A Bar and a Pole
by Jen Hatmaker on February 11th, 2014

I suppose most kids have a Christmas list a mile long, but Remy Hatmaker only had two things on her wish list: monkey bars and high heels. It is literally all she spoke about for weeks. So for $38, Brandon built her a set of high and low monkey bars and we got her wedge shoes that she clomps around in like Imelda Marcos.
Around the same time, she got her “first new room” in our farmhouse. It is cute as a punkin, and the piece de resistance is a fireman’s pole in which to exit her loft bed. It is the envy of the entire family, and I’m not ashamed to admit that all seven of us have slid down that thing a zillion times.
Because these are her favorite things, she made a list of activities she planned on enjoying. I hadn’t seen this until my friend was checking out the house last week and came out of her room saying, “Uh, Remy has some…interesting activities on her list.”
So my daughter will be visiting the bar and the pole in her high heels.
Parenting: NAILING IT.

After I ran for my camera because this is GOLD MATERIAL, I got to thinking about her list. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. It appears we are raising a gin-swigging stripper (with a surprising reading and art habit and a mysterious activity called “house”). Jumping to conclusions would be so easy.
How often do we hear or read something, or we’re told a juicy bit about someone, or we make assumptions based on loose observations or fill in the blanks information that isn’t actually true? All the time. I cannot tell you how often I project feelings and attitudes onto people because it is what I think they think. It is especially easy to pull one piece of information out of context and spin an entire yarn with it, creating a whole persona, an assumed worldview with only one small piece of the puzzle in hand.
The internet has become so mean. I don’t know if the web has made us nastier or simply displayed what has always lurked in the lowest forms of ourselves. People have written the worst things about me you can imagine, describing me in ways that would drain the blood from your face, and they have never even met me. Or they’ll take one 1100-word blog and draw conclusions about every corner of my life: parenting, discipleship, theology, everything.
Lest I martyr myself, I’ve done the exact same thing to others.
What would happen if collectively we decided to give one another the benefit of the doubt? What if we agreed that there is always more to us than one essay, one conversation, one moment, one admission? People are nuanced and complex; we are not just the organizations we lead, the coalitions we identify with, the drums we beat, the churches we belong to, the friends we keep, that one thing we said or did.
When stung/surprised/confused by something I read or heard, years of dramatic overreactions have taught me I have two choices:
Go with the knee-jerk reaction. Just open mouth, let words fly. Every vague feeling, all the emotionally charged words that flood my mind…just let loose. Conclusions? Jump to them. Don’t let it all settle. Don’t think it through. Don’t ask questions. Better yet, talk about it disparagingly to others, because the only thing better than thinking badly about someone is talking badly about them to others. Imagine that me and mine have it all right, all the time. We cannot be led. We cannot be taught. We cannot be stretched. We cannot be wrong.
Assume I know everything that went into this: all the feelings, all the opinions. Paint with the widest brush possible. Write them off, obviously. If it was something directed at me, don’t take the humble approach. Don’t turn it into a productive conversation. Just go all defensive lineman and the sooner the better. Time cools indignation, so better strike back while the iron is hot. Reel in my indignation and go down in hot, angry flames. Feels so good on the front end.
First of all, wait. Just wait. The first response is so rarely the best one. I burn hot and fast. I cannot trust my initial emotions, because they exist in the fight-or-flight part of my brain where instincts overcome reason. They see “bar” and “pole” and spaz out, creating something out of potentially nothing, or at least something less than the Defcon 4 it seems. I have a 24-hour rule on all things emotionally charged: no responding, no pontificating, no gossiping, no lines in the sand, no conclusions. Just sleep on it. Revisit it again tomorrow; it is almost never as dire as I originally thought. I am able to find the nuances, hear the subtleties, tamp down my visceral reaction, act sane.
Begin fresh the next day with this: Benefit of the doubt. I will assume the best here and move forward accordingly. This position creates space for respectful dialogue, sincere questions, valuing people over principles and building bridges rather than widening divides. We do not have to burn everything to the ground every time we get our haunches up. It would be so refreshing to become a people of reasonableness again. Grownups are able to come to the table respectfully; children pitch fits, lash out, take their ball and go home.
I have never regretted a humble response. It injects respect into charged conversations, taking the wind out of angry sails and setting a new table for the discussion. It can make friends out of adversaries and blaze a new path forward, creating a road where there appeared to be none. It is so disarming, and we need fewer armed people in this violent world.
Of course, we will sometimes come to a crossroads where a relationship is simply unhealthy and we have to walk. But let that decision come after laying down our arms, walking in the way of humility and respect and empathy first. Let us surprise each other with grace, emulating our Savior who blew past stereotypes and assumptions and gathered around the table with sinners, outcasts, misfits, all those "others." Let us shock people like Jesus did, inviting ourselves to the home of the tax collector, defending the accused with gentleness while everyone else holds rocks, sharing a cold cup of water at high noon with someone tangled in sin and despair, refusing to disparage though it is the easiest, most popular option.
Benefit of the doubt to strangers we perceive as adversaries.
Benefit of the doubt to individuals rather than guilt by association.
Benefit of the doubt to folks from other ideologies, worldviews, value systems.
Benefit of the doubt to our spouses, choosing grace, grace, grace.
Benefit of the doubt to our children; shock them with mercy.
Benefit of the doubt to our pastors. They are just people.
Benefit of the doubt to our friends. Assuming the worst is the worst.
I literally dream of this. I dream of this table where people pull up chairs and pass the bread, slow to speak, quick to listen. What a beautiful community that would be where we assume the best in people first, extending respect, withholding judgment. It would be so contagious, so disarming. We could rise up to our best selves and in doing so, raise others up too. The lowest common denominator need not be our measure. Every bar is not a bar, and every pole is not a pole.
At the very least, it is the community I’d like to nourish here at this little blog and in my little life. I’d like to imagine that We are a Basement People, and perhaps we could create something beautiful to bear witness to. We can speak kindly and patiently. We can bravely cross lines and find common ground. We can suspend assumptions and do the hard work of communicating instead. How lovely to lavish that on others, and I suspect that we send that outward long enough, and we’ll find it coming back to us in waves of grace that speak of heaven and bind us together in unity.

