This Is What Happens When Grace Wins

I’m not good enough.

It says it right there in the email I’m reading. It says the sales of Loveable are not strong enough to warrant publishing its companion book. And, though the voice of shame within me has gotten quieter over the last decade, it is seizing upon this opportunity.

Loveable Book

Photo Credit: Julia Sudnitskaya (Bigstock)

In fact, it’s doing exactly what I predicted in Loveable it would do:

When we embrace our worthiness enough to trust our voice, we begin to use our voice in the world. And when we begin to find our places of belonging amongst those who are grateful for our voice, those very same people encourage us to practice the passions that have been threaded into our souls from the very beginning. And when the practicing of those passions doesn’t go as planned, you find yourself back at what feels an awful lot like square one, as the voice of shame within you begins questioning your worthiness all over again.

The sales of Loveable aren’t good enough, so you aren’t good enough, Kelly.

The voice of shame within me is piping up again, telling me I was wrong all along, telling me to go back into hiding, telling me to go silent. So, I go silent for a few days. I get quiet and I contemplate giving up.

However, something else has also been happening over the last decade—as the voice of shame has quieted, the voice of grace within me has gotten bolder. So, as I do the bidding of shame and go silent, I hear the voice of grace all the more clearly:

The one thing you can’t let yourself do is go silent.

So, here I am on the verge of Christmas. No, I’m not George Bailey standing on a bridge, his dreams dashed and his hope gone, contemplating jumping into icy waters. I don’t need an angel named Clarence to swoop in and save me. I’m just Kelly. This isn’t It’s a Wonderful Life. But I do believe this:

It’s a wonderful book.

I believe in Loveable, and I need your help.

The voice of shame within me is scolding me for saying that out loud. It says that if I want help I have to help myself, because when I start asking for help from people, I quit being valuable to people. It says that my belonging is contingent upon giving, not receiving. My shame says to work harder, ask for less, and dress it up as generosity, so I can pat myself on the back while I burn myself out. My shame looks down at me with this patronizing look on its face and tells me this passion for writing that I’ve been practicing is cute, but maybe it’s time to grow up and focus on my real job.

And yet.

Peering over the shoulder of my shame is Grace. She’s smiling and rolling her eyes at my shame, like she and I have an inside joke and we both know my shame is annoying but harmless and we can let it ramble on and eventually it’ll tire itself out. Then, she starts speaking and her voice is like coming home…

She tells me it’s been a long forty-one years trying to do it all on my own, a long forty-one years feeling safe asking for help from no one but my wife. She tells me the second half of my life—the aging and the frailing—is going to require a lot of help, so I may as well get started with the asking. She tells me I’m loveable enough to ask.

She tells me I’m loveable, regardless of the answer.

So, here I am, asking you for help. Would you make a special Christmas list this year? Would you make a list of all the people you want to give Loveable to this holiday season? Would you make a list of friends and family and therapists and the leaders you love and that stranger on the train who keeps coming to mind? Would you make a list, and give each of them a copy of Loveable?

I’ll be honest, it’s tempting to end this post with some helpful tidbit for you. But this time, I’m not going to do it. This post is my Christmas gift to myself. It’s all asking.

It’s all Grace.

***

Thank you, friends, for being a safe place to ask, for your grace, and for spreading the love this holiday season by giving Loveable to the ones you love. You can order it below, or from your local bookseller. 

Order LOVEABLE on Barnes & Noble

Order LOVEABLE on IndieBound

Order LOVEABLE on Amazon

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kathryn

    I value the example that you set in choosing to listen to the voice of Grace over shame, both in your post and throughout the pages of Loveable. It engenders hope for all of us who struggle with shame; and that too, is truly Grace. I just ordered two more copies of Loveable… Thanks to you, my Christmas shopping is now underway; and I can’t think of a better gift than the gift of Grace. :- )

    • Kathryn, I’m grateful for your words. They were waiting for me when I woke up and brightened my day immediately. Thank you!

  • Kim Williamson

    Kelly, once again THANK YOU for staying with you and wrestling within to hear and respond with courage to the voice of grace!!!! Ahhh I have so much applause for who you are and who you dare to be unveiled to all of us. On behalf of this community I dare say we applaud who you are and the voice of grace that wins!!!!!

    I will prepare my list today. I have some thoughts too on this if ever you want to reach out and dialogue.

