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So, here I am writing. Just for the record, it is so intimidating that every single one of these women leaders are writers because writing is not my strong suit. But if there is something I’ve learned over the past couple of years, it’s this:

We can’t let fear stop us.

I travel the world and listen to women tell their stories. Though I now realize what a blessing this is, it took me a while to understand how to connect. In the beginning, I would sit down with a woman I didn’t know and ask about her life, but often the conversation would remain on the surface. I couldn’t connect until I was able to step out and be the first one to be vulnerable. It allowed trust to be built. One woman opened up about her brother being killed after I shared with her about my own father’s death. A woman in Haiti, in tears, told me that nobody had ever listened to her story before. In those moments when the camera is down we are able to talk heart to heart.  Each of them wanted to know me before they could trust me – trust that I wouldn’t misinterpret their stories, trust that I would be a true advocate for them and trust that I wouldn’t judge them for what they shared.

Women 1

I’m imagining myself at a gathering in a room full of women I’ve never met before – all gorgeous, talented and accomplished.  You know what I want to do in this scenario? I want to crawl into a hole. I’ve actually done this before at a conference. I try to be bold and have lots of conversations and then I crawl back into my hotel room.

I feel like I put on a mask sometimes when I’m surrounded by incredible women. You may or may not relate to this. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s to protect myself, but most of the time it’s out of fear of being exposed.

Online you see lives that look perfect in every way with adventures, family photos, everyone smiling and everything is perfect ALL THE TIME. I mean, of course nobody ever argues or hurts. I smile all the time, don’t you? I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about.

We protect ourselves from others around us. But what would happen if we went deep with a complete stranger? I’ve done this many times and leave wondering, what on earth does she think of me now that I’ve shared all the junk inside of my heart? Nothing shows me the love of Jesus more than when someone listens and identifies with my hurts and pains.

One of my biggest fears is sharing my heart and then feeling rejected by someone. Why are we so quick to tear apart others before looking at ourselves? We all have baggage. We all have issues. We all have things we wished we could erase from our lives. And if you are anything like me you long for healing, to be embraced, to work through the struggles that beat you down. It is so hard to trust that someone can understand what I’ve been through, what I’m feeling. We need to step into a new way of listening and truly identify with others. We shouldn’t listen and think in the back of our minds, “Well, I wouldn’t do that…” but instead we should get to the place where we can imagine what it would be like to be that woman, to feel what she felt, to be open and vulnerable. What we do in that moment is everything. We can be superficial and walk away or we can empathize with that woman and her need and grow together.

For us to feel safe to share, we’ve got to first extend that grace to others, stop judging each other and open our ears to really listen to the woman standing in front of us.  Let’s challenge ourselves to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). When we really listen to each other, we provide space to open up. Ladies, hear me, no woman is going to feel safe to share with you if they are feeling even the least bit judged. We’ve got to leave the convicting up to Jesus and walk in love.

Women 2

Down to the deepest core of my being, I long for a place – real or virtual – that all women can come and be vulnerable with each other, sharing our doubts, fears, failures, pains, triumphs, and struggles and not fear judgment. It’s time that we are REAL with each other. We can’t let fear stop us.

Women 3