Series 11: For the Love of Books | Episode 02
Use Your Words to Raise Your Voice, with Kathy Khang
There’s never been a time when words matter more. They have the force to spark ideas, to build, to topple the status quo. Words enter the world when you use your voice. But what is your voice? For some of us, we’re not even sure what our voice sounds like, let alone how to use it. That’s why we’re pleased to welcome writer Kathy Khang, our second guest in the For the Love of Books series.
Kathy has struggled with speaking out for her entire life. And despite having so many things to say, for ten years Kathy wrestled with finding the courage to write her new book Raise Your Voice. Today Jen and Kathy talk about raising our kids to have a voice, using our voice in this culture, and the tension that comes with it. Kathy reminds us what we have to say is worthy, it matters, and it’s powerful. We all benefit when we learn how we can use our voices to do great good in the world.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody. It is Jen Hatmaker, your host for the For the Love Podcast. Love that you’re here today.
We’re in the middle of a amazing series, and it’s For the Love of Books, one of our very high, shared values here in the podcast community. So we’re talking to all kinds of great thinkers and storytellers, and we’re getting into the minds and hearts of the folks who tell us their stories and grab our imaginations, or move us in different ways, or talk about the craft of writing. Of course, I love it. I’ve nerded out in every possible episode.
I’m really, really excited to bring you my next guest. She is insightful, and she is warm, she is funny, she is wise. She has a new book coming out that you’re going to love. We’re going to talk about it at length.
So it’s Kathy Khang, and she is just a friend that I respect and I love and I learn from. She’s a writer. She’s a speaker. She’s a yogi, drinker of coffee. She’s wife to Peter, and they just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. She’s got three kids: Bethany, Corban, Elias.
Kathy was born in Korea, and she immigrated to the U.S. when she was eight months old. She actually began her writing career as a journalist and then moved into parachurch ministry, where she has literally spent more than 20 years working with college students and training organizational and church leaders, so she really knows what she’s talking about, you guys. She’s just like a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Kathy is the author of two books. Her first was called More Than Serving Tea. She wrote it like 12 years ago with four other co-authors, where they talked about the intersection of faith, and culture, and gender, and just tells this really important story of being Asian-American Christian women.
But her latest book is all hers, and it’s called Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up. I’m actually going to tell you in this podcast what I did when I first read it, because I had a real strong reaction to this message. This is the book we need right now, in my opinion, because words are very powerful, and they have the force to spark ideas, to build, to change. They topple the status quo. There’s never been a time when words matter more.
So, I think, what is your voice? This is a big question. For some of us, we’re not even sure what our voice sounds like. Our identities are shifting, or the way we view the world is shifting, and we might not know what we think about everything. Sometimes it’s just enough to be present in the moment, much less figure out how we feel about being there and then say it out loud.
This conversation with Kathy is a great reminder what we have to say is worthy, and it matters, and it’s powerful. And we’re going to talk all about why that is, and how we can use our voices to do great good in the world.
If you don’t already know Kathy, if you don’t already follow her, you’re going to be so glad to meet her in this hour. We have this amazing conversation lined up for you. And we talk about it all, you guys: parenting, raising our kids to have a voice, using our voice in this culture, the inevitable tension that comes with it. If this is something that you would like to hear more on or learn about, this is your podcast.
So you guys, without any further ado, help me welcome to the show Kathy Khang. Welcome to the show, my friend.
Kathy: Thank you so much, Jen.
Jen: I’m so happy to have you on. We just a minute ago got to sit at a lovely restaurant in Chicago, the two of us, and have a glass of rosé and solve world’s problems.
Kathy: We did. We did. While sweating buckets, because it was awful hot, but not as hot as it is where you are.
Jen: I know, right? Everything’s terrible here, everything’s terrible. We hate everything. This is when we’re like, “Why do we live here? Why do we live in Texas?” It’s going to take us fully until November to remember, but it’s coming.
I’m just thrilled to have you on. I’m so happy to introduce you to so many of my listeners and my readers, and your work, and who you are, and what you say, and what you do. I’m just excited for the next hour, because people are going to be like, “Kathy, I like her.”
You’re in our For the Love of Books series for good reason, because you wrote one.
Kathy: I did.
Kathy: Ah! I feel like barfing. I really do, and I don’t do that very often. I can’t remember the last time that happened, but it’s humbling, and it’s exciting, and it’s very vulnerable.
Jen: This is relatable because the last book that you co-authored with your friends and colleagues was, what did you say? It was 12 years ago?
Kathy: It was 12 years ago, before Social Media Monster erupted and the idea of a platform was completely different.
Kathy: And so it was different because there were five of us, so we could kind of commiserate and talk about how weird it was and exciting it was, but there was no hanging over Facebook the way it is now.
Kathy: So social media existed, but not in the way it does now, so it feels very different. And I’m still trying to figure out whether or not it’s fun? Most of it’s fun, I think it’s fun, but there are parts of it where I’m like, “Oh my God.”
Jen: That’s so amazing. Trying to see if I like this, it’s unclear at this juncture.
Kathy: I’m pretty sure . . . I just want to write.
Jen: It’s your day in the sun, sis. And also, you know how I feel about your book.
Jen: I love it, I love it, I love it.
In fact, I do want my listeners to know—and I’m going to sort of butcher the way that I said it—but you sent it to me a few months ago. And I was not lying or exaggerating. When I got your manuscript, I had not a week earlier sent a medium-developed proposal to my publishing team essentially saying, “We’ve got to find our voices and use them.”
