When I was in high school, my basketball coaches would yell for me to be more aggressive and “mean” in the games:
“Nolen, get tough!”
“Show some grit!”
“STOP BEING SO NICE!”
They’d tell me that hustling was good and getting rebounds was great, but I’d never reach my full potential if I weren’t more aggressive. I’d never contribute what my teammates needed from me if I held back.
Ten years later, I can see that this was advice that I needed to hear—and not just for basketball.
My personality is pretty easygoing. I grew up in a big family, so I’m used to going with the flow and playing the peacemaker. Of course, I’ve said mean words that I wish I could take back. But besides that and the time that I threw the TV remote at my younger brother’s head (I was 10; he was 7), I’ve always been pretty nice.
Of course, I’d rather be nice than hateful and rude. But over the last 5 years or so, I’ve realized that being nice is one of my biggest character flaws. Because too often, nice is safe, nice is timid, and nice can even be lazy. I agree with Lynne Hybels that “nice girls don’t change the world.”
I’m not saying that I want to stop being kind and gentle; no, I want to increase in those qualities. What I am saying is this: I want to be brave and fierce instead of nice.
When God told me to buy land and build a house almost 3 years ago, I believe He did so not only to teach me to trust Him, but also to teach me to STOP BEING SO NICE. God knew that building my house would force me to build my confidence in making decisions. He knew that building my house would reveal to me how much I love caution, how much I color inside the lines instead of being creative and bold. Like my coaches, I think God was giving me a shove on the back to say, “Nolen, I don’t want you to live your whole life this way. Stop shrinking back from your full potential.”
Choosing My Book’s Title
As I’ve been writing a book that follows the story of me building my house, I thought I wanted to have some sort of building metaphor in the book’s title. After I finished writing the rough draft of my manuscript, I wrote down a few options for titles and then emailed them to five of my friends. It was great to hear how they responded to certain phrases because it made me see that the first several options that I sent them were pretty bland.
Then I read an article called “The Truth about Choosing Book Titles.” One of the things the author said was that the title should “[match] the soul of the book.”  I often use building as a metaphor in my book, but the real message of my book is not about building, and it’s certainly not about actual construction details. The real message of my book centers around these questions:
I thought about those questions. Then I read in that article that when choosing a title, the author needs to remember that she will say the title at least a thousand times. So when you say the title, is it a mouthful? Do you have to spend a long time explaining what it means? Are you sheepish to share it, or are you proud of it?
That article helped me realize that the titles I had written down earlier weren’t phrases that truly matched the heartbeat of the book. And they certainly weren’t phrases that I would be excited to say a thousand times.
So I brainstormed some more, and I scribbled on a piece of paper on my desk, “She Won’t Shrink Back.” As soon as I wrote it, I smiled. I felt like that phrase embodied the courage, perseverance, and faith that it took to build my house. That’s the message that I really wanted readers to receive. From that point on, I was 99% sure this would be my title. I felt like I could say it a thousand times and still smile, still be proud of it.
You see, I hadn’t just pulled that phrase out of nowhere. I had actually used the phrase, “She won’t shrink back” in the very first chapter that I ever wrote for my book, over a year earlier. In that same chapter, I quoted Hebrews 10:39:“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
I first underlined that verse in my Bible when I was 16. As a high school student, I wrote it in my notebooks and memorized it. Now over 10 years later, as I looked through my manuscript, I realized that I had used the phrase “shrink back” a few more times in other chapters.
So apparently, this is a theme that God has been stirring in me for several years. And it’s about time that I stop being so nice—because “nice girls don’t change the world.” It’s about time I become the woman I want to be: the kind who doesn’t shrink back.
So this is my book’s title and also my goal for my blog this year—to inspire people to not shrink back from God’s plan for their lives.
And now, without further ado, coming Spring 2016…
She Won’t Shrink Back: A Story of Building and Believing
 (2012). Berkun, Scott. http://scottberkun.com/2012/the-truth-about-picking-book-titles/
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.