    Come on! Keep asking. I’m going to keep asking too.

    • Kim, thank you for the loads of encouragement in this and the offer to dialogue; I will take you up on that! Missed you this morning!

  • Thank you again for your kind words and friendly reminder that “I am enough.” I am reading Loveable for the second time and it brings so much insights and more clarity to this transitional phase of my career. When shame seems to remind me that “I am not enough” due to not closing a deal, grace reminds me that “embracing your foundational worthiness—is a prerequisite for allowing yourself to be loved well by someone else.” I see the “not closing the deal” as a gained experience, not a lost opportunity. I am grateful for the book and for you.

    • Anne, I think most authors would tell you that they are quite honored by a “second read.” Thank you for sharing this and I’m thrilled to hear that this shift in perspective has already begun to redeem some experiences that might normally be viewed as a failure. I’m grateful for you as well.

  • Kirsten

    I’m not sure what kind of contract you have but perhaps you should visit another publisher. Sales targets are all about money. I think the book is about more than that.

    • Brian Shimer

      I love this thought, Kirsten. Amen.

  • Kathy Adams

    I am reminded that any gift to ourselves is a gift to others as we are all of the stars. Your gift to self is one to me as well in that we remain as always connected in the struggles with our shame and the light of Grace.

    • Thank you for this, Kathy. I’m grateful for the reminding that there is a mutual blessing in giving and receiving.

      • Kathy Adams

        You are welcome. Your willingness to share is so important to me and has been for sometime. Do not quit–ever–unless of course the universe has other plans :-). I have recently discovered a way to look at what happens when life is not going according to MY plans—the universe always offers me something that knocks me on my can–yet I have come to see this as a realignment–a needed one. I just had never thought of the universe as the soul’s chiropractor 🙂

        • Thank you for this welcome reminder, Kathy, and for that lovely image: “the soul’s chiropractor.” Love it!

  • how i get this story

    Will you consider selling it independently? Martha Beck has a similar story, did that, and THRIVED. I keep trying to order the e-book, but i will not give amazon my phone number. I’m sure I’m not the only one who stops at that first click….

    • It’s a very good suggestion, and something I would definitely consider; thank you! And, yeah, I hear you about the phone number thing. 😕

  • Brian Shimer

    HI Kelly,
    You know I think there is nothing as powerful as vulnerability. Thank you for your honest sharing. I don’t know if I can get a bunch more copies of the book, but I promise to pray on that. What I do know is this post encouraged my heart, feeling also like I don’t measure up, and don’t amount to much this week on Monday. It is tough some days to silence the shame and hear grace. IT is difficult to see through to the light. Thanks for sharing and for continuing to write. The publishing world does not have the eyes to see what is right in front of them, but still God has plans for using you, and all this, for great things. You are valued and loved and making an impact. Sometimes we cannot see through the dimness. That’s true for me.

    Had a really interesting thing happen yesterday. I was working with a 21 yo young man, like your Dante in tennis shoes, and at one point found myself encouraging him. I usually ask a bunch of questions and listen. I had done that. But then, I told him that he had a purpose and reason for living. He was on this earth for a reason, his life would impact many, many people’s lives. Like I said, I don’t usually do this. But it was just a timing/prompting thing. I was the audible voice of grace. Tears came to his eyes. And he said, “I never saw myself that way.” I had become a father’s voice in his life, and spoke life to his heart. But the crazy thing that happened is that as I encouraged him, my own heart was encouraged as well. I took to heart the words I was speaking to him, and worth entered my own heart. The voice of grace got the upper hand within me. God is so tricky!

    May grace speak loudly. May you know joy, deep and powerful joy.

    • Hi Brian, part of what was hard about publishing this post was knowing that it would go to people who have already shared many copies of the book and I didn’t want to leave anyone feeling like they haven’t already “done enough.” I’m grateful for the ways you’ve already encouraged me in word and action over the last couple of years, Brian. And here you are doing it again with this beautiful story. It reminds me so much of Gregory Boyle’s stories in “Tattoos on the Heart.” You two are drawing upon the same grace, I think. And thank you for your benediction, friend.

  • Sheri App

    I’ve loved your book! My husband and I are both reading and re-reading. It has truly been a gift for us. Thank you for risking, offering your wisdom, sharing your story, and walking this path with us of undoing some of the shame we’ve hung on to for so long. Please don’t stop writing. I will definitely order a few more! Thanks for letting us know.