Can we do this? Do we need to make amends with anyone and start anew? What else can we do to make this our way?

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Karli - February 11th, 2014 at 12:22 PM
As always you inspire, lift, and make me want to be better! I'm a member of the LDS faith and teach a class of women and have referenced your blog & books often. Thanks for being a great example of the Christlike love we are all striving to emulate from our Savior! I think of how many friendships and amazing people I would have missed out on knowing if I'd boxed myself in and let myself only know the people in my little tiny circle. Love your words of wisdom!
sarah - October 7th, 2014 at 1:24 PM
Jess Villmer - February 11th, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Just to clear things up...the bar = monkey bars and the pole =fire pole. (I assume) lol.
Thanks for sharing Jen.
I really needed to hear this, but not even in regards to people beyond my household; the Lord has been showing me how judgmental and just rude I have been in my spousal gossip about those on the other side of my computer screen. I needed to hear this for the sake of my HUSBAND. I need to choose choice #2. Especially in the early morning when my emotions rule my entire being. Thanks for those guidelines to think through when responding! Benefit of the doubt. Wise words.
Laurie - February 11th, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Jenni Claar - February 11th, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Spot on, Jen. The Word that God spoke was always meant to be alive. He spoke creation into being. He could%u2019ve chosen any way to bring forth all of creation, but he chose words %u2013 and the Word. God has really been impressing deeply in my heart that as a Christ%u2019s image-bearer, I have to believe that my words also can create and destroy. If the power we have in our words can bring life or destruction, and I am longing to be such the steward of my words that from my mouth I breathe only life.
jenny - February 11th, 2014 at 12:25 PM
So true. I have a wise and wonderful boss say to me (when I was in his office losing it about a situation)...."always assume positive intent." Something may have been done awkwardly, clumsily, serious -- I can't believe that came out of your mouth. But if you start with that premise -- it is amazing how quickly things can be resolved.
Rebecca - February 11th, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Yes, we can do it this way! We MUST do it this way - because frankly, the other way ain't working and it certainly does not glorify God%u2026 We gotta follow those lovely, trendy bracelets from yester-year! WWJD http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/creating-adoption-change-along-unlikely-paths/
Kimberly - February 11th, 2014 at 12:26 PM
This...love this!!! Thank you for putting my heart to words...how beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news...such a beautiful way to live...I hope and pray this catches on, becomes an epidemic among Christians...goes viral! What a beautiful thing that would be...thank you for sharing your heart with us, opening our eyes to a better way...so grateful for you and the gifts God has given you!
Carly Dixon - February 11th, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Great post Jen. Two words that leapt off the screen as I read...Contagious and Grace. That's what we need...because Grace IS contagious. Contagious Grace. I like it. I pray I always display it. Thanks for reminding me!
Amanda - February 11th, 2014 at 12:26 PM
I. Just. Love. Thank you again for an amazing read!
Caitlyn - February 11th, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Jen, I don't know you, but right now I'm thankful for you and thankful for a good God. Here I was, sitting in a pit of discouragement because of some troubling words, and asking God for clarity and hope, and the first thing I see when looked back at my computer was this post from you. Thankful for the reminder of giving people not just the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of grace.
Liz - February 11th, 2014 at 12:29 PM
Elora Nicole - February 11th, 2014 at 12:31 PM
Are you in my brain? This is precisely what God's been working on my heart since the conference this weekend. Thankful for your voice.
Casey Prince - February 11th, 2014 at 12:31 PM
These very words have been on my heart for months. I am exhausted with finding someone whose writing I enjoy only to be assaulted with words of hate flung at someone else over one disagreement, one difference of opinion. I almost never read comments because of the crazy level of absolute hate that flows from the keyboards and onto the screen.

