The phrase can mean you’re not sure which choice is best or the one you want.
“I don’t know if I want that one or the other one.”
It can mean you have a preference but may want to let the person asking decide.
“I don’t know if that’s the best choice, but it’s up to you.”
It can also be a lazy answer because you don’t want to put forth the effort to think about the best decision.
“I don’t know why I did that.”
Saying “I don’t know” can mean you know the right choice, would rather make a different choice, and your will and your conscience are duking it out.
“I don’t know if I’ll tell her or not.”
It can also mean you really don’t know the answer.
“I don’t know why that happened.”
Saying “I don’t know” can send the message that you do not understand something or that you aren’t happy about something. It can be a way to avoid a conversation you don’t want to have because of laziness or discomfort.
Maybe you’re really not sure and just need time to think. Or, maybe you don’t want to tell the truth for some reason. Could be you know the response your real answer will get, so you don’t give it.
There are a lot of reasons to say “I don’t know” when asked something. And likely, we’re all guilty of all using each one at some point.
What Experience Shows
Here’s what my experience says about the use of “I don’t know.”
- Most of the time, you either really do know and don’t want to tell the truth, or you’re too lazy to make a responsible decision.
- If you truly don’t know, waiting is usually the best choice. Waiting is active though and involves seeking wisdom. Don’t move forward if you don’t have to without knowing until you’ve prayerfully sought the right path.
- Sometimes, you really don’t know, and that’s okay if it’s from an honest place and not a lazy or deceptive one. Again, just wait it out. Sometimes, not knowing means you’re not supposed to act.
- Simply waiting when you really don’t know is usually the best option. Many times, the situation will resolve itself or present the right choice if you just don’t force a decision and wait for it to present itself.
- Sometimes, you have to make a decision even when you don’t know what to do. Pray about it, then make the best decision you can. God doesn’t expect perfection. Plus, there’s often simply not a right or wrong decision.
A lot of scripture get at these truths, so we can know for sure what God desires when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t know.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
God wants us to trust in and lean on him. He wants to give us wisdom for our decisions. He wants us to know which paths to take. And he wants us to have and experience good things.
Trust. Ask. Receive.
Why Are YOU Saying it?
“I don’t know” often shows authenticity and can be a builder of trust and an encouragement. After all, no one likes it when someone acts like they know it all and refuses to admit that sometimes, the truly don’t know the answer.
The next time you find yourself going to “I don’t know” for your answers, ask yourself if that’s really true. Seek out your true intentions. Here are some common ones.
- Not brave enough to make a decision.
- Afraid to make the wrong decision.
- Don’t trust yourself to make the right decision.
- Afraid of not being accepted if you answer truthfully.
- Don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
- Easier than saying “I’m afraid.”
- Don’t want others to disagree with you.
It’s okay to not know sometimes, but it’s not okay to always not know. It’s not okay if your go to answer is consistently “I don’t know” because you’re hiding the truth.
Instead of automatically answering “I don’t know,” get into the habit of asking God for wisdom. Ask him even when you don’t have a specific situation or question. Make this asking a daily habit, and then seek to know him because knowing him more is the only way truly have the wisdom you need.
Easter Sunday holds a prominent place in my childhood, church-going memories. The smell of Lilies. New clothes. The Easter bonnet my mom wanted me to wear and that I hated. Easter breakfast after a sunrise service. Traditional church service. All good memories.
As an adult, Easter memories still rest strongly in my mind. Same smell of Lilies. Spring colors. Easter hymns like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” that I’ve never not known. Easter dinner followed by a rather competitive egg hunt at the in-laws.
Outside of the usual Easter routine are several Easters spent away from home, including one on a mountaintop at sunrise in Vermont. Another involved the first half of the day riding in a car traveling home to Michigan from Missouri. No Lilies. No Sunday best attire. Worship via the radio (one of the songs was “Crown Him with Many Crowns), and McDonalds for Easter dinner. We did make the annual hunt though.
As I grew and matured, Easter eventually evolved from a once-a-year Sunday celebration to a year-round sense of purpose. Celebrating the risen Christ exists now as a way of life, a year-long state of mind rather than a capstone day in the church year.
