Not Killing People with Kindness

Most of us have probably heard the expression “just kill them with kindness,” but I don’t really like that expression, mainly because of the word “kill.” I think I would prefer it to be something like “just show people love, no matter what.”

It’s highly possible that I’m overthinking a small expression that’s probably simply supposed to mean killing the meanness until it becomes ineffective or causes mean people actually to be nice, but I like to spin it to make it more positive—I mean, if you’re going to claim to be kind, go all the way in.

I think genuine kindness isn’t shown as often as it should be, and the only people who can change that are people. If someone is trailing you on the way into a building, it doesn’t take much time (maybe two or three seconds) to hold the door so that it doesn’t slam in the individual’s face. I promise it won’t make you any later than you already are or any more on time than you were going to be. Two or three seconds don’t have that much impact on tardiness.

But they have heavy impact on how you can make others feel.

There are a tremendous amount of opportunities in every single minute of every single day to show people kindness. Yes, it does become more difficult when others are rude or downright evil toward you or someone you truly care about, but that doesn’t make it necessary for you to act the same way. This is when the whole “loving people no matter what” comes into play.

Don’t try to kill a person with kindness—try to love him or her with it, instead.

There have been instances in my life in which I’ve been treated badly, and I can’t say that I’ve always responded in the best ways possible. Let’s be real here, shall we? Being nice is really challenging at times. It’s much easier to throw every ounce of kindness you think you might have out the window and say what’s really on your mind.

What I’ve learned, though, is that when you let your heart be transformed by love, those mean thoughts won’t last very long, and you’ll realize that the mean things that people say to you often have nothing to do with you at all. The mistreatment that you receive is likely the result of someone else going through something trying and painful, and you just happen to be getting the brunt of it all. No, that doesn’t make it justifiable, but perhaps it might give you a bit more empathy to extend love and grace rather than fire back with quick-witted and spiteful remarks.

They might be great burns that seem pretty clever, but they could also do more damage to a person who’s already in need of more love than you’ll ever know.

I faced a recent situation that gave me enough time for a choice: I could say what I was thinking (which certainly didn’t have kindness written all over it), or I could show that person the same amount of grace and mercy that God shows me every single day. Thankfully, I chose the latter, and I didn’t say what was on my mind—I said what was on my heart, instead.

I walked away feeling better than I would have if I had said something on an equal level as the other person, and I can only hope that the other person did, as well. As Cady Heron said during her epic mathletes moment, “calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier, calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter, and ruining Regina George’s life didn’t make [Cady] any happier.”

It doesn’t make you weak or cowardly not to fire back insults at someone or be mean to someone who’s mean to you. It’s brave to show love when it’s easier to show hate. It’s brave to love someone who seems almost unlovable. It’s brave to let love take over your heart and do the talking for you.

So don’t worry about killing people with kindness—just love them, and the kindness will come naturally.

Every Kiss Matters

When I was younger, I had this dream of exactly where my first kiss would happen: in a perfect little white gazebo with Christmas lights brightening it up. I wish that I could say that this came true, but it definitely did not.

Each year that went by, I let this desire grow. As a teenager, it seemed ideal. As a college student, it seemed pretty perfect that I had waited so long and that it would happen where I always wanted it to. As a young woman in my 20s, I continued to let my fairy tale grow, but I think that part of me knew that it wasn’t going to happen exactly as I’d always hoped.

Instead, that long-awaited lip-lock moment happened at a local track after an event in which some of the people I knew in the running community had participated. But, to me, on that stuffy summer evening in Texas, it felt like such an ideal moment at the time, even though it was nowhere near anything I had conjured up in my imaginative mind.