I try so hard but still find myself making assumptions, placing myself on the "atleast I'm better than that" pedestal. But I can only stay on that pedestal I built long enough for God to give a gentle nudge to the microscopic base of that pedestal made of the things I actually get right. We are all flawed, beautifully flawed and in need of grace. Thanks for the reminder, "Lest I martyr myself".
Leigh Ann - February 11th, 2014 at 12:31 PM
I'm so glad life is slowing down enough for you to write more. The rest of us need to hear it. Perfectly said.

Yesterday, as we prepared in Atlanta for Snowpocolypse 2.0--The Remix, we ALL went to the grocery store. All of us. The entire city and all of it's metro areas. At the same time. For milk. And various sundry other items we deemed important (me? red wine and fudge bars, thanks for asking). Anyway, as I was standing in the monstrous line at the Deli, I was perusing facebook and I was so entertained by how cranky and grumpy so many of my fellow Atlantans were about being in crowded grocery stores with the rest of humanity. I was tired and worried and frazzled about spending yet another week trying to figure out make-up classes for the performing arts studio I own, but instead of letting all that negativity creep into my perspective, I took a breath, PUT DOWN THE INTERNET and smiled. Smiled at the Deli guy, smiled at the restocking people and their carts and carts of toilet paper, smiled at the new dad who was carting his baby TWINS in a stroller and a giant cart full of groceries the "wrong way" up every aisle. I cracked a joke with the woman who cut me off with her cart about what we each define as "necessities" (hers? frozen pizza and diet soda...go figure.) And when I did what you just suggested: gave each person the benefit of the doubt, my view of the situation improved so drastically. I was delighted to let someone ahead of me in line--not because I'm such a generous, selfless person, but because lightening up and giving them the benefit of the doubt let me see Jesus in them just a little more. And the more I see Jesus in people, the more I want to treat them with the love and respect with which I would want someone to treat my Savior.

So yeah. Way to say it way better than I certainly ever could, but from a friend "trapped" by snow in her house in north Georgia, I hope you can hear a giant shout of "Right on, sister!!!" coming at you today.

Sharon - February 11th, 2014 at 1:26 PM
I think you said that very well. Lightening up and looking for Jesus is a good way to go through life. Thanks for the story. We only had a little snow in Washington, enough to give the kids one night of sledding, and now it's all melted and they are sad.

Michelle Gomez - February 11th, 2014 at 12:32 PM
I just finished posting a pic on fb. It is of me and it looks as though I am flippin the bird to the camera...but what I really am doing is showing off my stitches that ironically happened while I was working on a prophetic art piece for Psalm 1. God is just that funny.
Also. I am a Pastor's wife at a more conseratitive type church. My hubby & I were at a costume murder mystery party on Sat. (A stuffed dog Tuffy was the vicitum no one was harmed in the fun of the game) My character was Medusa Stone a hot tattoo artist. I did the part up real nice! However, the temporary tatt's and black hair dye (up till this point I had virgin hair-never dyed!) was not so Temporary. I went to church as Medusa Stone sexy tattoo artist. I sang on the praise team up in front as Medusa Stone. To top it off I wore a shirt from one of my favorite music artist JJ Heller http://www.jjheller.com/ that said "I am not the clothes I wear"
I was not even trying to prove a point at church. I was still me under it all. I loved every minute of it because it taught me many lessons. Next I want to go to the other extreme and dress like I am amish ...........
Gwendolyn - February 11th, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Simply beautiful.
Juli - February 11th, 2014 at 12:33 PM
I'm jealous of her pole. Oh, and your words are golden and reflect God's own heart but I'm still jealous of her pole.
Anna - February 11th, 2014 at 12:33 PM
You mention the bar. The pole. The basement and I am left with nothing but hot ugly tears. Left to ponder the years without grace with a little G and now these sweet years with Grace with a Big G and what it is teaching me...... How much I needed grace in my life! Holding your hand - there will never be too many in the basement.
Johnna Artzner - February 11th, 2014 at 12:34 PM
So perfectly authentic and articulately communicated. I couldn't agree more. My focus has been on getting my initial response to use that filter instead of knee-jerk reactions. Even when it's often that mama bear protective mode. I'm thinking to myself, "Hey, there...you...she's talking to you. God's getting your attention again...Just breathe. Shut your face. Step back. Then, if you must, Speak." P.S. loved everything about IF!!!
Robin D. - February 11th, 2014 at 12:36 PM
What a great way to illustrate the assumption problem! Waiting and giving the benefit of the doubt = torture sometimes for me. Thanks, as always, for zeroing in on something that God desires for all of His children, but that's so hard to see clearly in our expectation-laden worlds.
Jen - February 11th, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Yes!! My heart screams out to live just like this. Thank you Jen!!
RuthAnn - February 11th, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Absolutely love your words! Thank you for always sharing your heart felt words and honesty with us. The 24 hour rule is a must in my life. Of course I started that after having an out of body experience and seeing how crazy I can get w/ overreacting for all the wrong reasons. I too share your dream! Please continue being real and sharing your world with us!! Peace sister!
Amy - February 11th, 2014 at 12:42 PM
"assume the best in people first, extending respect, withholding judgment."

