Chicken and Fries
by Jen Hatmaker on May 22nd, 2014

I love to cook. I feed my people crazy food. In my pantry at this exact moment, I have fish sauce, ghee, Garam Masala, and berbere (my ET people know what this is). I make spicy food, sour food, I pickle radishes, I douse our stuff with curry. I feed my family bold, flavorful, ethnic food that sets their mouths on fire. They have been exposed to every sort of recipe. They have assimilated a super wide range of flavors and textures because I want them to love good food.
And every single time we go out to eat, Remy orders chicken and French fries.
This child eats peppery food with the heat of a thousand suns at home. She eats onions, peppers, garlic, curry, broccoli, fennel, quinoa, roasted red peppers, salmon. She gobbles it up like a skinny little carnivore. At a restaurant? Chicken and fries. They were some of the first American foods she was able to stomach, and her psyche has snagged on them. She can pull no other option out of her culinary satchel when forced to make her own decision.
She just goes back to the same predictable flavor.
I get this on a very human level. Sometimes I just want more of the same. I want the same thinkers, the same cacophony, the same groupthink. I assemble and invite a niche brand of religion, worldview, moral outrage, and theology into my ears. I like what I like and I like other people to like the same things.
I watch this with regularity in the weird online world where niche tribes have formed, creating something of a group identity. An issue comes up, the tribe gathers and formulates, then the responses start flying with predictable homogeny. The group machine feeds the outrage or dissidence or full throttle approval or cynicism, and people go public with cemented opinions formed back in the echo chamber without any tempering from different sources.
It’s tricky, because in so many ways, our niche tribes are life-giving and meaningful, as they should be. They offer likeminded community and a place to belong. These are wonderful outcomes in a noisy, lonely world.
But when we invite no other flavors into the mix, the chicken and fries has a downside. When the same views are bandied around the group endlessly, it causes ideas to seize when they should remain fluid. It inadvertently (or advertently) silences opposing or even just differing perspectives, assuring each other that we are right and they are wrong; the echo chamber has spoken. Ironically, opposing tribes operate the exact same way and come to the exact same conclusions; they simply swap the winner and loser blanks.
I know this is my tendency. I recognize my instinct to reach for a familiar flavor to affirm my own ideals. So I have some best practices to save me from myself and maybe they will be helpful for you. Let’s break it down into two categories:
During Conflict
An issue hit the news, a relationship hit the skids, that group or person said or did something offensive, our feelings were hurt. These are the moments we most want our chicken and fries. If there is to be a right and wrong conclusion, we want our people to assure us that we are right. We might even want to bolster some group outrage, because the only thing better than being right is being mad about it, and the only thing better than being mad about it is being mad with a bunch of people. Of course, the group outrage is built on carefully selected messaging from the Wounded One, but this is not the moment to bother with trivia; there is anger to fuel.

  1. Wait one day before you do or say anything at all. I’ve mentioned this personal policy before, and it cannot be overstated. In probably 8 out of 10 cases, the shock or anger or confusion recedes by the next day, and I am able to reassess the situation with clearer eyes. I see nuance I blew past the day before. I can operate out of the thinking part of my brain instead of the fight-or-flight part. It almost never feels as bad as I thought. Assembling the battalion and staging a war in those first 24 hours is the worst decision ever. Regret is virtually inevitable.
  2. If possible, go directly to the source before activating the troops. So often, misunderstanding or misinformation is the culprit. A simple phone call could clear it up or at least take the sting out. Especially for people we love or trust or respect; we should absolutely extend the benefit of the doubt and give them the courtesy of an honest, first-touch conversation. But even if the offense is severe, spiritual maturity requires direct communication; this is how adults behave.
  3. Reach for a different flavor. Discuss this with someone outside of your group. Find someone trustworthy who operates in a totally diverse space. Different perspectives are famously difficult to perceive on our own. Ask questions, try to get to the heart of it all. Prioritize understanding over defending. 
  4. Talk to someone who is in a similar place as the other person or group; pull from that tribe. When the World Vision fallout spiked, my first phone call was to Chris Marlow because he also leads a Christian international nonprofit using a sponsorship model. I said, “Unpack this for me from a leadership standpoint. What are all the factors I don’t understand?” Chris leant me some perspective that I absolutely 100% would not have grasped on my own.
  5. Talk to someone who is older and wiser than you. Every year I get older, I become less of an ass. I will be a wonderful counselor in twenty years, for the love. We need mentors who know the value of compromise, humility, and compassion. The fervor of youth is a double-edged sword; it can be a mighty tool for the kingdom, but it can also wound and slice and destroy. Wisdom seeks out wisdom, not just affirmation. Older believers? Please mentor us. We need you. 

