seated there in front of the computer screen with hair you haven’t washed in three days.

Jesus is pulling up a chair next to you, looking in your eyes and asking, “What can I do for you.”  How will you respond if you can’t apologize for who you are not?

This is the second post in the series 31 Days of Letting Go. You can read the collective here. If you are a writer, I invite you to link up your post on the topic in the comments on Friday of each week so we can glean from your perspective. Subscribe to receive the series in your inbox or feed by adding your address in the side bar under Follow Redemptions Beauty.

Linking with Jen, Jennifer, WLWW, Duane.

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    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Eyvonne, really happy to see you here.

  1. glendachilders

    How cool to get to meet Lauren Winner.

    And how cool to stop apologizing when it isn’t needed.


    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was sort of a dream come true. She is one of my favs.

  2. Lynn Morrissey

    Lauren spoke fairly recently at our church, and she was a breath of fresh air. Her writing is insightful and incisive. I don’t agree with absolutely everything she says (and I’m not apologizing for saying that), but I admire her for saying what she thinks, sans apology, and saying it well. Your retreat just keeps getting better and better. CAn’t wait to read more. THere are times to apologize, of course, but not in the context of what you are saying. You often grant permission, too, Shelly to be ourselves by being yourself. And *that* is also a breath of fresh air!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lauren really gets around when it comes to speaking, doesn’t she? I agree that her writing is insightful and incisive and I too don’t agree with absolutely everything she says either. And I’m so glad you feel I grant the permission to others to be themselves. That makes me happy.

  3. Lynn Morrissey

    You know, SHelly, I”m adding a P.S. here, because in re-reading this wonderful post (as I often do w/ your writing), I think it’s also about letting go of perfection and/or perfectionism. None of us is perfect, so why not just let go of that illusion, sans apology, and be who God created us to be and create how He made us to create? Yes, I think He would sing about that!

  4. debra elramey (@elramey)

    And he does rejoice over us with singing. How about we do the same for him instead of apologizing? He’d much rather hear a song in our heart than an apology for not being ‘perfect.’ I know him that well.

  5. tara pohlkotte

    Oh Shelly. This is really, really good. Let’s stop letting apologies be a safety net. Let’s be brave enough to just “be”.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amen, I’m going there Tara and hope to stay awhile.

  6. Lori

    Oh I love Lauren Winner’s books, ever since “Girl Meets God.” How I wish I could have been there to hear, see and experience it all! Thank you for spotlighting her here in your post, (all of which are inspirational) yes, so often as women, we do feel we have to apologize, for our lives, our failings, and everything we ever did that was wrong…..

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Lori, loved her every since Girl Meets God. I read it laying in bed sick when the kids were little and milked it for all it was worth to finish the book. 🙂 Learning from her now as a writer is really a dream come true.

  7. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Yes, when will we get over worrying what others think, trying to measure up… and just lean back in the gaze of his perfect loving eyes? Probably not till heaven. But we can choose to consciously move more in that direction.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think you are right Pam, we probably won’t stop caring until we see Him face to face. Then it just won’t even occur to us.

  8. wynnegraceappears

    Can we be who we were made to be in Christ.. yes let’s. This slipped into the chambers of my heart and knocked around awhile.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      so glad it resonated Elizabeth. thanks for sharing it, that blessed me big.

  9. Michelle DeRusha

    Cheering!! {and I love this picture – ok if I steal it?}

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yep, stealing is allowed. And if you want it without my blog name on it, let me know.

  10. Michelle DeRusha

    That first picture is a beautiful one of her. You should get a copy printed and mail it to her (do you still have the list of participant addresses? If not I can email it to you!).

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I still have it, was planning to email her with it. I thought she would like it too. She loved that little Ainsley.

  11. Sandra Heska King

    Safe to be ourselves. So grateful to have been part of this with you, to let go and go on together.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Sandy, it was the fuel I needed to light the fire. I loved being there with everyone.

  12. pruningprincesses

    Hi. I haven’t commented in a few weeks but I have been reading. Sometimes I just want to read beautiful words and stories without commenting. I love how God has ministered to you through your blog. I love how technology which some use for evil can be used for good. And I do apologize too much. My daughter does too. Praying for God confidence.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m with you Laura, sometimes I just want to read without commenting. And I haven’t had much time to read lately period. Life is full. Thank you for taking the time to be here, always love connecting with you friend. The way technology brings people together in community is blowing me away to be honest.