So so so so so so so so HARD sometimes. It's a daily battle for me. I want to do better.

Amber - February 11th, 2014 at 12:51 PM
We started a small group with your 7 study and we just finished media week and i cannot wait to share this post!!!! It is exactly what we discussed that we DID NOT MISS from media!

Waste week here we come!!!

Shelly - February 11th, 2014 at 12:52 PM
So did the pole and bar get explained? Did I miss it?
Mia - February 11th, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Wow. This completely speaks to a situation I found myself in recently- I judged the actions of a complete stranger when I knew nothing of his background, history, etc. I'm quietly contemplating your words and hoping the wisdom in them soaks into my heart and brain for the next opportunity I have to judge someone. May I pass the judging on to a perfect God and love my neighbor, who is just as messed up as I am.
Thank you Jen.
Melissa Wilson - February 11th, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Loved your post! I'm s newcomer to your blog but I appreciate your attitude. This reminds me of when my four were littles and they told my mom, "bye Granny, we're gonna go to the bars!" I quickly explained to my mother on the other side of the world, "that's not what it sounded like exactly! They arejust going to an area they call the bars because there are lots of handrails!" Of course, my mom never doubted me for a second! Sometimes living a world away from Texas in Israel, I especially find myself wanting to explain. But more and more, like you, I dream of a world (I think it's called heaven) where we'll dine together in harmony and passing the potatoes will not evolve into ww3!
Emily @ Live Renewed - February 11th, 2014 at 1:03 PM
Sometimes I feel like you climb inside my head and know exactly what I'm thinking and want to say - but say it so much more eloquently then I ever could! I just posted a blog post about this exact same thing last night! At least it's confirmation from me that I am hearing from God and moving towards Him - more full of love and grace then I have been in the past.

The thing that I think about is that everyone has a story - and that each of our stories is SO much bigger than what we see and think we know with just a glance or a glimpse into a life through a blog post or a piece of gossip masquerading as a "prayer request". So when I hear those judgmental thoughts start to creep in to my mind, I stop myself and think - What is their story? Or What's the whole story? Becuase I know there is always more to it. And I want others to do the same for me - I don't want them to see one small part of my life and assume it is everything about me. I have a story that is so much more than that - and it is a story that God is writing more of every single day. I think it's through sharing our stories that we build love and community and tear down the walls of judgment and assumptions.
Jennifer - February 11th, 2014 at 1:05 PM
I had an online conversation about this very topic the other day. I often comment on a particular website, and this one day I said something about sarcasm and cynicism being the easy routes to take on charged topics and that I would rather respond with sincerity instead of snarkiness. It began a whole civil discussion with several people about how disarming sincerity can be, especially online, and how people are so taken aback because they don't expect it.

I didn't always feel this way. I used to be very quick to get aggressive and sarcastic with everyone, online and offline. I've since learned that being humble, sincere and genuine makes things easier for everyone. It can sometimes be hard to practice when faced with someone who is bent on being ugly, but a little kindness can go along way with those people. After all, you can't argue with someone who won't argue back at you. It seems like such an obvious thing to me now, but it wasn't always obvious.

By the way, your blog is really wonderful, Jen. I discovered it through a couple of Facebook friends who liked your page. I wasn't raised with any religion, and to be honest, most of the Christians I've met or heard about in the media have made me afraid of Christianity. They make it sound like a hate-filled faith of exclusion. But you, just one small person, you have softened my heart with your words. I always feel good after reading a Jen Hatmaker blog entry. I feel understood. And I truly do feel like you come from a place of love. So thank you.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - February 11th, 2014 at 1:09 PM
I've begun to realize that the best I can hope for myself is to give people the benefit if the doubt. It's so much easier, really. It requires so much less. And it sends me to bed without a brick in my throat. I'm sick to death of being cynical and skeptical.