Outside of Conflict
These practices will provide the scaffolding for all the measures listed above. If we consistently move toward a wider circle, it will feel more natural to deviate from our chicken and fries in conflict.

  1. In general, nurture some friendships that are way outside of your normal parameters. Someone from across the pond, across party lines, across town, across ethnicities, across ideologies, across age groups. This requires effort and time, but it will make you a more gentle, more informed human. I love my niche tribe, but there is more to humanity than us. I have a deep and varied friend roster, and I cannot even measure how much they’ve changed me. The diversity of ideas, experiences, and perspectives they have brought into my worldview has absolutely altered my trajectory. If all your friends are basically the same, you don’t even know what you don’t know. Southern Baptist pastor? Go make friends with a gay atheist. Then shut your mouth and do a lot of listening. Now we’re getting somewhere.
  2. Connect your different friends with each other. I have several “groups,” and it is easy to formulate a personality for each one and keep them separate, but it is more fun to throw them all in a bowl and stir. My mix and match policy has spun off whole new friendships. This creates stronger communities that become more likely to expand, include, risk, invite. 
  3. Work on humility. I don’t know how to help us all with this, but all this is for crap if we don’t figure out how to be humble friends, humble listeners, humble learners. Arrogance is the culprit to so much destruction. We are not always right. And even when we are, we don’t need to act a fool. The longer I live, I crave humility in people almost more than any other trait – in my friends, in my leaders. I am my worst self in the absence of humility. The higher I place God, the easier it is to locate my own station. When He reigns, I am free to just be a forgiven sinner who doesn’t always have to be right or perfectly understood or popular. When I reign, I have much to defend and protect, because how else am I going to stay on top? With God solidly in charge and honored, I am liberated to just be an ordinary girl who loves Jesus and loves people.

Maybe it’s a good time to take a good look at your tribe, lovely as it may be. Is it pretty homogenous? Is there any diversity? Does it sometimes feel like an echo chamber with the same ideas, same grievances, same perspectives, same future? Take a risk. Get out there. Open yourself up to different. Be someone else’s different. You’ll always love your chicken and fries (who doesn’t??), but you just might discover that you also love tikka masala with raita.
Who knew??

I am on an Indian food kick and the end is nowhere in sight.
Thank you for understanding and indulging my near constant references.

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Amy Tilson - May 22nd, 2014 at 10:18 AM
I checked out a book from the library to read because: 1)I wasn't spending MY $$ on it, 2)I knew I disagreed with everything that would be in it, and 3)this would give me an informed support for my own presuppositions. Guess what? I'm loving the book. I'm learning immensely from this book. I agree with much of the book. I'm going to figure out how to fess up and thank the writer without coming off like a total wacko. Amazing what can happen when we turn off our own biases for half a second and just listen. Thanks!
karen thoms - May 22nd, 2014 at 10:25 AM
I have huddled with my masses and also been not heard because others were too busy huddling with their masses. I am trying to be different. I don't post things to preach at the choir. I post things because I think maybe people with a different view may not have heard this view because they were too busy surrounding themselves with people who think like them. Also, over the last decade with the help of many people I have come to the middle on many topics. For me, being in the middle is the best place to be because I can reach out and touch both sides.
Leia - May 22nd, 2014 at 10:33 AM
I've been living the mantra of Elizabeth Lesser for a couple of years--taking the other to lunch. We all have so much to learn about ALL THE THINGS. Why would I waste time being angry or hateful or know-it-allish?
Jennifer D. - May 22nd, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Dad I'm craving Korma but Taco Soup is in the crock pot. #firstworldproblem

