Overcoming “The Savior Syndrome” in Your Songwriting

Full disclosure… I’ve been one of “those guys” in the past you may have wanted to avoid when you saw me coming down the hall. You know, a “taker” instead of a “giver,” that guy that was so needy that you felt so drained after even a short convo that you had to go take a nap or pray or meditate or go eat a whole pizza just to recover.
There were good reasons for it, at least in my thinking, because I never felt “adequate” or “enough” somehow in myself and I was always looking for props, always looking outside myself for something I didn’t have.
That mindset carried over into my worship leading and songwriting, too. I’ve made big records and had over 400 songs published (see, there I go again PROVING myself), but it’s just NEVER enough… no matter how accomplished I’ve become (degrees, accolades, etc) there’s nothing that can fill the void as long as I stay in that “needy” place in my soul.
This ultimately led me to what I call “The Savior Syndrome”or “TSS” for short. TSS is a mindset and “feeling” that I’ve carried around for decades, always needing somebody to come along and “save” me from this or that and just about everything.
(Now, before you go getting all religious on me, Jesus HAS saved me from my fallen human nature and from all sins past, present, and future. I’m NOT talking about that. We’re all good on Jesus and I’m forever grateful.)
What I’m talking about is a generally horrible mindset that caused me to SHIRK PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for just about everything in my life and long for someone to swoop in and make everything okay.
And, because it never really happens, the result of it is APATHY…
Apathy is actually HOPELESSNESS.
We see apathy everywhere in our society where millions of people are waiting on the government to bail them out when they could actually DO something about their situation to improve it. I know there are many who are physically or mentally incapable of helping themselves, but that’s NOT everyone.
My TSS was so severe at one point that I was becoming incapacitated, too. Disappointments can turn into self-pity and self-pity into a learned-helplessness which then festers and becomes a full-blown case of apathy resulting in prolonged TSS. Bad stuff.
TSS can affect you in a lot of areas in your life, of course, and, just like any “syndrome” or addiction or mindset, it requires a major DISRUPTION to start turning it around.
For me, the disruption was “hearing” the Lord say something to my heart while out on a walk one day. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but it may as well have been one because the message rang loud and clear.
I was in a terrible frame of mind. I had left a job I loved, hadn’t figured out anything else to do, was running out of money with no prospects, and I was in a MAJOR funky pity party. This particular day out walking I clearly heard the Lord (that’s Jesus) basically REBUKE me when He said, “You’re not even being a good human right now…”
Wow… have you ever had GOD rebuke you like that?
I knew in an instant what He meant. I certainly WASN’T being a “good human” at that moment because I wasn’t even using the BASIC SKILLS AND TALENTS ALL HUMANS HAVE to better my life and circumstances, and I was spending more time feeling sorry for myself than working to better myself.
I was really just wanting HIM to bail me out and make things better. Ever feel THAT way?
Well, from that moment on, I knew I couldn’t STAY in an apathetic mindset. I knew that I HAD to take bold action and do whatever it took to use even the BASIC brain power God had given me and start exercising all my might to STOP BEGGING Him to bail me out and use my wits and gifts to make things better.
It didn’t happen overnight, but what happened afterwards is nothing short of miraculous.
Here’s what happened…
I wound up losing over thirty pounds and starting Nashville Christian Songwriters which is now serving THOUSANDS of aspiring songwriters worldwide. We have websites and videos and coaching groups and dozens of very happy clients reaching THEIR goals to be amazing Christian songwriters.
We have a podcast with popular artists, writers, and music industry personnel inspiring everyone listening, and our influence is growing as radio stations are picking it up as we speak.
We’re fulfilling our call “to empower Christian songwriters worldwide” through our Facebook group “Successful Christian Songwriters” with over 4,500 people and growing.
And… all because GOD told me I wasn’t even being a “good human” to expose my chronic TSS.
Honestly, I still wrestle with it. It’s not an easy thing to recover from, especially with the religious confusion we all have around the balance between what WE do versus what GOD does. I won’t pretend there’s an easy answer, but when HE tells you you’re being a lousy person, you either GET it or you don’t.
I knew it was time for me to take MASSIVE ACTION and you’re reading this as a result.
So… what about you?
Are you suffering from chronic TSS and waiting for someone (me, a music publisher, producer, a church, your Mom, etc) to come and “save” you in your songwriting? Do you still believe being heard by “the right people” is what’s going to launch your career or build your ministry?
If you’re still in the grips of it, take it from me… things CAN get better, but only if you dig down deep and DECIDE you won’t tolerate it anymore.
Real success in life comes down to this, the DECISION to stop blaming everyone else (and even yourself) and getting up off of your Blessed Assurance to start running in the direction of your dreams. Sure, wait on God until you know what He’s telling you to do, but then GET UP AND GO AFTER IT, believing He meets you at every turn.
Funny how the Scriptures even say that the “Lord directs our steps,” but we forget we have to be STEPPING in order for Him to direct them, right?
If you’re dreaming of becoming a successful Christian songwriter and you’re ready to overcome TSS, we’re here for you. You don’t have to be apathetic, helpless, or hopeless anymore. While you’re waiting on God, I believe He’s waiting on you.
And, I hope you NEVER again have to dread seeing me come down the hall. John Chisum

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. CJ Rooney

    Powerful post. This hit home. Though driven and ambitious, I too, have been suffering from TSS. In my case, awaiting a producer to come to the rescue! Thanks for sharing your story and for the reminder to not tolerate the excuses any more. And thanks for sharing the timely post (around Thanksgiving).

  2. Joe Mahaffey

    I have read this blog several times now and it speaks to me 100%. TSS can destroy a person, if they let it. I too have suffered from TSS, as maybe still do to some extent. But, you are right, John, it takes getting off our Blessed Assurance and taking the steps so that Jesus can direct our steps. As I was reading this I had some words, perhaps a lyric, come to mind. It just popped into my mind as I was reading this blog. I’m not sure where to go with it, but I wrote it down, as I feel it is something to work with. Thank you John for all you do for us.

    In His name,


  3. tami.hughson

    I love how your TSS syndrome highlights a person’s mindset toward their “dreams” or calling. Once you go from “only if ______(fill in blank).” to “I’m going to serve others and be the best I can be and let God handle the rest,” everything will start to roll out the way it is supposed to, and others-including yourself-will be blessed in the process! I think you are not just giving lip service in this post. From what I’ve seen, you really are living this shift in mindset out beautifully! Keep up the awesome servant work you are doing; it is having a great impact!

  4. Bob Horton

    Just started a new tune from this.
    Gotta Get Up and Go
    Hand me my plow
    Be blessed today

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