I had waited more than 27 years for that kiss (yes, I didn’t have my first kiss until that age, and no, I haven’t been kissed since that time nearly six years ago), and it was very special to me. My hopes soared at the possibility of this guy being the guy I had waited for to come along and take me by the hand to be forever his. Sadly, that wasn’t how the story ended, and it actually resulted in a heartache that I’ve (thankfully) gotten over at this point. Even though that guy hurt me, and I don’t have any feelings for him anymore or ever really think about him, that kiss is something that will always be a significant moment in my life.

Because every kiss matters.

Now, I know this might not always seem true if you play games like spin the bottle (do people still do that??) or whatever, but I believe that all kisses have (or at least should have) meaning. They’re important. They’re sacred. They’re special. A kiss is a moment you share with another person, and it can often be a piece of your heart that you’re giving away.

Kisses also sometimes lead to more than kissing, and if kisses are sacred and special, think of how much more sacred and special those stronger intimate moments are.

I’m going to be honest with you about something: Even though that first kiss of mine is a cherished memory, there are times when I honestly wish it had never happened. I know that your first kiss won’t always be with the person you end up with forever, but I guess that I was sort of hoping it would be—or at least that the guy who kissed me wouldn’t turn out to be someone who really didn’t care about me at all.

By this point in the story, you’ve probably realized that I’m also a virgin, and that’s something that I’m not ashamed to admit. For me, my virginity is now something that I protect and something that I’m definitely not going to give away to someone who is only going to walk away. I know that sex is often treated as something more casual in today’s society than it used to be in the past, but it’s still something that’s special. I believe that sex is something that’s meant to be shared between a husband and a wife, though I’m not trying to preach to or condemn anyone who feels differently.

What I do want to remind you of, though, is that you are worth more than a moment of passion, and you deserve to know that you matter and that you are enough. That truth can often get lost in kissing and sex because, as women, we tend to let our hearts do the thinking. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s something that makes it hurt a lot more when we give pieces of our hearts away without, in return, filling those missing pieces with the love and pieces of the hearts of the guys we love.

It’s never easy to go through a broken heart, especially when you’ve given yourself emotionally and physically to someone—whether that’s through a simple kiss or more. I think that’s part of why people frequently remind young women to guard their hearts because, while our hearts are one of the strongest parts of us, they can also be extremely fragile.

We all make our own choices in life, and sometimes we don’t really have time to think about them much (or we choose not to) when we’re in moments in which our desires take over completely. Just remember that you are valuable, and what you have to give runs much deeper than anything physical.

Every kiss and every intimate moment matter because you matter.

You Voice Matters

When I lived in Texas, I had to report to jury duty once. It’s a civic responsibility about which many people grumble, and it takes up a lot of your time when you have to take an entire day out of your life to sit and hear about other people’s potential crimes. It feels like such a long and arduous process.

Like those grumblers, I can’t say that I was looking forward to being a possible juror. I had a lot going on at the time, and my mind was in a million other places. When I got to the courthouse, I entered the room with what seemed like thousands (it wasn’t) of other people and took a seat with a book. A little later in the morning, some video started playing letting us know why we were there. There was one line in that video—and pretty much the only thing from that entire day—that I remember.

“Your voice matters in the Texas justice system.”

I kept thinking it over and over in my head. My voice matters. I didn’t care so much about that Texas justice system part, but I really liked being told that my opinions and what I have to say are valued and appreciated.

And I want you to know that yours are, too.

As women, we don’t always get the platforms and respect that we deserve. This is often particularly true if you’re a young woman. People might even make you feel like you don’t have any right to speak up or the authority to preach or teach or be the voice of those who can’t speak for themselves. My dear, I’m going to tell you right now that this is completely false. Hear this, and know it to be true.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS—and in more places than the Texas justice system.

No matter what age you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what gender you are, no matter what your social status is, no matter what your educational background is, no matter what your relationship status is, no matter what—your voice matters. And it needs to be heard.

