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  • Reverend James Squire

Check Your Ego At The Door

Churchill wrote: “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling it to the public.”

I am in the midst of doing the final edits on the book that is comprised of 220 posts. It is 579 pages. I hope that it helps people. There is something biblical about editing. Matthew said: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but not notice the log in your own eye.” (Matthew 7:3) Good editing reduces the log in the author’s eye for not seeing errors that should have been picked up by me. I go back to one of my key life lessons that “life is to be enjoyed or learned from.” There is great joy in writing. Not so much for me in editing but a lot of learning.

When you ask someone to edit your work, check your ego at the door. It is not for the faint of heart. Once I did this, I can see some important lessons that I have learned. The same dynamic that occurs in editing is the same process in counseling another. I have mentioned in another blog that when I entered the program in counseling at Duke University and Duke Medical Center, they put me and my classmates in individual and group therapy so that we could learn more about ourselves before we could help those who come to us. It is rather humbling to learn about the real “you.”

The same is true of editing. When the first round of editing at the publisher was finished getting the book right, I was shocked when a second editor found a ton of errors that the first person and I overlooked. When I was reviewing the recent and last draft, I found myself saying to myself, I know better than to make those errors. Why didn’t I see it? If you have been to the eye doctor, you know that there is a test that you take where you sit in front of a machine and click when you see spots of light being flashed all over a screen in front of you. Then you get a print out. You see a whole area that you failed to see the flashing light. It is called our “blind spot.” If you are human, you have one. The same is true of editing, counseling others, and, for that matter, living life.

I took some comfort in seeing that the editor too had made mistakes in his work. In fact, when you are a writer, you see errors in books that places like Scribner’s put out. Stephen King has a website where you can go and identify errors of style and grammar in his work and forward them to him.

For example, what is a word or expression that you use too often, and everybody but you know it. The number of times that I used “really” to really make a point of emphasis was embarrassing. One of my family members uses the word “totally” when that person wants to emphasize something such as, “I totally agree with what you are saying…totally.” What’s yours?

But what is most important is to know our blind spots particularly when you are trying to help someone else. Often our blind spots are in plain sight which everyone can see but us. I saw all the errors in the recent manuscript, but didn’t see them even the way that a counselor, or editor or friend can see them. I am talking about holy conversations. One of the most moving lines to me for from that great hymn, Amazing Grace, is “once I was blind but now I see.” We need to become editors of our own souls and discover what is moving around there in our daily lives.

If someone would have challenged me by betting me that there would be a whole lot of edits still needed, I would have bet that there weren’t, and lost the ranch.

Just as we need to check our ego at the door when we are working with an editor, we need to check our ego, call it pride or hubris, when are trying to help another or when we are doing important soul or psyche work. It is called self-reflection or prayer.

The book will be more readable because I was required to reach out and have someone take a hard look at the work. It is so much better than I could do on my own.

What is the danger if we don’t go about our life in that way, “once I was blind but now I see?”

The answer is no further than the words of Matthew that we will never see the log in our eye while appreciating the speck in the eye of others.

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