Not hot tea.... but this needs a pic...

Not hot tea…. but this needs a pic…

“You know, your son would probably enjoy it a lot more if you spent time making cookies with him…..” Said a voice behind me in the Starbucks line.

I turned to meet the eyes of my sudden adversary. Yes, adversary. Why? Because She may have said: “You know, your son would probably enjoy it a lot more if you spent time making cookies with him…..” What I heard was: “Instead of buying expensive cookies you should spend some time with your kid. As matter of fact, where is your kid? Why aren’t you taking are of him? You are a terrible, selfish mother.”

I was also tempted to go into a huge defensive thing about cancer and autoimmune disorders, and surgeries and just wanting to bless my kid with a treat after school. I refrained. (Well. Until now.) I wanted to yell: “I’m a SAHM. How much more time can I spend with the kid? Climb into his backpack while he’s at school?” I wanted to say: “My husband has cancer, I’ve had 3 surgeries in the past 3 years, my body keeps attacking itself in some stupid auto-immune way and we don’t know why and I’m doing the best I can to make all my kids feel loved and valued…..”

What I said was: “Well, at $2.25 I know I could make a whole batch of homemade shortbread that would be way better than this- but at 12 my kid sometimes just wants a cookie.”

By which I meant: “Look lady- I’m not sure what you’re implying- but it feels like criticism. I DO cook. I DO spend time with my kid. So, back off.”

Based on my response- internal and external….It’s entirely possible that: 1) I was feeling insecure due to my changing role as a mother and already question my value as A SAHM when my kids are in school and college. 2) I felt like judged because I was dressed up yesterday- and I think she assumed I was a “working mom.”  Which in her mind must mean I don’t take time with my kids. Which: Equally annoyed me- because IF I WERE, WHY WOULD IT BE HER BUSINESS to criticize? I know loads of working moms- and most of them actually MAKE things with their kids from their Pinterest Boards- unlike me. It’s also possible that 3) with an internal crazy pants response like yesterdays- I might be PMSY or tired and stressed.

It is entirely POSSIBLE that she may have just been suggesting it would be fun to make cookies together. It’s POSSIBLE. Right? She may miss having her kids bake with her. She may be a “cook with your kids televangelist.” For all I know, the lady was actually wanting me to ask for her super secret million dollar cookie recipe and I MISSED it. Or, she was a jerk. I have no idea. I took my cookies and tea and left. (Side bar: Kid hated the cookie. I ate it at midnight last night. True story.) 

Here’s what I do know:  I totally judged her just as quickly and harshly as I felt she judged me. In my mind- as those words left her mouth- I instantly decided she was a cranky, judgmental jerkipants. I assumed she meant the worst. I assumed her statement was a personal criticism. She was one fur coat and a coiffeur away from being the Cruella DeVille of moms. In one sentence, she went from chatty Starbucks grandma to Disney villainess.

I wonder how many times I’ve said things that felt like criticism to someone else? I wonder how many times I’ve been one fur coat shy of being Cruella DeVille, myself? Honestly? I couldn’t even count them. Some part of me believes that I am (or should be) the mom-visor to the universe. (New word- it’s like an advisor of Moms on mothering… which: is not my job *gasp. I know. Right?) I also wonder how many times I’ve assumed someone was criticizing me when really- they weren’t trying to. My guess? About an equal amount.

Today’s goal: NOT TO DO THAT AGAIN. (The over reacting in my brain like a freak thing.. not the buying my kid an after school treat thing.)

I’m getting him a donut and hot chocolate at Tim Hortons.

Dear lord- Words can hurt. MY words have hurt others. Assumptions can hurt. MY assumptions have hurt others, and I’ve been hurt by the assumptions of others. Please help me to see others as you see them- forgive me for the times I haven’t. help me to forgive others when they wrongly judge me. Help me to know I am loved and approved by you- and that that’s enough. Thank you for loving me even when I’m a jerk- I love you lord- amen. 