So often, we sit and let others do the talking for fear that what we say isn’t smart enough or maybe is too controversial. Or perhaps we think that others will judge us or don’t respect us enough to hear what we have to say. Unfortunately, many women face this in the workplace and are more silent than they should be in meetings that are dominated by men or other women by whom they’re intimidated. I hope that you will help to break this mold and mindset and be part of the change that allows women to be more comfortable speaking up and pursuing more leadership opportunities with the confidence that they have strong and valuable voices in all areas of life.

Sister, please speak up. Please be brave. Please let boldness flow out of you to the point where you can’t contain it. Please don’t ever let fear keep you from saying what you want and need to say.

If you’re passionate about sharing your heart through writing, go for it. If you want to study theology and work toward becoming a pastor or speaker, go for it. If you want to teach or mentor others, go for it. If you’ve been holding back the feelings in your heart but really want to declare them out loud to the guy you love, go for it. If you have something to say in your meeting at work, go for it (and don’t start off with “I’m sorry” or some other way of apologizing before expressing what’s on your mind). Whatever it is that you know you need to say in whatever the situation, go for it. Don’t let fear or intimidation hold you back.

You have a beautiful and powerful voice—so let it be heard.

Choose Your Own Path in Your Dating Life

With all of the dating apps now available at the fingertips of all of the single folks trying to find their lobsters (it’s a
Friends reference, for those who don’t know), the ways of meeting people and falling in love have certainly changed.

While the many available dating apps have certainly proven to be successful for a countless amount of couples, they’re not for everyone. Just because something works for your friend doesn’t mean it will work for you, too.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t really liked my experiences with dating apps (and I haven’t tried the online dating sites). Yes, I have friends who have ended up getting married as a result of using them, and I couldn’t be happier for my people finding love. But I can’t say that I’ve been a huge fan of them for me. It’s kind of like studying habits or workout routines—what’s best for you isn’t always best for everyone else.

If you try the dating apps and enjoy getting to meet people that way and like the idea of getting to know someone through the chat features before going on a date, that’s wonderful—you keep doing you, sister! They are absolutely great ways to find the person you’re looking for to be your man. But there is also nothing wrong with not going through the online dating sites and apps to fall in love.

I’ve tried a handful of the apps, and I haven’t been one of the fortunate ones. The guys I talked to ended up being fellas who were clearly meant to be with other women who aren’t me, and I hope they find their lobsters soon. My dream way of finding love is to be running or walking through a park or at the beach, and a guy throws a football or Frisbee that accidentally hits me. He runs over to see if I’m OK, and sparks fly. (Yes, it’s possible that I’ve watched one too many romcoms.) I realize that it might not happen this way, but a girl can dream.

Because this is a bit far-fetched and hasn’t come close to happening yet, I’ve had more than one friend tell me that I need to keep giving online dating a chance or that I need to do this or need to do that. You know what I really need to do? I need to do what’s best for me—and you need to do what’s best for you. If you had multiple bad experiences with guys you met on Bumble or, but you still want to keep at it with the dating apps, then keep at it. If you want to join a social club or sports group to try to meet someone that way, then sign up. If you want to find your lobster more organically, then maybe start hanging out at Starbucks or Whole Foods more often.

I know that a lot of girls want to meet nice guys at church—and many do happen to find their husbands that way—but it’s sometimes easier said than done (and it’s also not exactly the focus you should have when you’re at church, anyway). If that happens, great! If it doesn’t, don’t let searching for your soulmate be the sole reason you’re going to church.

There’s no one surefire method to find your lobster. You might even have to go through a few bad crabs who break your heart to get to him, but it’s important that you do it your way. And it’s even more important that you trust God’s timing through it all. Using dating apps and online sites doesn’t mean that you’re not trusting Him to provide—it simply means that it might be His way of bringing you two together.

Follow your heart, and don’t let others tell you what to do. After all, it’s your dating life, and when you and your lobster are meant to be, there’s nothing that will stop you two from finding each other.