  13. Christina

    Oh the freedom to just be me! Thanks for this refreshing taste of freedom from the prison I’ve made for myself. I wish I had been at Laity, wanted to go this year but my sister is getting married:) Maybe next time. Blessings!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Maybe next year Christina, its definitely on my list and I would love to meet you.

  14. simplystriving

    Oh what bravery there is to be found in simply being. Freedom exposed. Yes. Let’s.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s way too much work to try to be like someone else.

  15. Shannon H. Polson (@ABorderLife)

    Thank you for highlighting Lauren- wonderful- and for your challenge to let go! Wisdom hard to live.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Shannon its really nice to meet you. Would love to know how you ended up here. Thankful you stopped by.

  16. Jillie

    What a good way to begin to ‘Let Go’! By putting a halt on the always apologizing thing. This is something I am expert at—not letting go—but always apologizing. Another throwback from my upbringing. When you’re always being told that you’ll never measure up, you apologize for all the ways you see yourself not measuring up. I’m forever apologizing to my husband when things aren’t perfect around here, and he has told me, himself, that I don’t need to always be saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s hard to change, but with God’s grace, I shall be working on this. Thank you, Shelley, for this reminder to learn how to just be who He made us to be…and trusting that it’s good enough.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I do it too Jillie, apologize when it isn’t necessary. We kept catching ourselves, holding each other accountable when we apologized and we laughed about it a lot. I was actually amazed at how often we do it without thinking.

  17. Deidra Riggs

    It was a game changer. That’s for sure. And, Lauren Winner rocks.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes and Yes. I would’ve loved more time with her but grateful for the time I did have.

  18. Jennifer@GDWJ

    OK. So I can totally see Lauren Winner in the umpire move. Nice. 🙂 … I love living vicariously through your words, Shelly. So grateful for all that you’re sharing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Jennifer, its been a lot of fun to write about it all.

  19. Ann Kroeker

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot in relation to storytelling that will involve someone in addition to me. If I take a risk telling a story and it turns out that the other person involved is upset, do I apologize? Most of our lives we are formed and reformed by the friction, sin, repentance, pain, loss, etc. This means that our stories have more than one character in them. Let’s say, then, that I tell a painful story from my past that involves two other people and they end up presented in a less-than-positive light, and they are furious, do I apologize? Or is this an instance where I would apologize that it hurt them, but I cannot apologize that I told a true story from my perspective that I felt was important to share in order to help others who might have struggled similarly?

    I ask this knowing you have told some hard stories from your childhood. Perhaps you have some insight?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Ann, this is something I’m pondering and praying over too, in light of my circumstances. The conclusion I’ve come to is that two people can stand on the shore of a lake and remember what they saw differently. It doesn’t mean someone’s perception is wrong, just different. And we have to own our stories, they are ours, even if other parties don’t agree with our perspective. It’s interesting that you ask this question. I talked to Deidra about this very thing over the weekend. I would be happy to have a further discussion with you about it.

      • Ann Kroeker

        I appreciate your thoughts, Shelly. I’ve talked with Deidra a little about this, too. I’m sort of poking around to find out where others have landed on this to arrive at my own philosophy of storytelling. Another option would be to stay silent about any topic that would reveal details about another person without their permission. The motivation for this would be to show them respect, love, and generosity, understanding that every one of us has failed in all kinds of ways.

        Interestingly, someone not long ago told a story in which I was one of the characters…I’m trying to decide how I felt reading it, but I will say that it was extremely important to hear the events from the storyteller’s perspective. Just as you said, that person told the story; I could tell the same story from a different angle. From where I stand at the lake’s edge, the water was much choppier.

        • Redemption's Beauty

          I talked to Ashley Cleveland about this at Laity actually. She has recently written a book about her difficult childhood. She read a moving chapter from her book and it resonated with my experience as a child too, even though the circumstances were different. Her father is dead now but her mother is alive. She tells the truth from her perspective which does not paint her parents in a positive light. She feels the same way I do, that we must own our story and tell it prayerfully, hoping the characters will extend grace. I was grateful for that conversation as I ponder writing about my life as well.

      • nacoleat6inthesticks

        I’m sorry that I’m poking in here, Shelly, but I’ve had the same thoughts, too. I have seen “Anonymous letters”–so amazing for those who have experienced the unspeakable, but I wonder, just for me, if it would be beneficial to write about it, but not let my face–my voice–be attached to it. Some of the stories I want to tell do involve pain, pain that has shaped me–and I know that some of the ones who were involved may read. What to do? I look to Ann for an example–I am always so surprised at her boldness and it encourages me. She writes, very vulnerably, about her relationship with her father. Yet, I can tell that she respects him greatly. I think I could probably write without giving away too much detail and still say what my soul needs to say. Sometimes stories need to be told. In the telling of abuse that was done to his mother for years at the hands of her husband, my father was able to finally forgive his father after he died–but only because he told the story over and over and he talked to his brothers about it. Some things to ponder here.