I used to see it as a weakness when someone was described as "too nice". I refused to ever be "that girl", choosing to hide, instead, behind the (in)security of my big, wise, skepticism. But I'm starting to see the true beauty in simple kindness, and even the beauty in being taken for a ride or losing my shirt, so to speak, because of course unbridled doubt-withholding eventually paints me a fool. Happy is the day of realizing there's nothing really lost in believing the best.

Lindsey - February 11th, 2014 at 1:11 PM
This reminds me of the Veggie Tales episode "the Rumor Weed." Clearly I'm in the throes of littles, and relate everything to a cucumber and a tomato. And also, this post is spot on. PREACH.
Kellie - February 11th, 2014 at 1:16 PM
As someone who also burns hot and fast and has left loved ones with third degree burns, I often remind myself of this wise saying in spanish:

En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.

That word picture has saved my butt more than once. Flies can't enter a closed mouth.

Thanks for the timely word!
Melissa - February 11th, 2014 at 1:24 PM
Perfectly said. This is so so so true!!! I have struggled to use grace and mercy and have not taken the 24 hour let me think about it rule so many times. It always makes me feel guilt and worry even if it's not immediate because I am so upset I just want to talk talk talk or complain or be mad whatever. But it always breeds negatively in my soul and worries my heart. This so spoke straight to my heart because it's the part of my life I am working so hard to change. Thank you so much for these words of encouragement! I making a conscious effort to sail that negative ship out of here and keep the grace and mercy God shows me and all of us close by:). Thank you.
Lisa - February 11th, 2014 at 1:47 PM
Breath of fresh air! Amen!
Renee - February 11th, 2014 at 2:00 PM
At my workplace, before every meeting, agreements and ground rules are established to help the meeting's productivity. The first agreement is... "assume good intentions." This is the same as "benefit of the doubt" but somehow this language holds more meaning to me. I now try to use this in everyday life not just during weekly staff meetings. Thanks for the reminder!
Amber - February 11th, 2014 at 2:04 PM
It's rare that I comment on things that I read, but this time I just have to! I want to comment on a very specific part of your blog that I found very encouraging, and that is the part about there being a time to walk away from unhealthy relationships. As a PK who has been in the church since birth, I have found myself in very dark days. I have recently had to sever ties with people I love more than mere words can express. After eight years of attempting to walk in grace, mercy, forgiveness and love, I have come to the place of knowing that it is time to walk away. I have found the church so quick to quote the whole seventy times seven thing as a reason to just keep trying. While forgiveness is not an option, remaining in the unhealthy relationship is! Thank you for affirming the words and feelings in my heart! Thank you for speaking to my heart, although we've never met! I needed that today!!
KatieH - March 12th, 2014 at 9:57 PM
The truth is (and many Christians don't like hearing it pointed out!) is that in the Bible, Jesus forgives the repentant, not the unrepentant. And yet when people in our lives are continually unrepentant, we are told it is our duty to forgive, when in fact it is our duty to require repentance. (No not about differences of opinion, people- I'm talking about abusive behaviors like lying, stealing, gossiping, abusive language, ect. that go on for years without change or repentance.)
Lestra gross - February 11th, 2014 at 2:11 PM
I don't understand the one that says "assume the benefit of the doubt to our friends. Believe the worst is the worst" ? Loved the rest!
Lauren - February 11th, 2014 at 2:12 PM
This is a good reminder to me today. Thanks!

Danielle - February 11th, 2014 at 2:40 PM
"Believe half of what you hear and nothing of what you see." Words of wisdom from my Papaw that had stuck with me.
Jennifer - February 11th, 2014 at 2:44 PM
No self rightous indignation here for sister you were preaching right to me! Thankful for spiritual leading.
Allison O. - February 11th, 2014 at 2:52 PM
This is real. and good. and really, really good. I'm going to flip this around just a bit - having been the one who has had the words fly out of her mouth that made so much sense in her head but came out totally deranged. Then the judgment, and condemnation, and intense dislike of this girl who was trying to make good conversation that came out with poor eloquence. Who ended up in the bars to drown out the fears and shyness and insecurities to become bold and forward and falsely secure in that gin you were talking about. I may not have ended up around the pole, but the steps to get there would probably have been few.

If we could raise the proverbial bar, to be inclusive rather than exclusive, what a dance that would be. No pole, just people who may be polar opposites loving each other for who God created them to be in the way He called us to love. Slow to speak, quick to listen with a heart ready to live out Philippians 2:3.. but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

So, I join you at the table, in quiet surrender to the grace which you extend. Because when you extend it, I learn to do the same, and thus perpetuates a movement of the Holy Spirit to disarm the nay-sayers and embrace them instead.
Bev Murrill - February 11th, 2014 at 3:08 PM
Jen, I can't tell you how much I value what you have said. Over the years I have found that when I choose the former option, I always regret it. SInce I'm an action person, impulsive and wanting to deal with life NOW, it has been a work of grace from a loving God who has shown me how to choose the second option.