    • Sheri, I’m thrilled to hear that a couple is reading it together; thank you for letting me know that! And thank you for your words of encouragement and for ordering a few copies for your people. I’m truly grateful. Please give your husband my best wishes!

  • Diane Geary Fox Thurman

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! God has used you to speak into my heart in the past and then again this morning after an anxious night. I spent this morning composing an email to my husband who is out of town) in which I quoted your post extensively. I love you writing and after reading “Lovable” this summer, gifted it to two friends and then left my copy with my daughter. Now, I am off to place a Christmas order. I am so glad you listened to Grace and had the courage to ask!

    • Diane, I’m both honored and humbled to hear this. Thank you for sharing this with me, it’s a great encouragement. And thank you for sharing Loveable with your people!

  • Richard

    We will never be able to be enough, say enough, write enough or show enough to fill the vacuum of another person so never feel judged by that. The Spirit can speak to them through or words or our art, but the empty feeling inside them is where they must meet the Spirit for themselves. The best we can do is keep on pointing them in that direction and resist feeling “less than” when we can’t meet their demands. We aren’t supposed to meet them. If anything we are supposed to be like an appetizer or a tempting aroma…to increase their hunger and point them toward the feast.

    These thoughts were shared with me by a friend who read this entry.

    • Richard, indeed the theme of Loveable is that our sense of worthiness cannot come from another but only from within. Please pass along to your friend my gratitude for echoing that theme so beautifully, and thank you for sharing it with me.

  • Liz Brown

    Loveable was a life-altering book for me. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching for the past few years, but the threads hadn’t come together. Reading your book gave me the final key to really understanding myself. Since I read a library copy, I decided to purchase one to keep. I plan to refer back to Loveable so that I can deepen my understanding of myself.

    • Wow, Liz. Life-altering. What a gift that is to hear. Thank you for letting me know, and I pray that the book will continue to bring clarity and insight upon second reading.

  • Jennifer Karsner

    Kelly, There is so much truth and pain and beauty and bravery in this. Which really is the intersection where grace thrives. I’ve been in a challenging and stressful season lately. Yesterday I was sitting in a worship service praying. There were other things going on in the service but I was ignoring them sitting with my eyes closed, yelling at God. The yelling went something like, “Enough! Enough already! This is enough. I am so exhausted and so tired. It’s enough already.” If a voice in your head can have a tone it was definitely some combination of angry and exhaustion bordering on apathy. And then I felt the Spirit brush up against me and in the gentlest, most loving and soothing voice possible say, “It IS enough. You are enough. My grace is enough. It is all enough.”

    Regardless of book sales and publisher’s decisions, may you feel the gentle brush of the spirit saying, “It IS enough. You are enough. My grace is enough. It is all enough.” Because your enoughness has never been questioned by the one whose opinion matters.

  • Carolyn

    Your book is amazing! You have to keep writing!

  • Teresajc

    This book changed my life FOR REAL. I bought the audible and the paper copy. I’m on my second time through. I will most certainly buy more copies as well as promote it whenever I can. Thank you so much for your authenticity!

    • Teresajc, the “FOR REAL” brought me real joy. Thank you for that and for sharing it with your people. I hope the second read is as meaningful as the first!

  • Jennifer Patterson

    Hi Kelly, I read every one of your posts & love the thoughts each one provokes. I have read ‘‘Loveable”. It was absolutely fantastic! I now listen to your Loveable Podcast, without fail, each week or when they’re released. I have purchased copies of “Loveable” to give to family & friends as Christmas presents. I particularly purchased a copy for my youngest daughter (33 yrs) who has had various struggles during her short life; particularly being the youngest of 6! Victoria was so grateful for the book that she asked for one of my spare copies to give her therapist! I would love to purchase the companion book to “Loveable”. Why not self-publish if your publisher is reluctant? a purchased PDF from your website, through ETSY …..
    Have a wonderful Christmas full of grace & family love. Cheers, Jennifer Patterson – Australia

  • Nicole

    I have purchased 8 copies of loveable and it is the only present I will give my friends this year.

    • Nicole

      I love love love this book! Thank you

      • I have no words, Nicole. Just gratitude! Please give my best to each and every one of your friends, and thank you for this gift to me.