And I got your book, I read it, and the very first email I sent was to my team and I’m like, “Pull it. Pull that proposal, put it in the trash. I am not writing that book because Kathy has already written it. And it is beautiful, and it is better than what I was going to write, and the message is out there. So instead of writing it, I’m just going to talk about Kathy’s book.”
It’s so good, it’s so good.
Kathy: Thank you, thank you.
Jen: I’m so proud of you. Will you tell everybody a little bit about the title?
Jen: Because it’s very declarative, it’s very action oriented, it’s actually really powerful.
Kathy: It is.
Jen: It gives me a feeling in my gut the second I lay eyes on this book.
Kathy: It is.
Jen: Can you talk about that and also what inspired you to write this book at this time?
Kathy: Yes, so the working title was actually something around Speak Up and Speak Out, and that’s how we got this subtitle, Why We Stay Silent And How To Speak Up. My editor, I think, was actually . . . we were brainstorming, and this was the title and the subtitle that he was saying, “No, let’s do this.”
And I said, “Okay . . . okay . . . Raise Your Voice, yes. Declarative. Very strong.”
And I must confess that I was really uncomfortable with it.
Jen: Were you?
Kathy: I was, because, how ironic? I’m writing a book about raising your voice, and I’m uncomfortable about how strong the title is, right?
Kathy: I was like, Are people going to think I’m some sort of expert? I’m not an expert, I talk about failing and being ready to fail. So I had to wrestle with the title itself.
And then just an aside, on the cover, I had actually asked the designer if they could make my name smaller.
Jen: Did you really?
Kathy: Yeah, I did.
Jen: Oh my gosh. The irony.
Kathy: But the idea came about really over 10 years of wrestling with the very thing that I was learning how to do, was to speak up and to raise my voice in different circumstances, whether it was in my family, and in my neighborhood and my friendship circles, at church, at work, and realizing that that was something everyone was having trouble with and trying to navigate.
And it did take about 10 years for me to kind of put it together and feel like I had the confidence to put it out there.
Jen: Yeah, I get this because you want to back it with a little bit of weight of, if not authority, at least experience, that you have—
Jen: You’ve lived your message to some degree, which you absolutely have.
So I’d like to go backwards with you a little bit and ask you this: in general, would you say that raising your voice has come naturally to you? When you were a kid, did you gravitate toward sharing your thoughts and ideas out in the open? Or were you more an internal processor? Or did external forces push you to keep those inside, or were they outside? How have you been, how were you as a kid?
Kathy: Yeah, it was all messed up, it really was all messed up. I was telling someone the other day that in each sphere of my life, even as a child, there were different rules to play. And I learned at school, the rule was to speak up, but only really when you had the answer and you knew the answer was correct.
Kathy: So that’s when you raise your hand and you don’t speak up.
So childhood bullying, I didn’t experience that until we moved out of the city and moved into the suburbs. That’s when I experienced bullying, and I had to figure out when was it appropriate to speak up and raise my voice and yell back at the person and what the consequences were going to be.
And then there was a whole other set of rules in my Korean immigrant church: who was supposed to speak up, and who was allowed to speak up, and same thing. Very different cultural rules in that space.
Jen: Which were what? What were the cultural rules inside your community?
Kathy: As a girl, you could speak up amongst girls. But the older you got, the less you were really supposed to speak up. Then that was also challenged by the fact that we were second-gen, Americanized, rebellious Korean children who were also good kids at church.
Then it also depended on what rank your parents had in leadership.
Jen: Oh interesting, yeah.
Kathy: So if you were the poor pastor’s kid, you were doomed. Then it kind of filtered down from there: deacon, elder, Sunday school teacher, that kind of thing.
Then at home, it was just a mix of rules where we were encouraged to speak up and process out loud about school and what was going on academically. But my parents grew up in Korea, and so processing out loud what was going on at school, it was so frustrating because they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand the racial bullying and teasing that was going on. They didn’t understand how it felt like to be always the kid who wondered, Am I not getting picked because I’m the Asian kid?
We, in our suburban school district, when we moved out there, we were the first family of color to move out into that [area].
Jen: Were you really?
Jen: Wow, surprised to hear that actually.
Kathy: So weird. Our garden was awesome because the whole subdivision was built on farmland. The garden grew really well, but other than that, it was just really bizarre.
I grew up—and I am an external processor, so I like to talk and figure out my thoughts, but I can also do it via writing. It doesn’t have to be talking, it just has to be outside of myself. But the speaking up about stuff that ticked me off and angered me, that was a work in process. And trying to figure out what were the costs, and was I willing to pay them, and could I do it in subversive ways? Like yelling back at the bullies in Korean.
Jen: Oh clever. Clever girl.
Kathy: I said all sorts of things in Korean, because nobody knew what I was saying. But then I could yell and look angry and say bad words, and nobody knew the difference. They just knew I was mad, but they didn’t know what I was saying. So it definitely was a work in progress.
Jen: So pressing into that a little bit, in Raise Your Voice, you wrote, “In many ways, giving birth to a child was easier than giving birth to my voice.”
I appreciate the gravity in which you make that statement because I’m guessing that a lot of my listeners are nodding their heads. This whole idea of finding your voice, it can be intimidating, it can be scary. And I really appreciate that you just mentioned that there’s a cost to it, which is fair. That’s true.
And so I wonder if you can unpack that a little bit for us when you said, “Giving birth to a child was literally easier than this.”