You're right; there's a certain satisfaction in firing off an answer then and there... but it doesn't have medicine to heal the sick feeling that comes later, when it all goes pear shaped.

Fantastic post and really worth reading.
Stephanie @ Hugs, Kisses and Snot - February 11th, 2014 at 4:04 PM
I'm so sorry that people get ugly and spout filth about you without even knowing you. How about this...I read your posts and come to the conclusion that we are best friends. I give it the benefit of the doubt that we would get along swimmingly.
But seriously...wise words, sister, wise words.
John Ford - February 11th, 2014 at 4:13 PM
Well said ...

Tracy - February 11th, 2014 at 4:14 PM
Jen-watch Ben Campbell Vimeo video from Intervarsity. He did exactly this! :)
Rachel Langston - February 11th, 2014 at 4:14 PM
All I know to say (after reading and waiting, of course)...is AMEN!
Stacie - February 11th, 2014 at 4:17 PM
This topic has really been on my heart lately. Thank you for adding to my food for thought! These two quotes are something I've been repeating to myself multiple times each day:
"We evaluate others with a Godlike justice, but want them to evaluate us with Godlike compassion" Sidney Harris
"Let refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others." H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Linda - February 11th, 2014 at 5:19 PM
Oh, I love this so much. Thank you, Jen. I'll read it and reread it and share it and try my best to live it.
Jackie - February 11th, 2014 at 5:46 PM
Just what I needed in this season of my life. Thank you!
Sarah Randall, SSM - February 11th, 2014 at 6:56 PM
Patti - February 11th, 2014 at 7:10 PM
A good word of truth! Its a nuance between reacting and responding, but oh the results are a mile apart. Taking the time to respond in the right spirit sure beats reacting in the flesh in the moment. Thank you for your insight and humor to explain the truths of life. Bless you.
Jenny - February 11th, 2014 at 7:11 PM
I love this! Thank you so much for writing your heart. Praying for grace to live this out. Love God. Love others. The end.
sarah - February 11th, 2014 at 7:12 PM
I appreciate this....as a quick responder, I am often literally talking myself down from immediate replies. The "wait 24 hours" rule seems like such a smart approach and gives me space to hear God's voice rather than my own indignation. Thanks for this!
Jennings - February 11th, 2014 at 8:08 PM
Love this! My husband is a quick (and loud) responder, as is my mom (so you'd think I'd have some practice!). I have worked hard, not always successfully, to not get swept up in his momentary emotion, because that just spells disaster. If I stay calm, or walk away for the moment, we can always talk through things. We just moved and are still going back and forth to our old city, causing a lot of stress and tiredness and separation, so this is a very timely reminder to give grace and always think the best, not jump in with a quick "fix".
Vickie Otts - February 11th, 2014 at 8:37 PM
Jen, this post took be back about 20 years and it is a story that includes my oldest son, Brad Otts, whom you know very well. I taught in our student ministry for about 10 plus years. We had a speaker at at conference for teens at our church earlier. I wish I could remember his name, but it is lost in the recesses of my crazy brain. However , I have NEVER forgotten his words. He talked of how we often " hear " the words of others " and interpret them " our" way. Many , many time, those interpretations are NOT what the person that spoke meant. I thought of all the times that had happened with my children. At the time , Brad was about 14, I think. I also had a 16 year old and 19 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. So I was plenty experienced in " word / conversation interpretation " !! LOL I was driving Brad to " something" ( there was always something :-) ). Brad was at a stage where he was EXTREMELY into sports, sports figures/ players/ sports stats, sports games, %u2026. you name. Hard to believe now. Right? HA!! Anyways, we were listening to the radio. One of the stations were having a contest and the winner would be able to choose the celebrity of " their choice" to deliver the prize. Well, like any good mother, I wanted to engage my 14 year old son in a fun conversation. So I pretended to be the person on the radio and told Brad he had won!! I asked him who he wanted to deliver his prize . Of course, I was thinking many sports celebrities / guys that he was probably thinking about. I almost ran off the road when he announced his choice - Drew Barrymore. Now, I know you are wondering why I was so freaked out. Well, this was NOT a good time of life fro Drew Barrymore and her life choices. My mom heart almost exploded with fear, questions, anxiety, etc. I opened my mouth to say "WHAT?? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, %u2026.etc , etc. ". I am sure you get the picture. Instead , the spirit of God promptly tugged at my heart and SHUT my mouth. Instead of going all crazy and judgmental on him , I simply said ( still in my radio persona ), "Awesome, tell me why you have chosen Miss Barrymore?" The answer still circles around in my thoughts on occasion of impending judgement. "Oh, I don't know. I just saw her on a talk show . She just seemed funny and really easy to be around , not intimidating or anything. " THAT WAS IT!! Nothing else. NONE of the 14 year old boy reasons screaming around in my head and filling me with fear and thoughts of how I must be an awful mother. I learned a very big lesson that day. First, I need to listen with all of me , not just my ears and brain,( which can convince me I know all the answers), but listen with my ears, my mind, my heart, and my spirit. Listen and then respond, not react.Listen with the direction and wisdom of my God. This was a much used lesson that I still use on children and now sweet grandchildren!!! God is so good and patient with us as we learn!! I am blessed and thankful :-)
Marinalva Sickler - February 11th, 2014 at 9:17 PM
Thank you for giving the benefit of the doubt to understanding the one I love, grace, I needed today.
Angie - February 11th, 2014 at 9:51 PM
Ok, so I have an illustration of your point here. NOT trying to stir anymore controversies, but when a Chick Fila CEO says he personally doesn't believe in gay marriage, much of the nation goes crazy, because that's all they know about him. When a redneck duck hunter makes his opinions known about homosexuality, the back lash was much less. Why? Because we knew a context. We'd watched a portion of his life on tv, so it didn't surprise many of us that this was his view, even if we disagreed. Less assumptions could be made, thus less overreacting. Thanks for the thought provoking encouragement.
[email protected] - February 11th, 2014 at 10:20 PM
how true we make assumptions. jump to conclusions. think we know someone's entire life based on one moment. one small glimpse. my dad used to say, "behind everyone is a story." and i think we make judgement calls because we don't take the time to hear each other's stories. most people are never listening.. they're just waiting for that one to finish so they can give their opinion. that's what the internet feels it's become- a place where no one is truly hearing the other, just waiting to spout their views. ~

