10 Words That Might Change Your Life…SERIOUSLY

One day I was sitting in a coffeehouse with my friend Scott. I was pouring my heart out to him over a vanilla latte with whip because that’s about as masculine as my coffee ever gets.

I was telling Scott how it felt like all of the pain I’d ever experienced in life had coalesced into a giant sneaker-wave that grabbed me by the throat and was now pulling me out to sea.

Some of the pain had just “happened” to me because I – like you – live in a broken world and life’s not fair.

But to be honest, most of the pain was self-inflicted. The result of refusing to delay gratification, avoiding hard work because I felt “I shouldn’t have to do it”, and fear. Lots and lots of fear.

By not dealing with the bumps, bruises, and gashes that came along with being human, I slowly became a hoarder of pain. I felt like one of those people who fill their house with so much junk they end up on a reality show, ashamed and lonely.

Because that’s the thing about pain we haven’t dealt with: the more of it we have in our lives, the less room there is for anyone else.

Scott knew all that about me. He knew the chaos I was living in. He also knew I didn’t have to keep hoarding all that pain.

Scott had had built trust with me by first sharing his messes, his failures, and his doubts. So I knew he could handle my “stuff”2 and that I wasn’t crazy for having stuff in the first place.

So after patiently listening to me lament for about 45 minutes, Scott said ten words that changed my life. He said, “Jesse…

…it’s time to be a good steward of your pain.”

In other words, it’s time to turn and face the pain you’ve chosen and the pain that just “happened” to you. It’s time to own it, deal with it, and move past it. For your sake, and for the sake of a world that needs healing, too.

“Your life no longer has to be defined by your pain.”

So with help from others – good friends, a good therapist, even some good meds – I started picking up all the junk, sorting it out, and throwing it away. I started learning to be a good steward of my pain.

And in the process, I learned my healing could become healing for others.

So can yours.

So imagine you and I are sitting at a coffeehouse together. Knowing I want you to thrive, to get more and more free to be God’s best version of you, let me offer this:

You don’t have to keep living in all that filth. Shame and isolation do not have to be your predominant experience.

You have full permission to get started RIGHT NOW. 


Looking Cool Is Optional

I often have the chance to speak to an audience at a church or a conference, maybe at a college or a retreat.

I love speaking. I love getting to interact with a group of people that are hungry to learn and grow. Every cell in my body buzzes with electricity. My mind clears and I’m fully engaged in way I’m not with most other activities. I jump at every chance I get to do it.

And without fail, one of the first things I think about as I’m preparing to speak is, “I hope they think I’m cool.”

I’m halfway through life and I’m still worried about looking cool. Seriously??

God knows this about me, and I think he often smiles at my desire to show off. The same way I smile when one of my boys finds himself with an audience and wants them to know how he can do a somersault or climb a little higher in a tree than he did last week.

God gets it: I often look to others for validation and approval. And I don’t think he faults me for it.

But He also knows the stakes are much higher now that I’m a grown man. And that he wants to use me to help others become all that He wants them to be. And that maybe there are more important things than having people think I’m cool.

There’s a very short prayer he gave me a while back that I use every time I’m preparing and delivering some kind of message (even a blog post):

God, help me care more about what they think of You than what they think of me.

 God knows I want people to like me. He knows I care about their opinion of me. This little prayer helps me acknowledge that, to own it without being shamed.

But He wants more for me than I want for myself. And He wants more for others than I want for them. And He knows the only way we’ll all end up getting more – more life, more hope, more healing, more direction – is when He’s allowed to shine through me. When He’s not blocked by my very real concern about what others think.

That little prayer – God, help me care more about they think of you than what they think of me – has been tremendously helpful over the years.

It’s helpful when giving speeches, sure, but I’ve also found it helpful when meeting with someone I care about. Or when visiting a new place or entering a new context. Or when trying a new activity. It works anytime I run into my desire to look cool in front of someone, anytime I want to influence a person or a crowd.

Because I’ll probably still hope to look cool when I’m 80 (I won’t – I haven’t looked cool since the fourth grade). And God knows that. And he smiles at me. And he says, Jesse, I’ve got a lot more for you and others if you’ll let me shine brighter than you.

So Jesus, today, help me care more about what people think of You than what they think of me.

The Secret Power Of Selfies

How To Make Them Matter

I recently preached at my favorite church. The topic? Selfies.

To illustrate the topic, I borrowed a friend’s selfie stick. Because I obviously don’t own a selfie stick.


Since mine broke from overuse.

I held my phone close to my face – you know, one of those phones that you can also use to call people, if that’s something you still do. I said, from this distance, all you can really see in the frame is me.

And to be honest, it doesn’t make for a very interesting picture.

I suppose you could try to zoom in for greater detail to make it a little more interesting – wow, his skin is really oily right now. Or, I wonder what that scar is from?

But that’s about as intriguing as it’s going to get from this distance.

If I hold my camera out a little further before I snap the pic, I can squeeze in a couple of friends. We might then take several pictures together and I will post the one most flattering of me, because hey, we used my phone.

Then I said to the audience (or “congregation”, if that feels churchier to you): “But if I put my phone on the selfie stick and extend it as far as it will go…and then reach my arm out as far as it will go…(at this point, I turned my back to them)…there’s just about enough room for all of us in the picture.”

I then snapped a selfie of me with a few hundred of my besties.

My point was obvious (though I rambled on for another 20 minutes anyway).

If there’s only room in the frame of my life for ME, the story of my life won’t be very interesting. Or satisfying. Or compelling – to me or anyone else.

But if I make space for others to fit in the frame of my life, the story of my life can get really good.

As a final illustration, I threw up a selfie-style picture of my friend, Bob.

bob goff selfie 1

Bob is a famous author and humanitarian and is living some of the best stories I’ve ever heard. We’re friends because we once had lunch together and because I have his cell phone number.

To be clear, I had lunch with Bob because his host that day was a friend of mine (a friend who once brought Don Miller to see me…in my office…but that’s another story). This generous and well-connected friend hosted lunch for Bob and a bunch of other folks, and he invited Katie and I to join them.

Oh, and I have Bob’s cell number because he put it at the back of his best-selling book. So maybe you have it, too. But so what. I’m over it.

I told the congregation/audience/crowd/throng of worshippers that Bob always takes a great picture because he has a great smile, but despite his great smile, the picture wasn’t super interesting.

Then I zoomed out to reveal the rest of the picture.

bob goff selfie 2

This is Bob and some of his friends. Bob and his team have built several schools in Uganda and a few other places (there’s even one in Iraq!) that serve kids without families.

It’s a lot more interesting picture. It’s a more satisfying picture. It’s a picture that inspires me and reminds me there’s a whole lot more to my story than me, me, me.

What was the key difference between the two pictures?

The second one simply had more room in the frame for others.

The throng got it. They always do. They’re a bunch of Bob-like folks who have graciously included me in their shot.

So I finished my sermon like I finish all my sermons: by dropping the mic and strutting off the stage to “Jesus Walks”.

I snuck back later to retrieve the selfie stick. In case, you know, I needed it for something.