Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Winner from Last Week: I’m sending out a stack of wonderful summer reading to Jerusha Agen. Congratulations, Jerusha!  (And it is just a coincidence that Jerusha is my newest client. I chose the winning number before I even began counting exactly how many there were.)


A writing friend of mine was rejoicing. She had achieved her greatest publishing goal to date and it was a mighty impressive one. She couldn’t wait to tell the good news to her best writing pal. When she finished, her friend sighed deeply and said, “When is it going to happen for me?”

My friend said she learned then and there that she could only share the best news with those who were also successful enough not to be wounded by her success. Isn’t that sad?

That’s what I want to talk about today, how we professionally cultivate the ability to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15) Let’s start with mourning. When our writing friends share a disappointment with us here are a few things that actively help:

Listen. Too often we brush away disappointments, thinking that if they just focus on the positive it will be easier. Sometimes we just need someone to actively listen to us.

Don’t respond with your success. If your friend just received a pass from an editor who’d shown interest, don’t follow up by telling them how you persevered to get your first contract. There’s time for how-to advice later.

Tell them why you love their writing. If you are an encourager and just can’t help yourself, talk about their writing and how it’s touched you. Publishing is a hard road and there are no guarantees but we can control what kind of writer we are.

Don’t blow off their disappointment. We’d love to tell them not to worry, that their reviewer is a cretin or the editor who passed on their manuscript doesn’t deserve to be making those decisions but the disappointment is real. Acknowledge that.

Pray for them. Crushed hopes can be devastating.

And how about when we need to rejoice?

Remember that someone else’s success does not diminish our chance of success. Rejoice with them. They’ll be the first ones to rejoice with you when your time comes.

Focus on them. This is their moment. Rejoice! Even if you’ve had a recent disappointment save it to share the next time.

Celebrate. Nothing is more fun than when our friends grab us for an impromptu celebration.

I know you can come up with many more strategies for us. Put them in the comments.

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  1. I think one of the most important things we can do, is remember simply to love. If we are acting in love, we are more willing to set aside our own needs to focus on those who need our support (whether it be in the rejoicing or the mourning category). And a friend who knows that we truly care, will be encouraged even if we perhaps do not have the “right” words to say.
    I love the notion of helping a friend celebrate (I’d rather rejoice most any day), but there’s also the opportunity to take a discouraged friend out for coffee or lunch, or just invite them over for a movie. Sometimes taking time out to spend with a friend can make all the difference in showing we care, and perhaps will help distract them a little until they can obtain a bit of distance from the situation.

  2. Jason Sautel says:

    Philippians 2:1-4
    2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

  3. Don’t mourn for me, or think you;’re mourning with me. I’m totally, pardon me, f***ed, but I love my life, and appreciate every trace of God’s immanence in my days.
    * His Presence may not be what you’d recognize; there is no good news coming over the wire for me, and there’s no Bright Tomorrow, except THIS – if God grants me the next sunrise, I will bend every minute to His will, thank Him for the blessings of my day, and ask Him…well, yesterday (Monday) it was more screaming than asking…to make the pain easier to bear. (He did, by telling me to suck it up and quit whining. He sounded kinda like Clint Eastwood, when He said that.)
    * Yeah. Don’t mourn for me, not now, not ever. I’m livin’ the dream, the one where God steps down off His Throne and kneels in the muck with me, shoulder to Shoulder.
    * And in return, I will celebrate your successes, and shout my love to YOU, dear friends, from the rooftops (well, can’t climb up there, but you know what I mean).
    * I’m out on a limb here, so I’ll keep going, saw the thing off…this community has given me, some days, a reason to wake up and keep my head in the game. You have kept me ALIVE, and there is no diluting that. I’ve contributed some smart stuff and WAY more stupid stuff, but getting to know your voices, your hearts…if pancreatic cancer is the key that unlocked that vault of blessings, I have no regrets. I’d do it again; bring it, for the love.
    * I love you all, and hope that you ALL become the next Suzanne Collins (well, except for the dudes, who might prefer to be the next Tom Clancy).
    * Almost deleted this, but it’s the truth. May as well own it.

    • We rejoice with you, Andrew, in the honest wisdom we find in this community — and in each new sunrise. And we mourn with you over opportunities missed. We thank God for you.
      * One thing that still startles me as a pastor’s wife is how suddenly we can switch between rejoicing and mourning as folks share their personal situations with us. God has equipped humans with a wide range of emotion for good purpose.
      * I can’t imagine not rejoicing in a friend’s success, Wendy. A little private whining might follow later, I admit, in the privacy of my pillow. So congratulations, Jerusha, on becoming Wendy’s newest client! We rejoice with you (but seriously, when will you have the time to read all those books?).