convicted by this tonight, Jen. i'm going to purpose to shut up and listen. really listen!

thanks for sharing. bless that sweet Remy and her pole and bar ever lovin heart!!
Shelly - February 11th, 2014 at 10:26 PM
Presume good intentions. That's what I stop and make myself say out loud over and over when I start running hot.
Love the pole, bar, read! Funny stuff!
Wendy Hagen - February 11th, 2014 at 10:34 PM
Love this! Gold!!! I must confess as I read the words overflowing from your heart (and said "yes!") it was interlaced with me cracking up at Remy's list. So priceless. Please make that photo your next book cover. Please.
Wendy - February 11th, 2014 at 11:22 PM
My husband and I got engaged in fall of 2001. After a week of talk of a summer wedding, we both separately came to the conclusion that life was too short to delay marriage just for a bigger party, so we got married 7 weeks later in my parents' living room. We were old enough (31) to know that the wedding was just the first day, but the marriage was the important thing.
Months later I was carpooling to work with my boss (assistant principal), and she asked me when I was expecting. Wha??? She was so embarrassed to hear I was not pregnant. She said, "I wouldn't have said anything if I'd heard it from a kid, but it was a teacher who told me!" So one of my coworkers had leapt to the conclusion that my short engagement meant a shotgun wedding. They were so confident in this theory that they told our boss!
All I could do was laugh.
On a more serious note, I've had a few conflicts with students lately where I did NOT take the 24 hour cool down, and so did NOT bring a calm adult to the table. Instead, there were two children set on winning the argument. It just hit me on my way home today that the problem was me, not them, and this post was a very helpful explanation of where I've been going wrong. Thank you.
Danyelle - February 11th, 2014 at 11:22 PM
Fill the gap with trust. Every. Time.
Tasha Hacker - February 12th, 2014 at 12:45 AM
Thanks for this post. Funny, I've been following your blog for a long time, but I just hit on this post right after I woke up to a nasty comment on a travel piece I wrote about Australia, telling me, "Go back to your own country." Interesting. I know I shouldn't think anything of comments like this, but somehow it took up mental space that I didn't want it to. Like, should I explain to this guy that I was just kidding about the Crocodile Dundee stereotype? That I know drop bears don't exist? That I have a weird sense of humor? But I have to remember that this guy doesn't know me. And probably didn't even think when he wrote his nasty response. So it's my thing to get rid of... I put myself out there on the web and sometimes people hate it. And also sometimes people love it. I choose when to respond and when to just delete. I'm learning not to respond when I most want to :-)
Tami Romani - February 12th, 2014 at 1:43 AM
Yes. Thank you for this. If only EVERY person could read it.
Patty Blissard - February 12th, 2014 at 6:21 AM
You nailed this! I needed this! I'm printing this out to re-read and meditate on. I saw you in Tupelo, Ms at The Orchard through the invitation of a friend, I am so glad I did! Your fresh unique perspective is so refreshing. Reading 7 now. Thank You for what you do!
Melissa H-K - February 12th, 2014 at 8:45 AM
Oh, I dunno about not going with the first reaction. Here's my first reaction to this: "It appears we are raising a gin-swigging stripper (with a surprising reading and art habit and a mysterious activity called %u201Chouse%u201D). Jumping to conclusions would be so easy."