Your turn:

It’s often said that “Un requested advice is perceived as criticism.”  Does that resonate with you? Have you felt criticized when someone offered advice you weren’t looking for? Do you often offer advice when others don’t ask for it? How do they respond?

Confession: last night Noah and I made Salmon Wellington. TOGETHER. Take that- cranky pants. (see? I’m a jerk.) 1146622_10201551486601737_478686630_n

As soon as the words flew out of my mouth- I wished they were attached to a cord so I could pull them back in like a rogue kite.

No such luck. Instead, they flew out and attacked like one of those battle kites in “The Kite Runner.”  It probably would have been less bloody had the words been tipped with broken glass or needles. Instead they dripped with criticism. Poison that can wreck relationships.

Were the words harsh? No. Just the normal Mom stuff. (And wife stuff, and friend stuff-and leadership stuff….I am guilty of giving unsolicited advice-way more often than I care to admit.) Was I wrong? No. The problem is…… I gave advice that wasn’t asked for. Otherwise known as: criticism.

I meant well. I was TRYING To help. Except, I didn’t. I  hurt someone I care about. And I probably hurt the relationship. Not my goal.

The thing is: I know better. Because I’ve been on both sides of this fence.

When someone offers me advice that I haven’t asked for- I hear an underlying criticism. “You should think about changing your hair color”  sounds like:”I don’t like that hair color- this one would be better.”  “You’d look thinner if you wore_____” sounds like: “You look fat. ” Maybe you should try leading like this….” Sounds a lot like: “You’re a terrible leader.”  Criticism.

Helpful. Maybe. Sometimes. Right? Maybe, so. It can also damage relationships. Someone who’s always offering unsolicited advice (criticism) is probably not the person youre going to turn to when you feel vulnerable and need input.

After recently being both guilty of and victim to “advice.” I wondered:  What would happen if I stopped giving unsolicited advice ?

Honestly-  the idea makes me feel the beginnings of a panic attack. My mind reels:

“But, I’m a mom. I know things. I’m even (sometimes) right. If I ignore things, people won’t change.The world would be better if people did things my way…..and did I mention- I’m right?”

Some part of me feels like I’m the advisor to the universe. Like I have a responsibility to share the wealth of my knowledge.

If I am- why does it so often go ignored at best, often unappreciated  and sometimes, cause hurt?

Maybe the rest of the world feels like unsolicited advice is criticism, too.

So what can we do when we see something we’d really like to “advise” on?

1) Pray it- don’t say it. Pray if there’s something you see in someone you love that may need to be addressed. It’s amazing the opportunities God can create- and how God can help us change our opinions about our role as “advisors to the universe.”

2) Listen when advice is asked for. Answer the question- don’t look for a way to squeeze in your own agenda. (When someone asks for advice about a pair of jeans- it’s not the time to advise them about their hair… I call that:  pork-fat advising. Like the government, only more personal. Build trust by sticking to the advice asked for.)

3) Prioritize relationships over rightness. Ask yourself: Is this person doing this the RIGHT way (aka: mine) worth potentially losing the relationship for? Will saying this this help build relational trust- or crush it? Choose your response based on whether it’s worth losing trust to confront an issue. (Sometimes, it is.)

  • Do you experience unsolicited advice? How do you handle it? 
  • Do you often give unsolicited advice? How is it received? 
  • Is there a particular person- group of people who’s advice really rankles your cankles? (Yes- I just said that… it rhymed. This needed a rhyme. Are you criticizing me in your mind? Whatever.:P) 

Dear Lord- help me to pick and choose when to give advice and when to be quiet. I know that unsolicited advice feels like criticism… even when I’m just trying to be: helpful. Help me to prioritize relationship over rightness, help me to listen and help me to pray. I love you lord- amen. 

I’m learning:

When I pick and choose when to “advise” in my relationships- I find people more apt to respond and listen. Maybe unsolicited advice is like yelling- the more you do it the less is heard.