When people truly care for each other

When you genuinely care about someone, there’s an unspoken trust and assurance that you would do whatever is in your power to love and protect that person.

Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

My two nieces are two of my best friends. I would do absolutely anything for those little gems, and I can’t even accurately describe the amount of joy that fills my heart each time I get to spend precious moments with them. I’ve talked before about how much Olivia changed my life when she was born three years ago, and both of them continue to impact me in more ways than I can explain.

They’re the actual cutest.

I was recently at their house watching a fairy movie with them, and Olivia was sitting in my lap because she had hurt her foot. Sweet little Evie has taken up pinching as a new hobby and began pinching and slapping my legs. She’s too cute for me to get upset about it, and it didn’t actually hurt, but I also don’t want her pinching and hitting other people because her aunt let her do it, so I reminded her that it’s not nice to do so.

And then something happened that made me actually want to cry.

Olivia began defending me and putting her hands and arms and legs and everything she could between Evie’s tiny hands and my legs. (Precious Evie thought it was a game and began giggling and trying to get around Olivia.) When Evie slapped my knees, Olivia would kiss them to try to make them better. I put my hand to my heart to see if it was still functioning properly because I thought maybe it had actually melted. Once again, even though I’m the adult, that adorable little human took care of me.

There’s something about genuine love that changes people.
That heals people.
That gives hope to people.
That removes doubt.
That removes fear.
That wipes away tears.
That reminds the heart why it beats.

We aren’t anyone else’s opinion of us.

There are far too many ways that people in this world can feel neglected and unloved. While we may have people in our lives who will help shield us from pinching and slapping, there are times when we’ll feel much more exposed to people’s words and actions that hurt our hearts more than anything else. What’s important to remember in those moments, though, is that we aren’t other people’s opinions of us.

Which is something you might need to remind yourself of often if you use a dating app.

A month or so ago, I went out with a guy who said he wanted to go out again and then texted me the same thing later, and then I never heard from him again. But I’m not his opinion of me. I once had a guy find out that I don’t drink, and he said “hard pass” on me. But I’m not his opinion of me. I’ve been ghosted more than once. But I’m not their opinions of me. My friend was downright stood up and never heard from the guy who was supposed to me her. But she’s not his opinion of her.

Just like you aren’t anyone else’s opinion of you.

This pic is super old, but it always reminds me how loved and cared for I truly am.

It feels nice when people show you that they care about you, which is another reason why I think it’s so essential that we show people that we care about them—so that they know without a doubt that they are valued, that they are loved, and that they matter. When I was talking to my students last week about respecting one another, I reminded them that it takes a lot less energy to be kind to someone than it does to be mean. I don’t even know if that’s scientifically accurate, but it makes sense to me, so that’s what I told them. Sure, sometimes showing you care takes effort, but like my mom told me, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes to you.

As I sat there the other day with Olivia on my lap, I realized that the way she defended me is the way Jesus defends me every day. He swoops in and heals my wounds and genuinely cares about and loves me. Does that mean that pain won’t ever happen and that broken hearts will mend as quickly as I want them to? As much as I wish that were the case, no. But it does mean that I can live with the certainty that He’s always fighting for me, and my identity is found in Him—not in other people or in what they think of me.

And that’s all the assurance that I’ll ever need.

Because your heart is stronger than what people think of you

More and more in life, I’m starting to realize that people try to define who we are for us.

And more and more in life, I’m trying to remind others just how not OK that is.

I was at the grocery store one day last week, and there was a man in front of me who was very loud. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing—it was simply drawing attention to him, though. So, naturally, I started listening to what he was saying.

He was telling the cashier (don’t get me started on this store not having self-checkout) how he is filled with joy. I thought that was good to hear, but then my positive attitude toward this man was quickly diminished.

He went on to say that he’s not from around here (join the club, bro) and that everyone in this area is “so nasty.” (Umm, excuse me?) He said that, at his church back home, everyone is filled with joy, and you’ll never see someone not praising Jesus for life. Then he kept going on about how he carries joy with him everywhere, but the “people around here don’t know what joy is—they’re nasty.”

Sir, I think you need to get to know people before deciding you know them.

I was about to say something when he turned to me and said, “See, she doesn’t have joy. Nasty!”

Mr. Joy, you don’t know my heart.

He turned and bolted out the door before I could even say a thing to him. It’s probably for the best—I’m not sure I had a ton of nice things to say in that moment.

You can judge me, but you can’t define who I am. I’m enough in Christ. The end.

I wasn’t upset about the fact that the man called me nasty—he can think whatever he wants about me—but I didn’t like that he was going around calling an entire county nasty simply because not everyone here lives their lives the exact same way he does. I don’t want to judge him for his words or actions, but I do pray that he realizes how powerful love is and how people need love more than they need to be called nasty. There are some tremendous people with beautiful hearts here and everywhere throughout the entire world, and there are also people who might be a little more rough around the edges. Let’s not judge them; let’s love them, instead.

The next day at work, some of my coworkers were having a conversation and joking around, and one of the guys said that it’s pretty bad if you’re older than 30 and still not married, “especially if you’re a woman.”

Say what?

I was not able to remain silent in this moment, so I invited myself into their convo. He didn’t realize that I was listening (or that I was older than 30), so then he started trying to backtrack and win me over by saying that I look younger than 30.

First of all, thank you for saying that. Second, let’s talk about what you just said.

Mr. Chatty Coworker, you don’t know my heart.

It’s challenging enough sometimes knowing myself that I’m in my 30s and haven’t been in an actual relationship, so I don’t really need people reminding me and claiming that it’s basically pathetic to be my age and still this single. I go through seasons of being OK with it and seasons of feeling lonely. I feel like I just transitioned out of that lonely one into one that’s more comfortable, so maybe the enemy was trying to make me feel discontent again—who knows?

Regardless, I can’t let people’s words and opinions of me change what I think or say about myself. And I hope that you won’t let other people’s words and opinions of you change what you think or say about yourself. They cannot define who you are—unless you let them.

We don’t know what everyone else is struggling with or what storms they might be facing in their lives. Instead of judging others or assuming you know them, perhaps give them a little grace, or even take the time to get to know them. You might find that your attitude toward a person can change when you actually take time to learn more about him or her with a heart perspective.

We’re not all going to live our lives the same way, and that’s a good thing. People don’t have to express joy the same way you do. People don’t have to have the same relationship timelines that you do. People don’t have to spend the same amount of time at their jobs or in their hobbies as you do. People don’t have to like all of the same movies or foods or pastimes or whatever as you.

And you don’t have to be like everyone else, either. It’s important to be genuine, to be real. People can’t know the real you and your heart if you aren’t being who you actually are. If they judge you for being you, then so be it. Your identity shouldn’t be the result of what someone else thinks it should be. That goes for all types of relationships—with strangers who know nothing about you, with family members who know everything about you, with your friends who are your ride-or-die lifers, with acquaintances, with people you might look at as enemies, and with the person whom you love or are dating.

Be authentically you—it’s harder for people to know your heart if you don’t truly know it yourself.