Once upon a time there was a lovely lady, the mother of both a prince and a princess — Let’s start over.

Once upon a time there was a hot mess girl struggling to keep her stuff together after having two kids in quick succession.

Okay, that girl is me and those two kids came 17 months apart. That means different nap schedules, different eating schedules, different developmental schedules, and twice the diapers and crying and emotions and fun and cuteness and all of that. It was a LOT. Let us also take a quick nap moment to remember that the Boy Child (born second) did not sleep for three years. Yes, my friends, this hot mess girl (and her long-suffering, faithful husband) did not sleep for a very, very long time.

In the midst of all this, the castle fell into disrepair.
The house was also a hot mess.

Around that time, someone encouraged me to identify what ONLY I could do and outsource the rest. ONLY I could be a mom to my kids, a wife to my husband, the voice for my teaching and writing, or the right confidant to my sisters. But ANYBODY could mow my lawn or clean my house or do my grocery shopping. She encouraged me to think through what I really NEEDED to do and what I might be able to delegate to others on my behalf.

This was a huge shift in thinking for me. My upbringing idolized independence. Intended or not, the lesson I learned was: If you couldn’t do it yourself, you were lacking in some way. As such, the idea of hiring someone to help felt to me like failure.

While wrestling with these thoughts and feelings, I approached others for perspectives. I craved insight. A couple of those conversations went like this:

Me: “I’m debating hiring a cleaning lady.”
Other Person: “What — you’re too good to clean your own house now??”

Me: “I’m debating hiring a cleaning lady.”
Other Person: “What — Are you too good to hire help??”

These diametrically opposed reactions have stuck with me for years.

Both accused me of being arrogant for different reasons. In truth, I felt far more uncertainty and insecurity than pride. While it may look like both were asking questions, they were really proclaiming judgment without inquiring about my thoughts or attempting to hear or even acknowledge my debate. They both took sides, assuming where I stood. At that moment, I only stood stunned.

We could look at this and decide: “Wow, Tanya. You have terrible friends.” (Absolutely not true.) OR we could choose to see ourselves in this story.

This isn’t about cleaning house.
It’s about clearing preconceptions.

We live in a world of instant judgment. We see a meme or a social media post, a yard sign or a t-shirt, and instantly declare our approval or disdain — not only for the idea, but for the person behind it. We rage over headlines (even if we’ve not read the articles they title) and label groups of people based on assumptions that may or may not be based in fact. We question everything; not because we want to learn, but because we want to argue. We want to be right and prove others wrong. Isn’t it exhausting? Are you as tired as I am?

What might happen if we stop assuming what people mean?
What might happen if we stop assuming where people stand?
What might happen if we stop judging and start loving?

HOW?
Breathe. Listen. Hear.
We all need to listen more.

Let’s go back to me and my friends. I know now that these two friends were projecting their own insecurities into the conversation. Both felt threatened. The first because she believed independence proved greater status. The second because she had watched her mother work incredibly hard cleaning others’ houses and then be discriminated against because those same people who hired her help treated her of lower status.

Knowing this, I can understand their knee-jerk reactions to my statement. It doesn’t mean either of their assumptions were correct, but it gives a frame of context. Once I heard and understood their perspectives, they were willing to hear mine. We could correct errant assumptions and move forward.

We don’t have to un-friend each other.

Stop. Listen. Hear.
Your assumptions may be wrong.
There may be much more behind the words than you realize.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” — James 1:19–20 (NET)

Let me offer a caveat here. You are totally allowed to unfriend toxic people. Do not stay in an abusive relationship. You do not need to keep unhealthy or destructive people in your life. You get to choose who influences your space and mind and heart.

While you are choosing who needs to go and who gets to stay, choose prayerfully. Carefully. Wisely. Be sure you’re not the destructive one someone else needs to un-friend.

Learn to listen.
Offer second chances on those first impressions.

Listening isn’t easy. Especially when we think we already know what the other person thinks or is going to say. So practice.

Choose not to interrupt.

Deliberately refuse to craft your response while the other person is still speaking.

Actually LISTEN before you cement your opinions or judgments.

And PRAY. Pray a ton.

Before and after and through: PRAY

Don’t just pray for the right answers or the right responses. Pray for the right heart. It’s amazing what a little humility can do for a conversation and relationships. Pray that we all might love one another well; that we might know which arguments we must engage and which ones are best left alone. Proverbs speaks of fools that can be taught and fools that waste our time. I’ve found myself lately praying that God would show me the difference.

Pray also for your “opponents.” First: remember that being of different opinion or position doesn’t automatically make us enemies. We may very likely be on the same team, just approaching issues differently. Refuse to easily surrender to “us vs. them” mentality. Second: pray for their blessing. (It’s really hard to continue hating someone for whom you genuinely pray blessings.) Pray the same things for them as you pray for yourself! Pray that you might understand one another and work together in unity toward what honors God and serves our world in need.

“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6–7 (NET)

In case you’re wondering, I did eventually hire help and it was worth every single penny. My only regret is that I wish I’d listened sooner.