    • Patricia Hunter

      Hope it’s OK to join the conversation here. I think that most of us wrestle with this. We are writers and we have stories to tell, but I suspect that there is no one right answer, but here’s what I think. There are several scriptures that come to mind. One of them is that love covers a multitude of sins, and sometimes we are given the privilege of protecting someone’s honor and reputation by loving them enough to cover their sins. That’s not the same as enabling, but giving room for God and grace to work in their lives. While there have been people that have hurt me – deeply, I would never publicly identify them unless, as in the case of my husband, whose alcoholism resulted in our separation, we have resolved the issue and/or they have publicly confessed and revealed their identity first. I have written about Louis’ alcoholism, but he has given his testimony publicly many times, and I do it with respect and understanding.

      I also feel that we are commanded by scripture to honor our parents…and I think of the story of Noah, when he was drunk and naked and one of his sons sees him and goes outside to tell the others. His other sons chose to honor Noah and go in the tent backwards to cover Noah from shame, but the son who came out to tell the others and chose not to cover Noah was cursed. I have started to tell a few stories about growing up with my father who did not know how to love or nurture me – he wasn’t abusive, just negligent – but he’s been gone for 15 years and I’m trying to tell the stories in such a way that I understand that he grew up without a father, too – and as they say, hurt people hurt people. More importantly, I’ve had to check my motivation for telling these stories – ephesians (can’t remember the exact chapter and verse) tells us that our words must be uplifting and helpful to those who hear (or read) them. I need to guard against commiserating as a victim because that isn’t helpful – but tell these stories in ways that show how God has used them for our good and His glory.

      Our stories can bring hope and healing to others and need to be told, that’s why I don’t think there is one right answer, but I don’t think we should do so at the expense of others when we are also commanded by scripture to consider others more important than ourselves. I feel like I’ve rambled, but this is an issue I’ve considered at length and Shelly asked that we share our thoughts.

      • Megan Willome

        Patricia, I needed your words this morning.

  20. nacoleat6inthesticks

    I. love. this. I really needed to read this–in my pajamas. ~smile~ Love to you.

  21. Megan Willome

    Shelly, I wish we would’ve talked about this while I was there with you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know me too. I’ve actually contacted Lauren to say the same. It would’ve been helpful to hear from some published authors about it.

  22. Jennifer Camp

    Shelly, oh, how you encourage and coax us all to be brave. We are each so powerful and beautiful when we own who we are, in Him — yes, without apologies. Love this. Thank you so much. . And wow, all these amazing comments your words prompt, too! Just beautiful!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I’m glad to know I do that Jennifer. To God be the glory. It takes a lot of living to own who we are in Him. I’m still growing into it.

  23. Laura Brown

    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between writing in a workshop setting and writing for publication. My sense is that Lauren specifically meant the former — not apologizing for our writing or our reading analyses in that working setting. In other words, when you show up at the workshop or seminar table, take yourself seriously as a writer and reader, and do not measure yourself against the relative experience or confidence of the writers beside you. It’s an act of self-respect. It also, perhaps, raises rather than lowers the bar for your own expectations, because it’s also an act of respect toward the work.

    As for writing about others in ways that might cast them in an unfavorable light, or wound them, there’s often the option to let them read it before publication. It’s my understanding that Ashley Cleveland has let the family members mentioned in her memoir read the parts that mention them.

    When we write *for publication* about others, I think it’s useful to imagine them reading it (though at revision stages, not at the first draft stage). I personally think a similar ethic applies in posting photographs of others.

    • lborange

      Also, there’s a distinction between the necessary, private, specific apology and the reflex, public, general apology. “I am woman, hear me, sorry” is something to stamp out, for sure. And that IS freeing and a game-changer.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree with what you said Laura, about Lauren referring to the former. It was interesting though, how readers were led to this topic, when that wasn’t my intention. I talked to Ashley and I could have misunderstood but she told me her father has passed and her mother doesn’t read what she writes, even though she knows she has written about her. Thanks, your thoughts were helpful.

  24. Tiffany Stuart

    I love your writing voice and your heart of encouragement. Thank you for writing about the reality of what I believe we all struggle with: Grace for self. I am asking God for the courage to be more of me, all for Him.

    • shelly

      Thanks for the encouragement Tiffany, honored that you visited and looked around a bit.

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