Wait, What did You Mean by That? The Second Nature of Second Guessing

“Just to clarify…” If I had a dollar for every email I sent with those words, I don’t think I’d have to send them anymore. I’d invest those dollars and retire. I am frequently second guessing my understanding of things. Can you relate?

I have noticed that people seem more distracted and less prepared lately, me included. Those qualities do not make for clearer communication. I frequently want to interject “Wait, what did you mean by that?”

And sometimes, even with our best efforts and preparation, our words land with meanings which are different than we intended. It can be a good thing when someone second guesses their first inclination about what we meant. Written words are especially prone to misinterpretation.

The texting world is a great example. I think emojis are intended to help me understand the spirit with which a message is sent, but still I second guess. Apparently, each emoji has an assigned emotion, but I don’t know what they are. I have to interpret the face and let’s be real, a wink could mean a lot of different things!

I saw something like this the other day. I have recreated it as I remember it.

Font matters: Wait, What did You Mean by That?  The Second Nature of Second Guessing...
Words alone aren’t always enough to convey a message!

When I saw the graphic, I read the two notes to myself in very different voices. It was second nature to me to assume one was a promise and the other a threat. Contemplating this brought to mind two other instances I’ve encountered lately where I second guessed the meaning of a message and its implication.

The first was when someone told me that I seem very content. I smiled and thanked them, because it made me feel good. But then I second guessed their motives. Had that been a compliment or an accusation? What did they mean by that? I am happy with what I have and who I am. But did they mean it to say that I should driving and striving for improvement? I’m still not sure.

The other thing was something Jesus said. And it wasn’t so much a matter of not understanding what He meant. His words are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), meaning they hit differently, depending on the condition of my heart. This is what He said:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

If I read these words during my quiet time, with my Bible open and my heart pure, they are sweet, aren’t they? They reassure me that, even when nobody else can see me doing the right thing, God sees. It makes me feel like I don’t need anybody else’s recognition or praise.

But yikes! The words here say that God sees what I do in secret. What if I’m doing something sneaky and naughty? This verse takes on a whole different meaning under those circumstances, doesn’t it? Suddenly, it is anything but reassuring. I feel like a deer in the headlights, second guessing what I think I’m getting away with.

To be honest, I don’t think we can ever get away from misunderstandings entirely. Maybe we all do well to cultivate a second nature of second guessing. But I want to focus mine to be more productive.

Instead of fussing with insecurity and obsessing over what was meant by the little comments people make, I want to use my second guess to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes, believing the best of someone will literally mean I need to wait and find out what they meant. Other times, it will just be a decision I make in my heart to believe the best of them. After all, God knows the truth and He rewards what nobody else sees. And I never have to second guess His word!

Are you a second guesser? Do words return to your mind with an uncertainty as to what they mean? Or maybe you are characterized by confidence and rarely think twice about things. I guess we all have a second nature inclined one way or the other. What is yours?


Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

Here we are! Thanksgiving week already! Do you have any exciting plans? Are you traveling? Hosting? Having a quiet day of reflection? Shopping? If you live outside of the U.S., what are you up to this week? Do you have a celebration of thankfulness in your culture, or anything similar?

Regardless of your traditions or plans, I’ve got a challenge for you. I realized that my list of things I’m thankful for has stagnated. Don’t get me wrong, each and every item on my list is a gift from God. I just haven’t put much thought into it lately. I’m always thankful for my family and friends, pets and paychecks, shelter, and such. This year, I want to make my list more unexpected and meaningful. Will you join me?

Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are some things for which we seldom stop to give thanks. But God is good, and He wastes nothing in our lives. I want to recognize the blessings in places I don’t usually think to look. I have 3 examples to show you what I mean.


The other evening I was out jogging. (Yes! I’m still at it! If you read How An Eerie Scene Provoked Me to Run and Keep Running, you know the crazy story of how that came about.) Anyway, I thought I heard something in the bushes beside me and as I turned toward it, I inadvertently looked directly into the setting sun. It was so bright! Instinctively, I threw my hand up to shield my eyes and the motion aggravated my bum shoulder. Pain shot to my fingertips and my arm fell limp at my side.

My arm has been doing this the past several weeks. I’ve learned that if I stay still for a few minutes, the pain goes away. So still I stayed. Then, perhaps emboldened by my stillness, the most majestic deer stepped out from behind the bush. It stood looking right into my face. We studied each other intently for a while and then it slowly went back about its business.

Deer: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Skyler Ewing on
This is not my photo. I didn’t dare move to grab my camera. But this is much like what I experienced (minus the spots and second deer in the background).

The pain in my arm caused me to stop. Without it, I never would have experienced the wonder of looking into those wild brown eyes from just a few feet away. I was – I am – genuinely thankful for the pain. I can’t say I’ve ever put pain on my Thanksgiving list before. What an amazing thing!

Busy work

I work in a lab. I get to do incredible things every day. Science is fascinating! But lab work generates piles of paperwork and time-consuming cleanup. The busy work is not nearly as fun.

I realized this week that busy work never comes up on the list of things I appreciate in life. But why not? I enjoy the job I have. The paperwork and cleanup testify to all that my team and I are accomplishing every day. For the first time, I truly understood that I have many reasons to be thankful for all that busy work. What an incredible realization!