Kathy: Yeah. And I don’t write that lightly because I almost died with giving birth to my firstborn. I almost bled out and was rushed into surgery. And in all of that, I, being here in the United States at a great hospital with an attentive nurse, amazing surgeons, all of that help right there. There were classes to take about childbirth and the internet was available.
Kathy: And all sorts of books that scared you to death and didn’t actually tell you what was going to happen. So I felt at least that there was support and commiseration around childbirth.
But around raising your voice and learning about all of that feels very vulnerable and alone.
Jen: Yes, it does.
Kathy: It’s a lot of solitary work. And I felt like putting the words down in a book would also provide some sort of, I don’t know, a doula? I’m there to kind of walk and to encourage other readers that we can help one another in this process. That we’re going to make mistakes, and you and I both know that because of the power of social media, we eat our own.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: And it’s vicious out there.
Jen: It is.
Kathy: And can we be kind and gentle to one another because it is vicious out there. It was easier to give birth, because then you’re encouraged to do it again. Oh my gosh, right? “Oh, you don’t want that baby to be alone and an only child.”
Jen: “I’m really happy you’ve had the baby, yes. You like your baby, you should have another.”
Kathy: I think being the mother of three and raising them almost all into adulthood, I can say, “Yeah, it actually was easier to give birth.” And that this process of finding my voice and putting it out there continues to be vulnerable but important soul work. Every day, in big and little ways.
So I think that’s why we’re nodding our heads, and particularly women who have given birth are nodding their heads. And hopefully men are too, that they’re realizing, Oh this is not a one-time thing. This is not a two, three, four-time thing. This is your lifetime, and your understanding of who you are changes over time.
Jen: I also am sitting here at my desk nodding my head with everything you’re saying, about the importance of using our voices in this moment, in our culture, in this world at this exact time and also the costs associated with it. There’s not a whole lot of parties that are thrown, and you’ve got to get back in the ring and it’s challenging.
And I wonder if you could talk a little bit . . . I was just telling you before we started recording that your book is just incredibly timely. It has always been important that people use their voices for good, for justice, for making wrong things right, for calling out just immoral and ungodly behavior and attitudes and racism and bigotry and all of it, that’s always been important. It feels mission critical right now, right at this minute, it just feels white hot.
I don’t want anybody listening to think, “Well, it’s Jen and Kathy. They write books, and they’ve speak at conferences, and they’ve got a voice to use where people are listening.” I think that’s a false-start idea right there, which is that only certain voices matter. Only certain ones turn the tide.
In fact, I was sitting round a dinner table last night with some very, very dear friends. And one of my friends is enacting really meaningful challenges to the racism in her community, and she’s one of the only ones. She stands alone almost every time she does it.
I was telling her last night around the dinner table, I said, “It is not the Jen Hatmakers of the world that are turning the tides. It’s the Melissas around the table in their individual communities refusing to sit silently by, and you are the ones.”
That’s where it’s at, it’s at this groundswell level, I think, where we live in our families, with our neighbors, in our churches, with our communities, it’s that voice that lives there that works alongside this community and is a neighbor to this community. That voice is the one that we need.
Kathy: Oh absolutely.
Jen: That is the voice, I think, to challenge inequality and the status quo.
Kathy: Yeah, and it happens on a daily basis.
It just happened yesterday with my middle child, my 19-year-old son. He is navigating friendship and all that kind of stuff. It was around the breakup of two of his friends, and both of them are dear friends. And so it was like, “Mom, do you think I can go out with . . . ” we’ll call her Jane. “Can I go out with Jane even though she just broke up with . . . ” we’ll call him Bill. ” . . . because you know that phrase, bros before . . . “ fill in the blank.
I looked at him and I said, “No.”
And he looked at me, “You know I’m just kidding, Mom.”
“No, I don’t care. That’s not kidding. It’s not appropriate, it’s never appropriate.”
And that could have happened at any time, but particularly now when we have . . . can I say we’ve got someone in an important building in our country?
Jen: We can say all that, this podcast tells the truth.
Kathy: Okay, we can say all that? Right, so we’ve got what’s-his-name in the White House, and the things that have come out of his mouth, and the things that he tweets, it’s not okay.
So to have my 19-year-old son, who is trying to navigate real and important, day-to-day friendships say, “I don’t want to hurt Jane, and I don’t want to hurt Bill, but their friendships are both important to me,” and in the middle of that uses this disgusting phrase. I could have let it go because my heart is so tender that he is trying to figure out how to do this and to be mature about it. And I said, “You know what, honey? I love you, and let’s figure this out. But you have got to erase that phrase.”
Jen: That’s so good.
Kathy: That doesn’t happen on a platform. That doesn’t happen at a conference, right? We don’t talk about these things necessarily when we’re speaking at conferences.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: But it happens in our homes. And it’s important because he’s in relationship with his friends, and I know they use that language. I know they do, and so he’s going to need that reminder and he gets that reminder in front of his friends as well.
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: Because they know they can’t talk that way here. And it slips, and every time it slips, I give them a dirty look and I say, “No, not appropriate. It’s not okay.” Because in this world right now, it seems like it’s supposed to be okay.
Jen: It’s so true. And I like that you just use that very ordinary example from literally yesterday because I am with you. These are the moments.
And so I wonder how many people are listening and just thinking . . . It’s so easy at this moment to diminish it. Well, he was just kidding, it’s just a silly thing to say, he didn’t mean it.
It’s not that we’re kind of conditioned to look the other way on language like that, on messaging like that, on caricatures like that because I think we have a deep aversion to conflict and being that person. I’m going to be that girl who’s always calling everything out, here I am again.