::giggle:: ::chuckle:: ::laugh:: ::laugh loudly:: ::wipe tears from eyes::

My first judgment about you and your family is that you are all hilarious. Got a problem with that? ;-)
Glennes - February 12th, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Thank you for this it is a beautiful way to live our lives and as for me it really hits home and I am going to do my best to apply it to my life.
ReAnna - February 12th, 2014 at 10:57 AM
After reading this post and passing it on, I read this article this morning- http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/shaun-white-olympic-moments-and-mettle-without-a-color/2014/02/11/94fa0968-9354-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html
which speaks directly to your point!

Pattie - February 12th, 2014 at 12:43 PM
I woke up at 4 a.m. having had a vivid dream about the vitriol online, how nasty people can be. The second part of your blog is much like what I wrote in my head this morning--but you are more eloquent than I :)
Elisabeth - February 12th, 2014 at 12:45 PM
Moving, convicting, beautiful.

Pics of the pole and the fam using it???!!!
Melissa - February 12th, 2014 at 2:16 PM
I read this today and thought immediately of your recent blog post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/shaun-white-olympic-moments-and-mettle-without-a-color/2014/02/11/94fa0968-9354-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html.
Laura - February 12th, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Amen. This is my dream as well.
Tania - February 12th, 2014 at 3:41 PM
Hi Jen

Thanks for this insight. So good!
For some odd reason I cannot find the subscription button to your blog. Where is it exactly? Thanks!
Joanna - February 12th, 2014 at 6:55 PM
Love it! As I tell my kids, "Choose not to be offended." It saves all kinds of drama - and time!
Amy Frans - February 13th, 2014 at 11:52 AM
This is TOTALLY what God has been teaching me over the last few years. Unfortunately I had to go thru some really crappy circumstances before I was able to see this for what it is; making assumptions about others based on my thoughts, feeling, experiences, etc. Yuck.
Thanks for sharing. It's a great reminder.
%u2026.and now I'm pretty sure my son needs a fireman's pole in his room. Definitely.
Candace - February 13th, 2014 at 4:05 PM
Love this. Reminds me of what Dallas Willard said about loving others: Love doesn't push, doesn't pretend and doesn't presume. Presuming is sometimes the hardest for me, thinking I know everything about everything, when in reality He gentle assures me, "Darling, you are not nearly as smart and onto-it as you think you are." Such a good reminder, thank you for it!!
David - February 27th, 2014 at 5:09 PM
Thank you for posting this candace! I love Dallas Willard and this is a fantastic quote
Cookie Cawthon - February 15th, 2014 at 1:47 PM
I'm with you, girl! And if I - as a forty year-old mom (YIKES!) - battle both sides of this ditch; how do I lead my eleven and eight year-old daughters through this well? It can feel like our identity is ever up for sale, on the market, up for debate if we aren't solidly settled on who Jesus made us to be. And that, too, can be a prerequisite to assuming the best and loving others well...
Laura Walters - February 16th, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Can I just say, "Amen." ? It has been a week since the IF:Gathering and every.single.relationship in my life seems to be under attack. I am practicing grace, praying as the angry words fly around me begging God, "Let me see with your eyes. Let me hear with your heart. Let me love with your love. What am I missing?" and there have been a few grace filled moments where in front of my eyes, a shift takes place. The scene is the same, but my eyes/heart see pain rather than anger, miscommunication rather than thoughtlessness, survival mode versus a lack of love. Ahhhh. His grace really IS enough. I just have to tap into it more often.

sarah - February 16th, 2014 at 6:02 PM
I am in.
Marie - February 17th, 2014 at 3:20 AM
Beautifully said, thank you.
Missy Froeber - February 21st, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Amen! When my son was 4, he could not say the word "pilates" so he changed it to "palace". He told his daycare provider that his mother danced every Tuesday at the palace. I could just see the "assume" all over her face when I picked him up that day and she told me what he'd said. I just laughed and explained. She and I are very good friends now and I am so glad I did not "assume" back and get angry, but laughed instead. It is our favorite story to tell others, how we became friends at the "palace".

Thank you Jen, for the wonderful illustration. Your blogs always make me laugh . . . and cry, but in a good way! Sometimes I think you must be in my house watching my own kids! It's good to know we are not alone in our craziness and confusion.
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DAVID. ANGEL - December 15th, 2014 at 1:47 AM
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Nancy Brown - April 4th, 2018 at 5:01 AM
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