    • Smart stuff? Sure, yeah, okay. But the stupid stuff is much more fun. 😉

    • Jerusha Agen says:

      I love your attitude about your illness, Andrew–how you have known an intimacy with Christ through suffering and you can appreciate that gift in the midst of the storm. Reminds me of Joni Eareckson Tada, famous for saying that she would rather be in a wheelchair knowing Christ than able to walk without Him. His power and mercy is truly greatest in our weakness. Thank you for living for Him!

  4. I have Beth Vogt to thank for teaching me a very sobering lesson on this exact issue. Before I signed with Mary Keeley, a very sweet writer friend signed with an agent. I was struggling with having joy for her, whilst being all inner-tornado-y that I hadn’t signed with anyone.
    She said something that smacked me in the attitude, the heart, and the skills…”I know this hurts, and I understand how you feel, but one day, there will be people who feel exactly how you feel right now…about YOU.”
    That changed everything. Yes, it stung. But not so much for me, but for anyone who’d feel that sad. And over me?
    Since then, I have done my best to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.
    And to not compare my journey with anyone else.
    I freely admit that there have been situations with certain people in which I might not be as gracious as I should. But in my defense, it’s rare. But it’s usually with a snooty, stick-thin, bottle platinum, semi-literate-by-choice, stinking rich hockey mom who thinks her kid is Sidney Crosby and talks down to me and mine just that one time too many. But in those situations, I can give a friend The Eye and that friend will stage laugh and say “Careful now, Buffy, or Jennifer will kill you off in a book.” and then we all smile like we’re in a toothpaste ad.
    I remember being online with Lori Benton when she won those three Christy awards in one evening. I was so thrilled for her. And yes, I said “I told you!!” a lot. It was sweet bliss to share in her utter shock and excitement. Just absolute joy.
    I know my time will come, I just hope I’ll be gracious when it does.

  5. And CONGRATULATIONS Jerusha!!! On the books, but more so on signing with Wendy!!!

  6. Wendy, thanks for posting about the envy that sometimes creeps in for all of us–even those who write “Christian” or “inspirational” books. Sometimes it’s hard, but then again no one ever said this walk is easy.

  7. What wonderful advice, Wendy! It can be so easy to get bogged down in our own pain, thanks for the reminder to think of those around us! And I realized that I am very very blessed to have a critique partner who mourns with me and rejoices with me!

  8. Rejoicing with others when you’re mourning is one of the hardest things a person can do. I was just reading a book where two men were trapped in a collapsed mine … one family received their loved one back alive, the other didn’t. How do you rejoice with others? It takes dying momentarily to your self. It takes something that most people probably don’t possess … one of those strengths we only possess through Christ, when we need it. When we ask. Recently, something happened here at home that stung. It had nothing to do with writing. It was such a minor thing, but I felt all kinds of feelings that I hadn’t felt in ages swirling inside of me. I curled into a ball on the couch, pretending to sleep, trying to hide my feelings, but I was quietly crying. I didn’t want to be, but I could barely fight the pain. Later, someone exposed me … crushed me even more, after I thought I’d recovered from the situation. I told the Lord that I wanted to be kinder and tougher … I didn’t want to be embarrassed like that again. 🙂 I want to be like Jennifer Major when it comes to writing … she’s everyone’s greatest fan and cheerleader. And congratulations, Jerusha! 🙂

    • I am SO sorry you were hurt!! Grrrr on whoever did that!
      (Which, of course, is not exactly what Jesus would say or do.)
      But, awww, thank you!!!

    • Jerusha Agen says:

      Thanks for the congrats, Shelli! I’m so sorry to hear of your painful situation. How awful that must have been! 🙁 I’ll pray that God will bring you healing and comfort to heal the pain of that situation. You’re so right, that it’s such a challenge to rejoice with others when you’re in mourning. I love how you put it–that we must die to self, which we can only dream of doing through Christ, Who died for us. Thank you for this reminder, Shelli. I pray you’re encouraged today!

    • Shelli, I am so sorry you had to endure that ordeal. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • You all are so sweet. Thank you. I was upset at myself for letting jealousy and pain enter my heart … when I should have just been happy for the other person … and here y’all are, ready to go to battle for me. You are the best. Mighty warriors.

  9. We are so broken in this broken world sometimes, aren’t we? God has really been working in this area of my life, and I love what Susie Larson says in her book Your Beautiful Purpose on this topic, too. If we can lift each other up and realize that when our Christian brothers and sisters have a success it is for the Lord’s kingdom and thwarts our enemy, it will be less about me and what I don’t have. Isn’t it wonderful to think that God has no limit to the blessings He can give His children? It’s not as though if He gives this to one person that He somehow has less for others. Switching my mindset to looking at other Christian writers as family instead of competition, has made a world of difference for me. I’m not perfect (surprise, surprise ), I still have that twinge of jealousy sometimes, but immediately bringing to God, lifts the weight of it from my shoulders. (Because, truly, the energy that goes into being envious is so much more than just having joyful for someone’s successes. And sits so much better in the soul, too!)