Sometimes You Need to Face and Embrace Your Fears

We all have fears in life, some of which are somewhat irrational (I still check behind doors to make sure velociraptors aren’t there) and some that are a bit more legitimate (maybe you’re afraid of heights or animals that are actually still in existence).

While I don’t think we need to subject ourselves to all of the things that scare the daylight out of us (for instance, if you are terrified of snakes, don’t feel like you need to go stand in a field full of them just to see how brave you are), some of our fears definitely need to be faced and conquered.

Cue my freshman year of high school.

When I was a teenager (and for much of my 20s, actually), the thought of letting my crushes know that I had feelings for them made me queasy. I started sweating at the mere idea that someone would know a piece of my heart belonged to him, and I did everything I could to make sure he never found out. The risk of rejection and being hurt was simply too much for my naïve heart to handle.

There was a moment during my freshman year of high school when I had to make a choice to face my fears or to run away. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. I had left my English class to go to the restroom and was walking through an empty hall on my way back. But then the hall wasn’t empty at all—the guy I’d had feelings for since forever ago was walking the opposite way down the hallway.

My stomach immediately started doing flips and flops that even Olympic gymnasts wouldn’t dare attempt.

I had a decision to make: I could either keep walking and say “hi” to him, or I could keep walking right by him and not acknowledge him at all. I chose neither—I hid. I dodged into the nearest classroom, which happened to be a science classroom full of seniors, and stood with my back against the door as the confused sets of eyes all started at me. I glanced over at the teacher and said something along the lines of “just give me a minute,” and I waited until I was pretty sure that unsuspecting boy had passed. Then I bolted.

What would have been so bad about having to interact with someone I had feelings for when we were all alone in a hallway? Looking back, it seems so silly. All I had to say was one word—one simple syllable—and I couldn’t even do that. I let my fears get the best of me, even though saying “hi” would not have given him the impression that I adored him, and I hid in a room full of upperclassmen who likely thought I had lost my mind. I’m glad that their opinions were the least of my concerns, but I’m not proud of the fact that I cared so much about what one freshman boy thought of me.

It took years, but I finally grew out of that ridiculously long stage, and now I am not so afraid of talking to guys who have captured my attention. In fact, I’ve even put my heart on the line in more than one situation by telling guys exactly how I felt for them. I survived those moments, and I even survived the ones that ended in my risky heart shattering.

Ladies, don’t let fear grip you so tightly that it keeps you from going after the things your heart wants. You’re worth too much to spend your life wondering about what would have happened if you were bolder in certain moments of your life.

And you certainly don’t belong standing with your back to a door as opportunity passes you by.

Embracing the Plot Twists in Life

If there’s one thing that life will teach you pretty quickly, it’s that change happens quite often—and sometimes quite fast.

These changes can occur in your location, in your relationship status, in your friendships, in your family, in your career, and even in your heart. Some of them are planned, and others happen unexpectedly. Some are welcomed, and others feel more like punches to your gut that took you completely by surprise.

When I was going through a really difficult season of life (partly thanks to a fella breaking my heart), one of my sweet friends sent me inspirational quotes and funny memes every so often. She sent me one that I’m sure many of you have seen before that said “When something goes wrong in life, just yell ‘PLOT TWIST!’ and move on.” I love that, because it’s a reminder not to dwell on the tough changes that we face in life but to accept that they are happening and to keep living.

I studied journalism in college and dreamed of being a sports reporter and an eventual anchor on SportsCenter. I grew up admiring Linda Cohn and figured that I would follow in her remarkable sassy footsteps. When I graduated college, I got my first job as a sports reporter, and it wasn’t too long before I realized that it isn’t actually what I wanted to do with my life forever. I spent months trying to deny it—after all, I had big plans for my future—but it became far too apparent that I didn’t actually want to spend the rest of my life working in the media.