But seriously, thank you for this...
Maryanne - May 22nd, 2014 at 10:55 AM
I am going to print this out so I can refer to it FOREVER and give copies to my kids.
Thank you for such sane and thoughtful words.
LaDonna - May 22nd, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Some of the humility you crave simply comes with age. The older I get, the more I appreciate the grace God has extended to me when I am SO far from right. You also have the opportunity to look back over the arc of time and see how views change over a lifetime: view of society, the church, your family. People change and since that is true, the people and opinions that are prevalent now will also change across time. I can remember seeing the deacons and pastor of my church growing up all on the front steps of the church smoking cigarettes! Just a few years later, we started hearing more preaching about our bodies being the temple of God coinciding with an upswing in the prevalence of cancer. Not everyone stopped smoking, but many did and the pastor certainly stopped. He had a new understanding. You would never see that same scene today. People change.

My father was/is a deacon in the Baptist church and has always held strong views about divorce and people of divorce. He held staunchly to ideas that divorced people had to walk a certain line and were certainly not able to serve in the same ways. Three years after my mother passed away, he met a woman who had been divorced for over 25 years. As he began to date her and the thought was crossing his mind about marrying her, he had to reexamine his tightly held beliefs and we had long discussions. He told me that if he married her, he would owe an apology to a lot of people. He did marry her, and still serves as a deacon in his church. Time and our own life experiences bring humility into the mix - most of us mellow with age. Time tends to shape our world view and time is always marching forward dragging us along for the ride. You can't help but change. Grace - it's a good thing!
Julie Blauwkamp - May 22nd, 2014 at 11:07 AM
My outside of my parameter friends have been the biggest blessings in my life.
Yes to all of above.

But I am a much
Person because of these friendships.

Each one if them has been so worth it. They are my some of my biggest life treasures.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - May 22nd, 2014 at 11:51 AM
I keep mulling this around, too. I thought I knew everything, until I found a different group and learned all their names. They have changed me. They're a gift to me.

Having coffee with one of my new pals last week, she said, "The days when I wake up thinking I know everything are always my worst days."

And now I can't outrun her words, because they prove so much, and because if it weren't for them, neither of us would have been sitting there in the coffee shop in the first place. There's so much potential for life and truth when we embrace our ineptitude and yield to our ignorance.

It's hard to grow inside a bubble.
Sarah K - May 22nd, 2014 at 11:57 AM
I am Facebook friends with someone who is constantly on his soap box. His view and mine are often opposite. I try to read his posts with some sense of open-mindedness and a little "I could learn something here". Unfortunately, he feels that he has nothing to learn from anyone who disagrees with him and is quite in love with his own opinion. I just try not to antagonize him.

I want to throw out the idea that the gay atheist should seek out a Baptist preacher too. Tolerance should run both ways. We all have a lot to learn, and I am in the front of that line.
Amanda - May 22nd, 2014 at 12:21 PM
I recently bought a book that I felt I knew I would disagree with and dislike because I realized that I tend to read things that I know I will agree with - it was called "Jesus Feminist" by your friend, Sarah Bessey. Not quite the same as making a friend%u2026.but moving in the direction of getting out of my comfort zone. I really enjoyed it and feel like I got a little bit less judgemental. Even though I do indeed disagree with a lot in there, I also find that there is so much there that we can agree on and she helped me to see myself as more of a daughter of God than i had perviously. I think you are so right - we tend to gravitate toward those we know will agree with us and we tend to assume we understand the "other side". I think Satan likes to keep us separated too%u2026so the way to fight back against him is to get out there and get to know people who think differently. Thanks for this post.

