Spiritual Editing

Mark-ups (whether red, purple or blue) from editing are my friends. A  fellow writer and dear friend once told me of his posture toward editors—they are his welcomed friends. Thanks, Gordon. He told me he accepts most all of the input they give him. Ironically, he taught me much about accepting “spiritual editing” in the same manner. You see, writing books and articles can make me feel very vulnerable. I write because I desire to share things that help me connect to God and his Word.  I pray these things will benefit many others. But the voice in my head can say: What if this sounds stupid, or makes no sense? Is this any good? Is it helpful to anyone? 

That’s why I seek editing for my writing.  Editing exposes and corrects my weaknesses, which really is a great thing.

Likewise, spiritual editing can feel vulnerable as in:  Someone noticed  I’m not perfect 🙂in fact quite flawed.

If I want to be a growing writer, and more importantly a growing Christian, I must seek out and embrace editing.

When I first began writing, I was sort of encouraged—assured that when there were red (or purple or blue) marks on the page it meant my editor felt she had something to work with. That was a start. Sometimes the marks were there because I misused a word or used incorrect grammar. Other times they were there because the flow of words was confusing and difficult for the reader to follow.  Funny thing—in my head the words made sense to me. However, I realize I don’t always see them as others do. In fact, I can know what I want to say so clearly that I can leave out an entire word, reread it five times, and still not realize the word is missing. My editors have been kind—as they intersperse  words of encouragement  among the corrections.  Aaahhh.

Since I see editing as my friend I have learned to accept most all changes that are suggested.  Actually, there is a nice little editing feature you can turn on in most computers. 20150318_130848This “edit mode” allows someone to go back and forth with another person as the document is edited. One can comment on another’s comments and vice versa. Editors can strike through words and give alternative choices. You can also “accept” or “reject” their input.  At times I can be tempted to just accept everything without paying attention–in order to save time. However, I prefer to look at each correction and comment I receive so I can learn from the editing process. There have been occasions where my intention was not clear, so instead of just accepting the changes I learned to reword things–to make my intent clearer. And my editors won’t just give me “answers” but make me think through the process and come up with a new approach. I’m so tempted to just have them do it…but that would hinder my growth. Even though I was instructed in my early  teen years by a teacher who was surely the chief commander of the “Grammar Special Ops Forces” I continually learn new rules of grammar—as well as punctuation possibilities such as hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes—which I’ve come to enjoy.

Currently, I am supervising a college writing internship for a young friend. This puts me on the other side of the red marks—the one sending them. The process is actually easier than I anticipated because of the knowledge and experience I have gained through my personal editing processes. Now, I’m extra grateful that I paid attention and tried to understand the things I was being taught. That instruction makes me a better teacher.  I can’t be a good teacher without being a good learner. I’m sure of that.

When I returned my young friend’s article to him full of “red edits” I reminded him of the same thing I learned from my friend—corrections are your friends.They make you a better writer, which is what you want to become. He responded with these remarks:  “Thanks so much for clarifying the intent behind your edits. It really helps me. While I know intellectually that criticism is extremely important and beneficial, sometimes I get discouraged by lots of it because I think it reflects poorly on who I am. But again, I’m glad you cleared that up! I’m very encouraged.”

I love that response. I thought about the many applications this has for our spiritual progress.  Spiritual editing—discipling (or helping each other to grow to be more Christ-like) is a command from God, and is for our good.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:23-24)

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

We can feel insecure when we see or are made aware of areas where we need to grow (as if they aren’t obvious to others anyway.) Or, we can choose to see these things as encouragements and stepping stones toward growth—which are really what we want, right? If we begin with the knowledge that we don’t always see our writing clearly—or much more importantly our hearts— it will be easier to greatly welcome editing—of words or hearts.  Jeremiah 17:9 is really true.  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

We need help from one another. It’s a good thing—a good friend.

When we learn from the editing in our lives, we can then offer the editing we have learned to others—honest and sincere, while encouraging and confirming of each person’s value to God and to us.

Editing is our friend…so keep your computer and your heart in the “edit mode”.






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  1. Elizabeth Thompson

    You know I love this one, Jeanie! This is one of the qualities I most admire in you: your humility and the way you seek and embrace editing, not just in writing, but also in life. Great post!

    • jeanieshaw

      Your name was written all over this post. You have helped me so much. Thank you.

  2. Gordon Ferguson

    Great connection to the two related types of editing. I had never thought of it before. I will “steal” this very practical and excellent illustration to add to my repertoire of discipling illustrations . Your heart for being “edited” is exemplary.

    • jeanieshaw

      Thank you Gordon. You have taught me many things. I love you and Theresa so much and am deeply grateful for the friendship.

  3. Geri

    Love this – you have such a way of learning and using and sharing the spiritual lessons from everyday life experiences. Thank you!!

    • jeanieshaw

      Thanks, Geri. You are very encouraging

  4. Robbi

    I don’t think I can say much more than wow. What a great lesson. Thanks for sharing! It really hit home for me.

    • jeanieshaw

      Thanks, Robbi. The encouragement means a lot (amidst all the edits :-)) Glad to be connected on the Facebook page.

  5. ginabad

    This is so well said. I think many of us grow up thinking that those edit marks are a form of rejection. Certainly, I must have been taught that. I’s really hard for me to see them as love, care and correction to be my best – as both a writer and a Christian. More often I feel them as anger coming from another, I don’t know why. But I’ve had a really harsh and painful lesson in my person to learn these past few months and I was really. After a while, I realized that the criticism was a loving “red pen” to help be more of who I am supposed to be. Tough stuff, but editing is needed in live as well as writing.

    • jeanieshaw

      Thanks for the encouragement Gina. Yes, you are right that it’s hard. I have this thing in me that doesn’t want to mess up…so have had to learn grace for myself and others. I looked at your website. I will pass it on as it has so many good and helpful posts. Thank you.


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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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