I try to avoid conflict. It rattles me. But, let me tell you, there is nothing like it to make me fall to my knees. I need God to help me understand it, navigate it, and handle it well. I feel that I’ve had an unusual amount of conflict lately. Have you heard this saying?

Sometimes, God uses difficult people, like sandpaper, to rub the rough edges off us.

Power sander: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Thijs van der Weide on
The abrasiveness of sandpaper smooths and softens

It is not pleasant, but it is effective. Conflict smooths my jagged edges and softens my corners. In it, I see ugliness in me that I must confess and give over to God for refurbishing. I usually start by asking God to change the situation or the other person and end up being so thankful that He changed me. This Thanksgiving, my recent and ongoing conflict is high on my list. God is so good!

Those are a few of my examples. What about you? Where can you find hidden blessings? Are there things for which you haven’t yet thought to be thankful which belong on your list?

If you ask God to show you, I’m sure He will. He loves to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in His people. Will you join me and take up the challenge of finding thankfulness in unexpected places this Thanksgiving?

You’re welcome to join in, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. Thankfulness is always in style. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

“Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100:3-5

How I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue

I’ve been hurt by someone. It hasn’t been a ‘knife in the back’ or a ‘slap in the face’ kind of hurt. It has been a slow rub, more akin to a rug burn or a blister. Have you been there? Are you experiencing it now? I want to share the story with you because I have suddenly realized its happy ending and perhaps it will benefit you today.

My intention is not to call anyone out or make them feel badly, so I will speak generally and call my antagonist Sue. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that what I’m about to tell you will change my life, certainly in the immediate future, and likely forever. I am hoping it will be useful to you too. This is the story of how I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue.

Sue and I are friends. Perhaps you have you heard the saying:

“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.”


Well Sue is in my life for a season. I know that. We need each other to be able to accomplish goals that we share right now, but we don’t have many points of commonality beyond them. We get along well though, and our partnership has been enjoyable for several years. Until recently.

A little bit ago, Sue undertook a new set of goals, even though our shared ones were not yet reached. Since then, she has consistently cancelled our plans, last minute, to pursue her new priorities. When she has shown up, she has used our time to further her other agendas.

She has expected me to expand my efforts to encompass and complete her commitments to our goals without asking if I am willing or able to do so. And when I’ve tried to step up but had questions about it, she has expressed frustration over the intrusion of my asking. The warm collaboration we once enjoyed has frozen over and it hurts.

Light bulb covered in water and ice: How I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue
Photo by Darrell Gough on

Again, this post is not about Sue. This is about a light coming on for me. I knew I needed to use the situation to learn how to handle these kinds of things. This isn’t the first time it has happened in my life, and it won’t be the last. I’ve prayed about it, day after day, for the past several weeks. Yesterday morning, I woke up with a thought – the lightbulb popped on in my head as my eyes opened.

I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue. I am not brilliant on my own before coffee. And even after coffee, it’s questionable, so I knew the illumination had come straight from God.

For context, Sue has not been my only stress point over the past few weeks, but she has been the icing on the cake. I have had little time for my normal routine and the message that came through my grogginess as I awoke yesterday was this:

“You have been the Sue in our relationship lately. She has been an object lesson for you.”

Light bulbs and sparkles: How I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue

I immediately knew it was true. I had agreed with God to work on some things, but I have become engrossed in different priorities and allowed them to consume my time with Him. I have dominated our conversations with the things which were now at the forefront of my mind.

I still expected Him to be about our other projects, but I was no longer regularly investing in them. In fact, when He would remind me of it, I expressed dissatisfaction at how overwhelmed I was. I was most definitely behaving like Sue.

One infinite difference, however, is that my friendship with God is not for a season. It is for my lifetime and into eternity. So, pushing that relationship aside for anything else is much more serious than what Sue has been doing. I was immediately humbled.

And, with the humility, came the realization that Sue does not deserve my frustration. She was acting exactly as God intended in order to teach me this lesson. I couldn’t hold her at fault. In fact, I was grateful to her!

Lone light shining in the dark: How I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue
Photo by Rohan on

I changed my mindset accordingly and let her off the hook. From here on out, I will not expect more of her than she wants to give, and I will do my best to accomplish my goals without her. That way, if she shows up at all, I will be pleasantly surprised, and my attitude will be bright.

Additionally, now that I have my priorities back in order, I am guaranteed to succeed in what God has for me. If the goals I used to share with Sue are important to my Lord, He will help me to accomplish them well. If they aren’t on His agenda, I’m willing to let them go. I want my to-do list to be editable by God 24/7.

What does your schedule look like? Does it reflect what is profoundly important for you today? Is someone else’s failure dictating your level of joy? Has God nudged you with any sudden realizations lately?

Light bulb with hearts: How I suddenly realized that my hurt was never really about Sue
Photo by Suvan Chowdhury on

This adventure called life is certainly full of surprises. I’m thankful that I have suddenly realized that my hurt was not really about Sue. It was about the lengths God would go to remind me how much He loves me (and you!) and wants me (us!) to protect my (our!) time with Him. He set up the most appropriate object lesson I could imagine, and it has changed the way I will likely view things from here and forever forward. I hope it benefits you too!