And yet, in my estimation, I just cannot think of any more important work right now. This is the kind of casual offensiveness. This sort of casual racism or sexism or misogyny or bigotry or homophobia that we have just got to erase from casual conversation.
Honestly, how many people around us are saying these things with malice overtly? Not very often.
Jen: That’s more the rare example, at least in my world it is. It’s these very casual, normalizing conversations where language like that just gets a free pass, and that is a stepping stone to deep-seeded bias.
Kathy: Oh absolutely.
Jen: And so I want everybody listening to re-evaluate how easily and often we choose silence over using our voices to call that stuff out. What kind of world are we building with our own voices, with the voices we’re training our children to have?
So speaking of motherhood, again, I’m thinking about my listener who is hearing this talk and thinking about their actual life and where they’re at and where they’re at along the spectrum of this work. I wonder if when you became a mom—how old’s your oldest? Is your oldest 20?
Kathy: She’s 22.
Jen: 22. So you’ve got 22, 20—
Kathy: Yeah 19 and 16, oh my goodness.
Jen: Okay, right. Gosh, you and I are very much in a similar space.
When you became a mom—so I’m going backwards a little bit in your progress and journey—did you find your voice changing? Or even slowing momentum during that time? How did your voice evolve from “mama in the weeds, there’s kids everywhere,” and how have you learned to manifest it? Both inside and outside your family? Does that question make sense?
Kathy: Yeah, no it makes sense, it makes sense.
So I had some help, when my firstborn came around, that would have been ’95. So I was a newspaper reporter, and I was trying to figure out how to keep my job—
Jen: Yes, a good thing.
Kathy: Manage the whole working outside of the home, showing up on time, pumping, all of that, and still fight for a story and fight for a byline, and all those types of things—and not lose it emotionally at any given moment because of the hormones, yet also struggling to figure out if all of that mattered. If my career as a journalist mattered in light of having this baby at home and at daycare and all of those things.
So it was this speeding up in the career and also a slowing down because of trying to reconfigure the impact of what I was doing. It felt different. There was a different weight to it, knowing that there was this other life that we were responsible for. And it was frightening, and I felt a little more secure in one way because I felt the importance of what I was doing, but then also insecure because I was pumping and—
Kathy: Right. All the realities of that juggling in the workplace that way, and then coming home and feeling like, Am I doing right by this baby? Am I doing right by this child?
And then as she got older and we added children, it was also very confusing because then you’re introduced to this whole other realm, which is other mothers at school, and are you going to be a part of this committee and get involved in your community that way? I felt that being a mom and being a part of the community felt different once I learned more about what people were engaged in.
That isn’t only for mothers. You don’t have to learn it only by becoming a mother. That was my entry into that world, of civic duty and are you going to be on the PTA, and all that kind of stuff, and wrestling with whether or not I had the capacity, whether or not I had the time in my schedule—and not just the time in my schedule, but also the space to build relationships. Because again, as an Asian-American woman, trying to find spaces in which I wasn’t the only in the room felt exhausting. So there was that in the workplace, and there was that on the school playground, and there was that in the community and feeling like, I don’t want to speak up everywhere I go. Can I just be? Can I just not be angry at something?
So it continues to fluctuate. I only have one child in school now. I have a child in college, but I’m not there, so a totally different experience. And I have found that with different seasons of parenting, I have found that the urgency hits me in different ways, and then my capacity is impacted in different ways. Then, quite frankly, the ability to “build a platform” or even have the space to write anything is impacted by those different seasons.
I’ll be 48 this year—and you and I have talked about this too—that for me, writing my first solo book at 48 is very late. It’s very late. So even in this space, it feels strange and it’s weird because it’s my first book. But, like you said, I’ve been doing this for so long. So long.
Jen: Well, and in my estimation, that script should positively flip. You’ve earned your space. I want to know what you have to say because you’ve lived your life and you’ve done the work and you’ve raised the kids and you’ve discovered your voice.
When I think about some of the things I wrote when I was 29 years old, I want to slash my own tires. I want to put myself in time out, I just can’t believe it. And so I feel differently than you in that I think this is the exact, wonderful, perfect time for your book to hit the stands. Because you’ve learned so much, your body of knowledge and experience is so deep, and I constantly learn from you.
Jen: I wonder, since we’re still talking about just in the home and mom space, how have you helped your kids find their voice? How does this manifest in your own home as you train your kids and even, conversely, how have they helped you find yours?
Kathy: Yeah, so I think all parents are doing that.
I do a lot of mentoring in my professional world, and one of the first things I do when I meet with someone face to face, I like to ask them, “So where are we going to go to lunch?” And they look at me with eyes like a deer caught in the headlights.
Kathy: Like, “Oh I don’t know.” And they give you five options and I’m like, “No, no, no, no. Where do you want to go?” I realize in doing that, I’ve often asked my children, “What do you want to do today? We’re going to go out to eat, what would you love to eat tonight? Even though it’s another chain restaurant that I can’t stand, we will go because that is what you’re craving. Even though . . . blehhh.”
So that’s what we’re doing.
Jen: That’s great.
Kathy: That’s what we’re doing with our younger children and you continue that as your kids get older and you don’t make the choices for them, you let them fail. You let them fail.
I remember the first time I told my child, “No, I am not bringing your homework assignment to you.”
Jen: Yeah, same. Oh, I know. Armageddon.
Kathy: Right, are you kidding?
Jen: “You don’t love me.”