And now I want Indian food. Raita is my favourite - no Indian or Pakistani food is complete without it! I love when I meet people who love food%u2026and I'll be honest%u2026.I find it hard to be friends with people who don't :P
LuAnn - May 22nd, 2014 at 1:50 PM
Last year we relocated 100 miles from a town we had lived in for 20 years. I kept trying to recreate the life we used to have--the same type of friends, the same kind of church, the same kind of neighborhood. I was homesick and miserable. Finally I realized that God was REALLY creating a "new thing" in my life and I couldn't move forward if I kept looking back. He burst our little bubble and life is SO different now, but SO much better. Our home is half the size, half the work, half the cost--and it allows me to be home with our kids, doing what I love. New friendships here are already stronger and more varied than what we had before. And the wonderful church God led us to is in an old strip mall. It's all good. Preach it, sister.
Sue - May 22nd, 2014 at 4:47 PM
We moved all the way across the country a number of years ago, wondering all the way if God really wanted us to leave all of our family on the other coast and everything we were familiar with. We moved from large city suburbs to rural small town, different type of church family, different language (can we say Southern y'all? ), tractors on our roads instead of traffic, etc. Within ten years, we are now surrounded by nine family members living within three miles of us, making up four generstions! Love, love, love! And now that I am no longer working outside the home in a paid position, I am involved in so many other endeavors I had never participated in before. Our tribe has definitely grown, changed and expanded. And I don't see that changing any time soon. God just keeps nudging us onward and outward! %u263A
Kim - May 22nd, 2014 at 2:03 PM
Seeking to live in community outside your tribe is so hard. To graciously see others as more important than myself (humility), near impossible. Insert God's grace here! My ah ha moment came after reading The Kite Runner. Suddenly Muslims were real people- people I could learn ALOT from. I still tend to gravitate toward fellow tribesmen, but I'm learning to enjoy those times when, just for kicks, I go a completely different direction.
Disclaimer: I don't care for spicy food%u2026.Given a choice, I'm with Remy.
Julien Jamar - May 22nd, 2014 at 2:40 PM
Oh my gosh! The "wait a day before you explode" thing has saved my bacon more times than I care to admit. i have never regretted not talking. Ever. I love the fostering different friendships and broaden your view bit as well. Life changing!
Hannah - May 22nd, 2014 at 2:43 PM
Let me tell you something Jen Hatmaker, you do not always make me feel better about myself. Thank you for that. "...spiritual maturity requires direct conversation; this is how adults behave?" Guess what? I have not been behaving as an adult. ahem. This was such a good word. Thank you!

Kellie - May 22nd, 2014 at 2:57 PM
"...this is how adults behave." THAT. Please write that book. Sometimes I can't help think, "Who raised you??" and, "Would you say that in front of your mom?" But the truth is somewhere along the line we've lost the standards of good behavior that are expected of grown-ups.
Fran - May 22nd, 2014 at 3:10 PM
This is so good. Gosh. Thank you. I crave to get out of my christian bubble that I find life in. It's always a love/hate relationship. The older I get, the more experience with "others" I have, the more I want the different. I'm growing, learning, understanding, being challenged and made smarter because of these precious souls. Lord help me get over myself. :)
Kristi - May 22nd, 2014 at 3:12 PM
Amen, amen, and amen! This is one of the reasons I consider going away to college one of the best decisions I've ever made. I left my homogenous, sheltered world and got to build friendships with people who challenged me and made me think. Twenty years later, those friendships still help me look at things from different perspectives. I think this is important to remember as parents, too. We want to give our kids a good foundation in God's truth, but also teach them to examine situations and think for themselves.
Andrea - May 22nd, 2014 at 5:24 PM
I read a lot of different blogs by a variety of people I don't always agree with theologically. There have been so many times when the former Southern Baptist in me cries foul, when my fingers itch to switch over to someone I know is more in line with my more conservative beliefs, but here's the thing. In those same blogs, I have had moments of such spiritual awakening, healing, grace....moments that would never have happened if I clung to the notion that everyone that disagrees with me on a particular issue is wrong and not worth listening to.
Melinda - May 22nd, 2014 at 11:27 PM
A few years ago I started praying that God would let us meet people we wouldn't normally meet. It felt like a sweet little good-hearted prayer that I honestly figured I already knew what the results would be: a few new friends here and there from the fringes of groups we already basically called our own. But, ohhhhh, no. God had more than I could have asked or imagined planned for us. We have gained entire new circles of friends. We have learned about so many things we never had one tiny clue about. We have gained wisdom and compassion and depth and love and insight and beauty in our lives with opportunities that we never ever ever could have dreamed up on our own. Yes. Yes. Yes. I believe everyone - every. one - should pray that God would lead them to meet new people ...and let the adventure begin!
J - May 23rd, 2014 at 7:42 AM
Thank you. Brilliant. Step one: shut my mouth and listen...this could take some practice.
Stephen Smith - May 23rd, 2014 at 9:36 AM
This is so helpful, Jen. I struggle so much with isolating myself and/or surrounding myself with people who look, talk, act, and think like me. And that impoverishes me and strokes my ego. Thanks for this sage advice.
Cynthia - May 23rd, 2014 at 10:54 AM
To help you continue to create diverse friendships, I volunteer to be your quirky AZ friend.

