Jen Hatmaker is an inspiration. Over most of last week/weekend I was at the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it was very very cold). In that crowd, being an inspiration is the starting place. It was a wonderful event; it was useful and generous and I learned a lot. Jen Hatmaker did a Q&A one day and the next day gave a keynote about how to deal with criticism. Jen (I feel like I know her, like we’re on first names now) is funny, laugh-out-loud funny.
In her keynote, she was fierce.
She has spend most of the last two years adjusting from being a darling of Evangelical Christianity to being cast out, her books taken out of some christian bookstores and church libraries. People she thought were friends went against her. Harsh words were used to her and at her and about her. Why you wonder?
For her embrace as an ally of Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. And she is front and center in that as an ally, she is not speaking for or instead of or owning things that are not hers. She is an ally. But she is not silent.
Here’s what I remember of her coping:
(1) Adopt a humble posture. “I could be wrong.” You might think: No I’m not, but as Jen put it, am I always always right? Well no. So “I could be wrong.” This humility — and I’ve rarely seen it demonstrated so well and so bravely — this humility is hard. This humility can be infuriating. But it is a way to lower the tempers and perhaps help us more than the person who has said critical and even nasty stuff.
(2) Wait 24 hours. Maybe wait longer, but wait 24 hours to respond.
(3) If there is no constructive part, if it is all nasty, then ignore it. Jen said, I guess I have to paraphrase from memory, something like: no matter how awful at the end of the day, you go to sleep and you wake up and you are alive. Words can and do cause tremendous pain but words do not actually kill us.
In truth, it seems unlikely that I will attacked so publicly as Jen has been and is — as much as I hope that I, too, am an ally. Yet there is a person in my life who is extremely, and as far as I am concerned unfairly, critical and harsh. This advice can scale down to help me, too. More important the attitude of strength and humility — yes, please.
She is fierce and warm and funny and brave and true to herself. And Jen Hatmaker is something else, something so rare: humble.
Oh one last thing: She puts down her first book, The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Bible, and it just isn’t that bad! I wish I could find my copy to refresh my memory but I can’t put my hands on it. My memory is that when I read it, it was actually helpful. Jen, if you have read my little blog — your first book was a fine first book!