Kathy: “You don’t love me.” And other mothers being like, “What?”
Kathy: Really, seriously, and teaching them there are consequences to your behavior and how do you communicate that. So that’s giving them a voice, even in the moment in their failure, to own up to that because we’re not perfect, we’re not perfect.
Jen: I like the idea of teaching our kids agency and ownership over their voices.
I have this instinct in me, when one of my kids is, in my estimation, overreacting to something, or having a volatile reaction to something that’s gone on and they’re telling me, “This is how I feel about it.” I have this instinct in me to tell them, “Essentially, what you’re feeling is wrong. You’re reading the room wrong. Your emotions attached to this scenario are unfair,” or, “You’re not understanding the context,” or, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” And I’ve learned to separate the things out. To say, “This is how this situation’s going down. However, I understand you don’t like it. I get it, this is making you mad, this is making you feel defensive, this is making you feel like maybe the world is not fair and you get to feel that way. I’m not changing my space. I’m not changing my position, the thing stands. But I get that you feel that way, and that’s probably hard.”
Kathy: Yeah, it is.
Jen: So giving my kids permission to feel their feelings, whatever they are, even if I think their feelings are dumb, is empowering to kids too—where their parents are not necessarily always, not just shutting down their actions, but shutting down their feelings. And so this takes a very measured parent.
I have said a million times, and you know this, Kathy, because we are kind of on the back end of largely . . . you with all of your kids, me with half of them, on the back end of the weirdo middle school, early high school rollercoaster.
Kathy: Yes, yes.
Jen: And I have said before, it’s like we have a choice, because our kids are going to get on that roller coaster and ride it all the way to Crazy Town.
Jen: They are, it’s going to loop and loop and go upside down and there’s going to be screaming and that person is going to kind of lose their mind for the duration of the ride. We have the choice to either buckle in next to them and ride that dumb ride, lose our minds as well, yell as well, get a little nauseous, or we can say, “I’m going to stand here on the platform. Godspeed on your journey. Godspeed on your upside down loop-de-loop ride. I’ll be here when you get back, so you can feel all your feelings out there as you’re looping around. Those are yours, you’re entitled to them, you can say what you want to say about them, you can think what you want to think about them. When you land, here I’ll be, in my normal person’s mind.”
So I like this conversation for our kids too because I feel like—and I’d love to hear your opinion on this—I think we wait way too long to give our kids a real sense of voice.
Jen: We’re too busy controlling what they’re saying.
Kathy: Oh absolutely.
Jen: We don’t want them to say what they’re actually thinking or meaning in front of people because it might reflect bad on us, and so we’re micromanaging their little voices constantly.
Kathy: Yes, yes.
Jen: So they come out on the other end of that as supposedly young adults, and they do not have the tools to use their voice with wisdom, to own their own convictions, they don’t know. We’ve managed that for them for too long. Don’t you just feel like our generation of parents is just clamping down on our kids’ voices?
Kathy: Yeah, oh absolutely. It’s awful. The helicopter parent is real. It’s real.
And because I’ve done 20-plus years of parachurch ministry with college students, I’ve been seeing how that’s shifted over 20 years and how normal it is now to have parents call professors or the university on behalf of their kids.
Jen: A lot of my friends who work in higher ed are telling me this stuff all the time. This is pervasive, it is not a rare occurrence to have parents essentially move into their kids’ dorm rooms and just be their roommates. It’s just insane, and golly are we ever doing them a disservice.
Kathy: It’s awful.
Jen: I see that for what it is because I’m in that same phase and I’m like, “Oh man.”
I have a 20 year old, so he’s about to be a junior in college. And he’s done some dumb stuff, I mean like dumb as a sack of diapers. Brandon and I look at each other and go, “That is our kid. I guess we raised him to make that very, very stupid decision.” And yet, I’m like, “Brandon, back out. Back out of the room. Let the chips fall where they may, he’s going to have to feel the sting of this. We’re not rescuing this, we are not going to come in and be like, ‘Oh, you didn’t understand the full consequences of that choice, buddy.’ Not doing it.”
And so I think that’s going to make a stronger adult, even if it makes a very messy young adult.
Jen: And I have to unattach my identity to it. I cannot just say, “Well, I guess I failed him entirely. I guess we’re the first parents ever lived, and we never said anything meaningful. And we failed, this whole thing was a failure.”
I love this conversation, and I think the principles of your book very deeply apply to how we are raising our kids and the language in our home.
Jen: Another thing that you talk about that I really like, you have some are insightful things to say in the book about “Imposter Syndrome.” So for people who don’t quite know what that means, I wonder if you could talk about Imposter Syndrome, how we overcome it, and you give a really great biblical example of someone who struggled with Imposter Syndrome. Could you just talk about that for a minute?
Kathy: Yeah, so it’s a phrase that was coined by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. And it’s a feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they’re not intelligent, capable or creative, despite evidence otherwise.
Kathy: So that pretty much describes, I think, most of us at any given moment.
Jen: It does.
Kathy: And that you kind of live in the fear of being found out. That somehow, someone’s going to actually discover that you’re not as bright as you actually are. Or the thing that you did, maybe you did it but you faked your way through it, I don’t know.
Kathy: So it’s a lot of anxiety there. And the example that I give is Moses, who just cracks me up because he’s all about justice. He’s trying to figure out who he’s going to be about and realizes that even though he grew up in Pharaoh’s home, that he has this secret identity. And when he is called by God, he’s all about, “Yeah, yeah, totally. But no, I can’t. I can’t do that. I can’t speak.” That’s my favorite. “I can’t speak. Who am I that I could go deliver the Israelites out of Egypt? Who am I to talk to Pharaoh?”