  10. Carol Ashby says:

    I worked for a long time in a male-dominated field, so I’m a “fixer” as well as a “listener” when it comes to problems. If the disappointment is over something that could have gone better because your friend didn’t quite do it right, find some gracious way to offer to help them look at why it failed and at any criticism to see what’s constructive and can be used to get things to go better next time. Stress that everyone learns by figuring out how to do something better after seeing what wasn’t quite right with it.
    This requires tact and sensitivity, but it can be a huge help to your friend going forward.

  11. First of all, congratulations to Jerusha . . . both for winning the books and for being represented by Wendy. How exciting!
    *This was such a good post, Wendy. And the way you share about the verse that tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep makes so much sense. There are times we need to set ourselves—our feelings and struggles—aside and focus on others. When we can genuinely rejoice with them they will know that. And they will feel safe about including us in future celebrations.
    *Likewise, when someone faces a disappointment, our ability to help them through it requires us to not focus on how we can relate or when we have faced a similar circumstance. When we can make those moments about the other person, find ways to encourage them, relationship is deepened and trust grows.
    *It’s not always easy to live these verses out, but when we focus on the other person–and on the relationship aspect–that’s when growth really occurs.

  12. Well said!

  13. Jerusha Agen says:

    Wow! I can’t believe I won the books! Thank you, Wendy! I already feel as if I won a much bigger giveaway in becoming your newest client. 🙂 What a blessing! Such great advice you’re giving here today. I have a writer friend (Emily Conrad) who is so gifted in this area. She’s wonderful at mourning with me when I mourn and, far more difficult, she’s marvelous at genuinely rejoicing for and with me in happy times, no matter what her circumstances and without envy. I so admire that and am thankful for a friend like her. She inspires me to try to do the same for others. Your tips, Wendy, can help me do that. I especially need to work on acknowledging the disappointment; I’m a fixer, so I tend to quickly move to problem solving, defending my friend, or urging her to focus on the positive. I think I need to spend more time acknowledging and understanding her pain. Thanks!

    • Emily Conrad says:

      Excellent post, Wendy! I think sometimes in our rush to respond to a friend’s pain or joy, we forget how we’re impacting them, and these are such helpful reminders. I especially like the advice to tell a discouraged friend why you love their writing. Jerusha, this is something you’ve done consistently for me, and in so doing, have breathed new life into my confidence. As for rejoicing with those who rejoice, I am THRILLED you’ve found such excellent representation with Wendy! As Wendy writes, someone else’s success doesn’t diminish others’ opportunities. On the contrary, the fact that others succeed means success is possible. Possible. I love that word.

  14. Michael Ireland says:

    Wendy: Thanks for this. In general, I try not to say too much to anyone about successes or failures. I remember, “It’s not about me.” In many ways, it is about counting others more highly than myself — not that I’m a groveling nitwit, but it’s more important to focus on others and to be a listening friend. Then, hopefully, when it truly is my turn to mourn or rejoice, I will have already won a hearing.

  15. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Congratulations, Jerusha! Double blessing.

    I try to shout out successes of others ~ in person at writers’ meetings, on social media, etc. ~ because I’m happy for them and want to share the news to others, also it encourages them and helps them celebrate without being in the bind of “How do I share the news without appearing to brag or be insensitive to others?”

    Knowing that God sees all those times we don’t “win” & is with us, and that life is not a zero-sum game as you pointed out, Wendy, gives us something to celebrate too.

  16. Teresa Haugh says:

    These lessons apply to so many things in life besides book contracts, don’t they? Who got the new spouse, baby, promotion, grandchild, car, house, or vacation to Hawaii that we wanted? I have found the key out of darkness is to truly remind myself of the endless blessings God has given me. How can I be upset that I haven’t gotten ___ when He’s graciously given me everything else? And yes, rejoicing with those that rejoice is a real balm for those temporary slights we all experience.

  17. After seeing the PBS presentation of “To Walk Invisible,” which is about the Brontë sisters and their family, I wrote in a blog post:

    “The women’s beloved brother, Branwell, destroying his life with drugs and alcohol, was central to how these sisters thought and felt and lived. Branwell never realized his artistic dreams, but his sisters were so aware of his misery that they hid their success from everyone so as not to hurt him. This, I believe, took extraordinary compassion and humility. They could have let their accomplishments come between them and their brother, but they made another choice. If and when writers are successful, sensitivity to others who might be struggling is a good choice.”

    • I’m not saying everyone should hide their accomplishments, but this sensitivity to someone who had not realized his artistic dreams made an impression on me for writers, the audience for the post I wrote.