I used to begin every training session or class I led by saying something like:
“So, who is Julie Stiles Mills and why should you listen to anything she has to say?”
Then I would give a brief intro to establish my credibility, sharing my education, experience, and sometimes a little bit about my teaching/learning philosophy.
I announced my credentials.
People on the receiving end of my self-introduction were usually polite. Most even gave me some eye contact or a smile.
Over the years, I’ve come to a realization that I was taking – actually wasting – time talking about myself when what the people in front of me REALLY wanted was to get to the part where what I had to say actually benefited them.
These days, I just skip directly to that part and
I let my credibility establish itselforganically,
through demonstrated competence,
but also through empathy and personal attention.
It keeps me on my toes, because if I don’t know what I’m talking about, my credibility takes a hit.
you inspire me. yes, I mean YOU.
If you are overcoming challenges, you inspire me to persevere.
If you are making a positive difference, you inspire me to join you.
If you are killin it, you inspire me to work harder.
If you are consistent, you inspire me to develop discipline.
If you are gracious, you inspire me to be kind and patient.
If you help someone, you inspire me to pay it forward.
If you give, you inspire me to be generous.
If you are discouraged, you inspire me to encourage.
If you are heartbroken, you inspire me to be compassionate.
If you face a problem, you inspire me to learn.
If you are struggling, you inspire me to equip.
If you are striving, you inspire me to edify.
If you judge, you inspire me to investigate.
If you generalize, you inspire me to acknowledge nuance.
If you oversimplify, you inspire me to sort out complexity.
If you blame others, you inspire me to take responsibility.
If you complain, you inspire me to take action.
If you hate me, you inspire me to forgive.
If you mock someone, you inspire me to stand up for them.
If you dehumanize someone, you inspire me to #seepeople.
If you point out the negative, you inspire me to recognize the positives.
If you misjudge me, you inspire me to prove you wrong through consistent word and action, rather than explanation or argument.
you inspire me. no matter what. whether you recognize your actions on this list or whether I’ve missed noting them. you inspire me.
because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken and even when we “miss the mark” God has been redeeming the failures of broken people since the beginning of time.
The use and/or abuse of inflammatory language is one reason I don’t rely on anyone else’s explanation or interpretation for accurate, objective information. I search for and read/watch original sources rather than trust articles and videos which summarize, interpret or ‘splain them.
(And yes, “splain” is an inflammatory word, a derivative of mansplaining, but it’s genderless condescension. I said I don’t rely on inflammatory words for accurate, objective information. I didn’t say I never use them.)
But back to the post…I wanted to see what kind of reaction those 98 words evoked. The comment count showed there were 4.3K comments, but when selecting the option to see “All comments” the thread indicated only 2960 comments were available (that’s an example of shadow banning, btw)
While reading through the available comments, I was prompted to look up another definition.
I have a personal aversion to groupthink, so the potential negative effect of an echo chamber is one reason I make sure I intentionally and consistently seek out and include listening and processing alternative interpretations and conclusions.
That said, if those alternative interpretations and conclusions are built on secondhand sources – or no sources at all – they lose credibility with me.
Saw a comment by an HR professional in which they condemned someone for posting a link to a story and then strongly disagreed with people commenting on the post, calling them “disgraceful and dishonorable.” They ended by saying:
“I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”
My first thought was, wait.
Did an HR professional just promote doxing and termination?
This person’s entire career centers around employee development and training. They are a professed Christian and appear to have a lifelong passion for helping people find and reach their potential. Doxing and termination seemed counter to everything they work toward. They had an opportunity to influence and not only did they miss it and waste it, they intentionally threw it away.
It nagged at me. Like, “couldn’t sleep till after 4am” kinda nagged at me. I prayed about whether to reply and if so, what to say. Nothing seemed right. So, the next day, I went back to the post and replied, ditching all the possibilities I had considered and just straightforwardly asked:
What do you mean when you say “I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”
I was genuinely hoping I was wrong and that if I wasn’t, that there might be an opening for dialogue.
Within an hour, they replied:
“The message above is very clear.”
For a fraction of a second, I thought about responding. I prayed. And this thought popped into my mind:
I’m not responsible for the outcome of the conversation.
My responsibilities are, at the very least, to:
1. respond to opportunities to have conversation and
2. ask the Holy Spirit to equip me for the conversation so I can respond instead of react
3. do my best to respond respectfully and humbly.
I genuinely believe part of my calling is to put stones in shoes, and leave the work up to the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and open minds. What that means to me is that, if after a conversation with me, someone is thinking more deeply about something than they were before, then I’ve been a good steward of that particular opportunity.
and I need to let it go so I can get some sleep. Because I need to be alert enough to recognized the next opportunity.
In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.
She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.
And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.
In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.
Then everything changed. Instantly.
(remember, this is a dream)
In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.
NOTHING we did made any difference at all.
And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)
I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).
And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.
And in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.
So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.
As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…
I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)
And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:
I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter
Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout
And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.
There was no going back to sleep.
So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.
And I wrote this:
“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”
“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”
Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.
So. That’s that, right?
Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.
I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.
But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.
This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.
Or prays for him.
No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.
You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.
If you profess Christianity, please be careful in your discussions about controversial issues today. Please don’t be arrogant. You’re never going to change someone’s mind when you’re words are laced with arrogance or contempt.
What’s your goal?
You don’t have to try and get someone to agree with your point, but you can introduce doubt in their thinking by respectfully questioning the things they say that you don’t agree with.
If your goal is just to be right, you’re missing an opportunity. People are watching and listening.
When we profess faith in Christ, we are called to submit our minds to Him so that they would be transformed. Our words should be seasoned with salt.
Please pray before you speak and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you instead.
If you publish something on the internet about your belief or conviction or opinion or whatever word you want to use, please take a time-out between the moment when you think you’re finished typing and the moment you hit publish or post. I can’t tell you how many words haven’t made the cut when I take that time out. I’ve written thousands of words that never saw the light of the internet because the Holy Spirit showed me they weren’t edifying.