Here’s a man who was raised in Pharaoh’s kingdom. He knows the language, he knows the unspoken rules.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: Here he is, having a conversation with God. Having a conversation with God.
And in that moment, how many of us read that scripture and go, Well, if I was speaking to a burning bush, I totally would go. No, we wouldn’t.
Kathy: We wouldn’t, we totally wouldn’t, because I didn’t. I got a book contract and I missed deadline. Why did I miss deadlines? Because I was so caught up in my own Imposter Syndrome, and so worried that someone was going to figure out that I wrote the book, but I faked my way through it.
Jen: Wow. So good. It’s so relatable. That’s one of the characters and stories that I just relate to so much and I’m so grateful that’s he’s in our Bible.
Jen: Right? That that level of absurd security when, like you said, all evidence to the contrary exists, you have been positioned well. And even then we’re like, “Who me? Why me? Not me.” And it’s encouraging to know that there is so much life and health and freedom and liberation on the other side of that very reluctant yes.
Jen: The one that God literally has to pull it out of you, so reluctant. And yet, it’s freedom. That’s what awaits us, and it’s very exciting.
I think people listening who have dug deep enough and they are using their voices well and they have procured the courage necessary to speak up and to speak out and to own their convictions and to own their ambitions in this mean world, they know that that’s true. There’s something very powerful in that space, very liberating in that space, incredibly exciting. And it doesn’t just set us free, it has the capacity to set other people free. And that’s what we’re doing here.
Jen: That is the point. And so speaking of that, you’re not only a woman, you’re a person of color.
Jen: And so you kind of live at these weird intersections of power where privilege has worn a very entrenched space in all of our systems and in our structures. And so I wonder how you find the courage, and you do this really, really well, Kathy, to speak out inside the Christian community,
Kathy: Thank you.
Jen: For example, inside the Christian publishing community, inside the Christian conference community, and in the world. Why is this important? Why is it important to share who you are, what your experiences and those of many, many, many others have been, and sort of securing the power that belongs to you?
I would just love for you to talk about your experience because you’ve got a big, bold, brave voice out there, and it matters. And I think it’s moving the needle forward.
Can you talk about how you’ve developed the capacity and the courage for that work?
Kathy: I have a great, wonderful group of friends who are here in my physical space as well as out there in the virtual space who I have found to be kind of co-conspirators in this work. And I think that that’s part of it, is that you and I, we do not fight every fight.
Jen: That’s right, there’s not enough hours in a day.
Kathy: No, there isn’t. And you don’t want Kathy and Jen fighting every fight.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: Because that’s not where our passions and giftings are. And I have had to say to certain people, “Yes, I agree. Those are horrible injustices. That’s just, right now, not the space I’m being called to.”
And that’s hard. Because I think in these crazy times, everything is important and urgent. Every other day, there’s something crazy going on. But I often have to kind of center myself, and if I can’t do it then I rely on other people to help me discern and rein me in. I’m not a lone ranger on this.
So even though when I throw out a tweet or a blog post, it isn’t that I did this on my own. I’ve actually been in communication and in prayer with a lot of people. That what looks like an impulsive, knee-jerk reaction actually isn’t, rarely.
Jen: Yeah, that’s good.
Kathy: The knee-jerk reactions are often when I’m tweeting or posting about, “Should I buy a KitchenAid mixer?” That’s the knee-jerk. But when I’m writing about a conference that is yet another all-white speaker platform, I’m writing about that, or tweeting about that, not because I’m in the second angry.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: But it has been raised and I’ve been praying about it. And that particular conference, whatever comes up, I’ve been in communication with other people about, “Hey, what do you think? Should I? Shouldn’t I?”
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: Then also relying on people in the aftermath of that, because things don’t always wrap up nice and pretty. They rarely do, they rarely do. It’s not until much later where things look like the needle is moving forward. And making sure that I have a group of people who know me and are monitoring how I’m doing, as well as what’s going on on social media. And then being able to disconnect and detach, to be able to, like you said, name the emotions and give myself permission to feel, but not be hijacked by every single emotion that I have.
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: Because I’m a very emotional person who emotes. I cry. And so I can’t, I can’t lean into every single emotion deeply. I have to be very wise about that, whereas I have friends who actually need to dig a little deeper and be able to identify those emotions.
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: And kind of figure out what’s going on in order to speak out, and in order to be out there tackling the injustices that they care deeply about, so that they know why they’re doing and saying what they’re doing and saying.
Then I think you and I both know, this is about the long haul.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: So even though we may feel like we are living in the Upside Down right now, or at least for the last almost two years, that it isn’t. Because I’ve known, as a woman of color, that things have been really crazy for a long, long time.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: And that different communities have been at risk in different ways since the conception of our country. And how that’s impacted me and you is different, and it comes in different seasons. And like you said, I sit in this weird intersections, and I’ve always known how to code switch. I’ve always known how to . . . try to act white, which sounds horrible.
Jen: It’s true, that’s right.
Kathy: Right? But it’s real. And how to not be the dragon lady, how to temper my emotions. How to figure out the appropriate way and sometimes to say, “To heck with the appropriate way. I’m going to say what I need to say at this meeting, because I’ve been asked. And here it is, and you’re not going to like it, and I’m going to cry.” And I’ve learned to say, “I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m angry. I’m crying because I’ve said this 20 times over the last year.”
