People Only Know What You Tell Them
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
When I was younger I had a very hard time being authentic. I’ve always had a rule that funny is better than true (which is still a rule Ben and I have in our house, which is why it’s ok when we mercilessly mock each other or make wildly untrue, yet hilarious, accusations toward each other). I also have a rule about smiling, but that's for a different post.
I used to say a lot of things that weren’t true but were hilarious. Not a lie necessarily, just an exaggeration for the sake of a joke. Like when I made jokes about how socially awkward I was or my insane eating habits or how I hated babies or how I scored a 0 on my spiritual gifts assessment (ok that one is actually true, not even an exaggeration, but it’s still sad).
I think that being funny rather than true has its place (obviously) but I had to learn which situations (and people) that would work with. My problem was that I always assumed people knew what I really meant. I assumed people knew I wasn’t really a failure as a human, that I did occasionally eat a vegetable, that I didn’t find babies repulsive, that I didn’t really mean it when I made jokes about them (or myself).
I assumed. People know my heart, I figured. They know what I mean.
Then one day, in my senior year of college, I had a revelation (in the form of a fantastic friend). I was explaining one of these situations to my friend (I’m sure someone was either mad at me or judging me because of something I had said) and I I was venting about how they misunderstood me and I couldn’t believe they’d really think that about me. Then all of a sudden he looked at me and said, “Kelsey, people only know what you tell them.”
People only know what you tell them.
That sentence was one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever heard. I have no idea why that concept had never occurred to me before, but it hadn’t. People only know what you tell them. Unless we’re super close, they probably don’t know my heart, they don’t know what I really find important, they don’t know how I actually see the world.
People only know what you tell them.
This was a huge game changer for me. It changed the way I interacted with people, how I made friends, how I dated, how I approached church and small groups and Jesus.
From then on, I told people what I actually wanted them to know and believe about me, not just what I thought was funny (although I still do that sometimes and it's still hilarious and I have no regrets). And it's changed everything.
This election season has been a rough one and you probably know where I stand on everything so far, so I won’t waste your time repeating it.
No matter your political stance, I’m going to share some truth with you. Right now, most people in the world see Trump supporters (and Christians, by default) as racist, misogynistic, self-righteous, hypocritical crazy people who have some of the most backwards views imaginable.
I’m not trying to be hurtful, I’m not trying to be inflammatory, it’s just the truth. If you're a Trump supporter, that is how people see you right now.
But I know you, and I know that’s not who you are. I know you’re a loving mother, a dedicated preacher, an ambitious student that loves people and loves Jesus and wants the world to know how awesome He is.
I know that. But please remember, people only know what you tell them.
If the only thing people have seen from you so far is a pro-Trump message, then they’re going to think you’re also OK with the way he mocks the disabled and his hateful speech to anyone who disagrees with him and his disgusting view of women, along with his attempt at normalizing sexual assault.
But I know you’re not ok with any of that, because I know you. And I know your heart. I know you love immigrants and refugees and people of all color because as Christians, we’re commanded to. I know you would never accept someone speaking to your daughter the way Trump has spoken to women. I know you’d never mock a disabled person. I know that’s not you.
But people only know what you tell them.
And right now, all that you’ve told people is that you support Trump, whatever he may do or say.
So please, I’m begging you, support his politics if you must, but don’t be a silent supporter in his rhetoric. Don’t sit idly by while he berates someone else on Twitter or makes another lewd comment about women.
Just because you voted for him doesn’t mean you can’t critique him. Our job is to keep public officials accountable, so please, do that! Show the rest of us what you truly believe in. Speak out against hate, speak out against violence, speak out against misogyny and sexual abuse and xenophobia.
Because people only know what you tell them. So tell them who you really are, tell them who Christ has made you, tell them who you strive to be.