One day not too long after I started having those feelings, the president of the small news organization I was working for at the time informed us that we were going out of business, and I realized that my life was about to change more drastically than I had ever imagined. It was a tough change, but it was a change that needed to happen. And I’m forever grateful that it did.

I think that, just like changes in careers that we might not have seen coming, unanticipated changes in the heart are natural, too. Sometimes we want them to happen, and other times we try to resist those changes. I’d like to cue Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” right now. I would share some of the lyrics here, but I’d have to sell essentially all of my possessions and all of the paychecks for the rest of my existence to Disney first, so I’ll let you consult the Google on your own for that one. But this young woman is experiencing a change in her heart and a desire to find her own identity. It’s a change that needs to happen within her, and she begins to embrace it.

Just like we often need to embrace the changes that happen within us, as well.

You might start off in a career that you later realize is not right for you. You might lose your job. You might find out that you have to move, even after you’ve spent years forming friendships and building community that you love. You might invest deeply in a relationship only to be betrayed or realize that he’s not the person you’re supposed to end up with forever. You might experience so much change all at once in multiple aspects of life and not know what to do. And you might feel a stirring for change in your heart that you need to acknowledge and that you need to let happen.

If you’re not yet ready to yell “PLOT TWIST!” and move on, start by simply telling yourself that change happens, and you are strong enough to face whatever happens as a result. It won’t always be easy, and it’s OK to admit that you’re struggling with it. But don’t dwell in that state—let yourself be bold enough to stand up and turn those changes into new chapters that are integral parts of your story.

Don’t be afraid to let change happen in your life. Sometimes those changes you weren’t expecting end up being the most beautiful journeys that you’ll ever experience.

Rejection Doesn’t Make You a Reject

Unfortunately, we don’t get everything that we want in life—and this includes acceptance. There will be times when we will come across people with whom (and situations in which) we simply don’t belong.

Rejection is certainly not fun. I remember a day when I was in college and felt like I was one of the most unwanted people who ever set foot on campus. I had applied to be in a variety of different leadership organizations that were available to freshmen, and I thought the interviews for them had gone really well.

It turns out that I was pretty much the only one who thought that.

I’ll never forget when I went to check my mailbox on campus (yes, this was an actual thing with paper envelopes and all inside), and I opened four back-to-back-to-back-to-back rejection letters to the four organizations I so badly wanted to be a part of that year. I sat on a couch in the student center for a little bit and just stared at the words before me: “Thank you so much for your interest in [name of organization]. We regret to inform you blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

What is wrong with me? Why don’t they want me?

Needless to say, it was a pretty rough day. I wish I could tell you that this was the end of my days of rejection, but that’s not the case. On more than one occasion, I’ve been on the wrong end of being rejected by guys I really liked. I’ve even gotten excuses from them such as “I have some chores to finish” (this was on a Friday night, and he was 27 years old—really, guy?), “I have to study” (this was for the following weekend and was made yet again by a grown man), and “I need to write thank-you emails” (don’t even get me started on that one). Again, I was left with those thoughts no girl or woman should have.

What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t he want me?

The truth is that nothing was wrong with me then, and nothing is wrong with me now. And nothing is wrong with those guys for not wanting to go out with me, either. There are places we’re not supposed to be and people we’re not supposed to be with—and that’s OK. We don’t get to have all of the desires of our hearts, and though it can be painful at times, we have to learn to trust that there are better plans for us ahead. Some things aren’t meant to happen in our lives because there are other opportunities waiting for us.

Rejection is a part of life, but how we respond to those rejections helps us to build character, become stronger, and be bold enough to keep pursuing our dreams.

Don’t let rejection make you think you’re not good enough. You are enough, sister. And don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from doing things you know in your heart that you need to do. Carpe the heck out of that diem, girl.

You’re worth of the risk of rejection, and you’re strong enough to endure whatever happens.

You Can Cheer for Yourself, Too

Life is filled with so much junk, and it becomes far too easy to get down about the situations you face and down on yourself, in general.