And being a woman of color is a difficult space, but also such a privilege. To be able to say, “Yeah, I know, I know. I see what my white sisters are experiencing, but I see it very differently with the overlay and that intersection of culture and ethnicity and race.” And to do that, to sit in that space—and it’s not always comfortable. It’s not always fun, it can be rather exhausting.
But then there are moments where I realize, even now I have to remind myself, I’ve grown up in white America, white evangelicalism, but I’m not. And there’s still spheres that I’m learning about and trying to understand and learn from, and speak into.
Jen: I like how you said, “It’s uncomfortable.” Because in my experience, I believe—and I’m speaking for white Christian America—I think discomfort is an enormous deterrent. I think we hate discomfort. We love comfort.
Jen: Comfort’s our favorite thing.
Jen: We want to be comfortable. We don’t want anybody to make us uncomfortable. We don’t want to be confronted with anything that disrupts our comfort, and we certainly don’t want to be the cause of it.
Jen: Oh my Lord, have grace. So I think it is worth noting and highlighting that some of this work in uncomfortable, and that does not make it bad.
Jen: That does not make it unimportant. That does not mean we’re doing it wrong. It just means these are really important places of tension that somebody has to walk into. And it is not going to be a pleasant walk in the park, but it’s such, such important work.
So I wonder, as we start to land the plane here, what would you say to people listening, people in power, people with privilege, how can they start contributing to a healthier dialogue? How can they start building a more inclusive world? And I’m not just talking about people who have a lot of overt wealth and position, this very top-tier type person, but those of us just living in our neighborhoods, we’re working 9-to-5 jobs, we’re taking care of our families, our homes, even there we don’t even realize how privileged that existence is, right?
Kathy: Sure, right.
Jen: How upper-crust we are in the world to have those opportunities.
So I wonder, what steps do you see for those of us—which is almost all of us, who have a really high privilege level and position—to empower voices that are coming from the margins, who are not necessarily the center of the power bullseye, the center of the position bullseye. How can those of us, who may not even realize how privileged we actually are, recognize our voices too as voices for change right this minute?
Kathy: Yes, right.
Jen: What can we do?
Kathy: I’d say one of the first things is you need to recognize and start being able to name what privilege you have. Where is your power coming from?
Right now, and this could change between now and the time this podcast airs, but there’s a lot of conversation around immigration. And I tell people, even my husband, he is a birthright citizen, my children are birthright citizens. I carry now a copy of my passport. There’s no other way to prove my citizenship, there’s no other way. Even for my children and my husband, they don’t look like white Americans. White Americans don’t generally get questioned.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: You aren’t told to go to back to where you came from in this heated conversation.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathy: So be able to name even the things that you’ve taken for granted, and are there ways in which you can leverage that? And that you can make sure other people in your circles understand that that’s a privilege?
The ability to vote is a privilege, and if you opt out of voting because you have the privilege, okay, fine. But let’s make sure our children are registered. Let’s make sure our neighbors are registered. Let’s make sure we know what’s the topic of conversation in our neighborhoods and in our communities when that affordable housing proposal comes up, and what are our first reactions to that? It doesn’t have to be first on the global scale.
So it’s recognizing the privileges that you may not think are privileges, that you’ve just taken advantage of, that you were born with. And it’s the little things like you’re not afraid to argue with a manager, you’re not afraid to ask for a manager to question policy, store policy or a charge on your account. Little things like that I think are important.
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: And are there ways in which then you can talk about that in your circles with your friends? I think that in some ways, for you and I as parents, it’s almost easier to rein in our children and their friends than it is our own adult friends.
Jen: Great point, and 100%, that is true.
Kathy: Right, so at the dinner table, when you’re having a little gathering and someone says something and you’re like, Holy cow, I thought I knew you.
Kathy: What? Will say something?
Jen: That’s good.
Kathy: Will you risk tension and discomfort in your friendship to make sure that you flesh that out and make sure you understand? Does something happen at church, or something not happen at church that should have happened at church? Will you say that and will you risk discomfort with your pastor or your elders? With your spouse? And be able to dig deep? Because I think that that’s the thing. I think it is in a lot of ways easier for me to press Publish on a blog post than it is to raise my eyebrow and say something.
Jen: Face to face.
Kathy: Face to face at a dinner table or at a restaurant.
Jen: That’s true, but it’s so important.
Kathy It is.
Jen: And I hope what people are listening know is that those moments of courage—and it doesn’t mean you have to be this aggressive, very difficult curmudgeon—there is a way to challenge language and offensiveness that is mature and it’s measured and it’s reasonable and it’s not eye for an eye. And so there is a way to do it, and it matters.
I was just, I mentioned I was talking to my friend yesterday who kind of is a . . . she’s just a champion for racial equality in a community that is not. And she was telling me yesterday, going back to the conversation I referenced earlier, that she called out somebody that was in her home. This is two years ago, and he was using terrible racial slurs and language, and she just wasn’t going to have it. And she did it in a way that was not hysterical. She said, “That is literally unacceptable. You should never speak like that, but you’re definitely not going to do it in my home, in front of my children, in front of my friends,” and asked him to leave.
She was telling me that two years later, two years later, he pulls her over at some sort of social gathering still trying to explain why he said what he said. So if you think little moments of telling somebody, “I see you and I hear you. This is not okay, and you should check yourself,” it matters.
Kathy: Right, it matters.
Jen: They don’t just walk away and forget it, they don’t just think, Oh, she’s crazy. I mean, he still wanted to work it out two years later. So these things are good.