That is all.
Laura - May 23rd, 2014 at 3:06 PM
This is exactly the work God has been doing in my heart. In the midst of devouring your "Interrupted", I KNEW I needed to read Shane Claiborne's "Irresistible Revolution". Nearly finished, so glad I picked it up. His ideas have been refreshing and quite outside my box. I love that we don't have to agree point-for-point on every. single. thing. Rather, we can embrace the person and appreciate them while engaging/wrestling with their new or different viewpoint.
Rachel - May 23rd, 2014 at 10:18 PM
I couldn't post this anywhere else (I'd probably offend my tribe!) but I've been pretty unsettled with my tribe lately. Something is "off", I feel like I don't "fit" most of the time. This right here is why.......I've gotta branch out!
Lisa - May 24th, 2014 at 7:23 AM
Ditto, Rachel!

Thanks, Jen, for posting something that resonated. Again. So many sentences and phrases in your posts (and this one is no exception) make me go "uh-huh!" or spark an epiphany in many that I can't possibly comment on every resonating phrase or sentence! So I'll settle for this: you rock!
EmersonStrong - May 27th, 2014 at 12:29 PM
Wondering if there's a way to write you personally?

I'd love to ask about sharing this page:
April - May 27th, 2014 at 5:58 PM
Next European trip....come to the UK!! You'll be ticking numerous boxes....1. best curry in the world, we have a local place called the Purple Pakora and they do a Chocolate Korma....2. making friends from across the pond and seeing how they "do" justice/church/mission/mercy etc. same heart...different flavours....3. Once you're here you're halfway to Africa/India/the Middle East.....

But seriously thanks for the gentle reminder to get out of our comfort zones......
Kristina - May 31st, 2014 at 11:35 AM
Reading your website IS getting out of my tribe, as I am a nonbeliever, myself. Still, I find my way back here from time to time, and I consider your perspective fresh and compassionate. I frequently leave feeling that my worldview is improved and broadened. Thank you for that. We can indeed all use a little fresh air in our hidey-holes. (I'm taking my oldest daughter to London & Paris in July to celebrate her HS graduation, and you've really fired up the ol' taste buds, imagining all the glorious Indian food I'll be eating in London!)
dkzody - June 3rd, 2014 at 7:47 PM
>>Older believers? Please mentor us. We need you.
Catherine - June 14th, 2014 at 9:11 PM
I'm a Christian and while I find that while I can certainly accept transgender, pagan and individuals with criminal histories and go to dinner with them with ease,, it's harder for me to accept the "churched" people and the un-messy, tidy and "good hair day" people of the world. So I need to consider these points.
Sammi Feliciani - June 18th, 2014 at 1:41 PM
THIS. THIS IS EVERYTHING. Jen, I love your blog. I believe that God is doing something radical in my heart right now and he has definitely used your words to get me to start thinking differently and to push me out of my comfort zone. I love me some chicken and fries. I like my Christianity plain and measured and predictable.

It downright scares me to love people who are different from me--it's hard! But the more I find myself stuck in a bubble the more I realize that I'm missing out on experiencing different parts of who God is. Thank you for this.

John - January 4th, 2017 at 7:23 PM
I've just started reading some of your posts and am thoroughly enjoying them. As i have expanded my tribe over the years I have found it to be incredibly messy, beautiful but messy. And you are so right when you say it requires humility. I would say now more then ever.
Thanks for the sage advice. I'll take it.
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