But what if you cheered for yourself, instead? What if, rather than getting upset with yourself and pointing out all of your flaws and what you’ve done wrong, you focus on saying things that motivate and inspire you? What if you let yourself feel encouraged instead of discouraged?

While I don’t think it’s necessary to go around tooting your own horn all of the time, I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowing yourself to give yourself a little self-encouragement. Wouldn’t you offer some uplifting words to a friend who needed it? Guess what, girl? You need it, too.

I love running, and sometimes I put myself through some pretty tough workouts. I was recently pushing really hard in one of these workouts, and I was struggling. It hurt! But if I don’t push myself through those challenges in my workouts, how can I expect to on race day?

One tactic I’ve used for a while now and that I used on this particular day is saying things like “Come on, Nat! You can do this!” or “Suck it up, girl—it’s not that bad and is only a small portion of your life!” Believe it or not, I usually pick up my pace after those little pep talks.

Honestly, I wish I did this more often in every other area of my life. Why is it easier to encourage other people than it is to encourage ourselves?

Think about a time in your life—maybe it’s right now—when you’ve needed encouragement. You might have gotten some from friends or family members, but what if you had encouraged yourself? Try doing it more often. Even when things are going really well, there are still likely multiple instances in every single day when you could use some sort of pick-me-up or cheering on.

If you have time this week, write yourself a little “lunchbox note.” Take a few minutes in the morning, and write a note of encouragement for the day—the kind a mom or dad would put in a kid’s lunchbox—and put it somewhere you’ll see it later.

And when you face a tough situation, encourage yourself. Afraid to talk to that cute boy? Girl, you’ve got this! Nervous about your exam? [Your name here], you’re going to ace this! Anxious about an upcoming presentation? Honey, you’re about to dazzle and impress!

You deserve encouragement, and that includes encouragement from yourself. Be bold enough to believe that and to pursue confidence.

You’re worth the investment in yourself.

You Don’t Have to Think That’s True

I think a lot of times people make comments about teenagers caring too much about what people think about them, but I would argue that it doesn’t matter what age you are. For some reason or another, we simply place too much emphasis on other people’s opinions.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you felt judged or looked down upon by someone else? Or maybe that person actually said something hurtful that made you feel like you weren’t good enough? I’ve never trusted that ridiculous saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

False. Words hurt.

What I think is truly important, though, is that we don’t let other people’s words and opinions change the way we think about ourselves. We recently posted a Taylor Swift quote that is so powerful: “You’re not somebody else’s opinion of you.” And it’s true. What another person says or implies really shouldn’t matter—what does matter is what you think of you.

I volunteered at an event called the Brave Conference recently, and it was a powerful evening full of bold young women who don’t even know how bold they are yet. There were some incredible speakers, and two of them gave some advice that I wish I had heard when I was younger. Although I don’t care much about what people think of me now, it’s definitely something that I struggled with when I was in middle school when my identity was rooted more in what I was wearing or what group I sat with at lunch.

These speakers said that when someone says something to you, you simply say “I don’t think that’s true.” For instance, if someone tells you that your outfit doesn’t match, fire back with “I don’t think that’s true.” A friend or peer doesn’t think your choice of music is that great, sing it loudly, sister: “I don’t think that’s true.” Even if no one actually says anything, but you think someone might be thinking something, focus on what you think. If you feel like someone else has an opinion that makes you feel insecure, remind yourself: “I don’t think that’s true.”

You can do this as an adult, too. It’s something I had to overcome in terms of what guys I have feelings for think of me. I would let thoughts fill my head like I’m not pretty enough and I’m not smart enough and I’m not good enough. NO, girl. I don’t think that’s true.

I am enough—and so are you.

The next time you are in a situation in which you’re worried about what others are thinking of you, take a moment to step back and decide what you think of you. Don’t let their opinions define who you are.

Only you can do that.

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