Jen: This is good, civic work to put into our culture, this checking of language and behaviors and to say, “We surely can be better than this. This is surely not what we’re going to stand for.”
Jen: Of course, results are not up to us, we’re not miracle workers.
Jen: We’re not magicians. We don’t have the power to change somebody else’s human heart or their behavior or their perceptions. However, I am of the mind that that stuff sticks, and it makes people think long after that conversation.
Jen: It makes them think twice the next time they’re going to say it. And they’re thinking, Wait, maybe there’s somebody else in the room who doesn’t want to hear me say this.
Jen: And so we have a powerful tool at our disposal, every one of us, and it is our voice.
So let me ask you this. Let me wrap this up with you.
First of all, before we get to it, just I want to say thank you for your counsel, thank you for your wisdom, thank you for your courage. I’ve watched you, I’ve learned from you, I’ve listened to you, I defer to you and I trust you and you have a lot to teach us on this. So thank you for bringing your work to bear here on this podcast, I just have loved this whole conversation. I have a million other questions, but we don’t have a million hours.
So I’m excited about your book, I want everybody to read it, I think it’s instructive for us in every realm: in marriage, in parenting, in being a Christian, in being a civilian, in being a community member, in being a good neighbor. We have so much to learn here in all of our lives. So I’m just, in advance, thanking you for the amount of goodness your work and your book is going to wring out of our community right now, so thank you.
Kathy: Thank you.
Jen: So I’m going to ask you this. These are questions that we are wrapping it up with everybody in the book series.
So here’s the first one: what was the first book that you ever read that you distinctly remember having like a boom impact on you?
Kathy: Yes, it was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
Jen: I read it so many times. I wore my copy out. I had never read anything like that before.
How about this: what’s one book in your life that you have read over and over again?
Kathy: I would say it was the same book. A Wrinkle in Time.
I read it quite a bit as a child and then didn’t revisit it often as a young adult. Read it again as an adult, left it aside, tried to introduce it to my children, it didn’t stick with any of them, which grieved me to no end.
Kathy: Then have re-read it now, twice. Once before and once after seeing the movie.
Jen: Yeah, I just saw the movie last week. I’m the same, I read that book two dozen times.
Finally, a twist on favorite Barbara Brown Taylor question, which is: what book is saving your life right now?
Kathy: That’s a hard one.
Jen: I know, that is.
Kathy: That’s a hard one. I think maybe the most recent one is such a light read. It is . . . don’t laugh.
Jen: I’m not going to laugh.
Kathy: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.
Jen: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! I’ve literally just ordered that book. Everybody loves it.
Kathy: Yeah, it’s a series of three right now. So I just plowed through all three and re-read Rich People Problems, I think is what it’s called.
I think part of it is everything is really, really important right now. It’s very serious out there. And I just needed to laugh at the ridiculousness because I think people really do live like that to some degree. And then there’s something beautiful about this whole family drama.
Kathy: Which I can totally relate to.
Jen: I just actually love that you said that. I am with you. You and I both do super meaningful, intense, important work a lot. But sometimes, I just want to take my shoes off and read a book that’s making me laugh and that is mainly absurd. We’ve got to have a minute, we’ve just got to have a minute to catch our breath, and that is okay.
Jen: Sister, will you tell everybody how they can find you, where to look, all that good stuff?
Kathy: Sure, so they can find me on my abandoned blog, because I was busy writing the book.
Jen: You were, yeah.
Kathy: On kathykhang.com. And I go by @mskathykhang on Twitter and Instagram. You can find my author page on Facebook, just look up my name, I’m in all of those spaces. I don’t really do Pinterest, but I’m there.
Kathy: So I watch other people’s pins, but that’s where I’m at.
Jen: Guys, we will have all of this, obviously, linked on the Podcast page at jenhatmaker.com. All of Kathy’s socials, her book, all the stuff. So don’t worry about it if you cannot grab it this very second.
Sister, thanks for being on today. Thank you for just being who you are.
Jen: So you know, I’m cheering you on in every way.
Kathy: No, thank you.
Jen: I believe in you and I just am thrilled that you’re on today. Have a fab day up in Chicago, where it is not 108 degrees. I’m so happy for you, how nice for you.
Kathy: I’m happy for me too, thank you, Jen.
Jen: Bye, friend.
Jen: That’s it for today, you guys.
All right, run your little legs over to wherever you get your books and pick up a copy of Raise Your Voice by Kathy. You’re going to be really, really glad you did. Talk about a practical, pragmatic resource to put into your hands. And honestly, it applies everywhere like marriage, parenting, workplace, church. This is just important information right now. So she’s so, so, so dear and I love her. You’re going to want to follow her on social media too, because she will make you think in all the best ways.
Guys, thank you for listening, thanks for being a part of the book series, it’s so fun. I just cannot get enough of it. So we’ve got more amazing guests on the way, more awesome conversations.
And as always, I am so thrilled to be your little happy hostess here. Thank you for being the best listeners ever, I mean just ever. I’m so blown away by this listening community, it’s my favorite, favorite thing.
So on behalf of my producer, Laura, and my partner and assistant, Amanda, we love you, we love working hard for you, we love bringing you this week in and week out.
So thanks for subscribing to the podcast. Gosh, you guys, if you haven’t done that, go do it. Subscribe, it’ll just pop up in your phone every single week, you have to do zero work to get every new episode right into your ears. Thank you also for reviewing and rating it, that’s just so great for podcasts.
So anyhow, you guys, have a fabulous week and I’ll see you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!