Ticket to Heaven
A lot of the same elements still exist, but my view of the reason behind the celebration itself evolved away from simply a focus on the objects that represented it. I no longer only saw Easter as just a day to acknowledge that a far-away God sent his Son to die for my sins. I began to see beyond simply having a ticket to heaven.
Today, Easter now represents a relationship with Jesus.
Reasons for Change
Over the years, experiencing struggles and letting Christ lead me to victory in and through them matured my faith. Faith remains a simple but crucial act of the spirit. However, it now lives in a maturing state as the Holy Spirit’s leads and guides into the relationship that now permeates my existence.
My view changed also because worship changed. Some songs stayed the same, yet my participation exists very differently today than in my childhood and even early adulthood. Increased involvement in worship somehow increased the depth of the Easter message.
My understanding of God’s love for His Son also grew when I became a parent. Would I sacrifice one of my sons to save another person’s life? No, I wouldn’t. Yet, God did just that. Being a parent gives some inclination of how much He loved me to give up His only Son. Something I would never do.
My Best Friend
Somewhere within all this change, I realized Jesus also wanted to be my friend in addition to being my Savior. In other words, Jesus became a real person in my life.
Jesus became my best friend as my view of Easter grew. This satisfied a deep longing I remember having even as a young child.
I’m not sure I can adequately express what Easter now means to me or how it exists as a state of mind rather than a yearly holiday. All I can do is share this testimony and invite others to open their hearts to the transforming power of the Easter story too.
Note: This post was originally published on July 11, 2012 under the title “Could This Be Your Biggest Source of Irritation, Frustration and Even Anger?” It has been revised and updated significantly.
Though my boys left elementary school years ago, I still remember the grading system used for their report cards.
- BE = below expectations
- ME = meets expectations
- AE = approaching expectations
- EE = exceeds expectations
In a college communication class I took years ago, the professor asked for our expectations on a particular assignment. Most students said, “I don’t have any.” Upon completion of the assignment, the teacher asked if expectations were met, and students answered either “yes” or “no.” The teacher then asked, “How can your expectations be met or not met if you didn’t have any to begin with?”
Anyone in sales knows that business revolves around meeting customer expectations. As Curtis Fletcher says in Creating Customer Expecta…, every aspect of a business creates expectations, from the tag line, to the company name, to the web site.
From business to education to personal relationships, expectations direct every area of life.
“Expectations are beliefs that spring from a person’s thought process when examining evidence.” (“What does the Bible say about expectations?” at GotQuestions.org)
With that definition in mind, consider that…
- Expectations are often formed automatically and without effort.
- Expectations are often unknown until they’re unmet.
- Expectations are not always requirements, but we often treat them as such.
- Expectations set standards that are often not agreed upon by those involved.
- Expectations can be reasonable and still go unmet.
If you analyze your irritation, frustration and anger at any given time, in most instances you’d likely discover the root cause to be unmet expectations. And if you fail to adjust how you operate within these expectations, they’ll eventually wreak havoc in your life.
To avoid the chaos expectations often create, start by realizing that expectations become irritations, frustrations and anger when they are…
When we simply let the resulting emotions (irritation, frustration and anger) bubble up without assessing from whence they came, we’ll constantly find ourselves caught in the struggle that expectations create when left to their own devices. In other words, we need to deliberately make a point to understand and clarify expectations.
Expectations As Fuel for Healthy Relationships
We can’t escape the fact that expectations exist and that they are often the nemesis to healthy relationships. But they don’t have to be. Instead, the existence of expectations can fuel our communication, which can strengthen and deepen relationships. Expectations, especially when clarified and agreed upon, can actually help direct action toward progress.
Consider the following points to help clarify expectations in a way that can strengthen relationships, whether with your spouse, kids, coworkers or customers.
- Understanding other people’s expectations takes work.
- Telling someone your expectations takes courage.
- Discussing expectations is often appropriate and necessary.
- Writing down expectations can help clarify them.
- Flexibility must accompany expectations.
Expectations must be acknowledged and communicated if they are to be a positive force in relationships. Yet, even with all our efforts toward communication of expectations, we still will regularly deal with the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected
To ward off the negative impact of unmet expectations, we need to learn to expect the unexpected in the form of disappointments as well as surprises, unmet as well as exceeded expectations. They are a part of life because expectations are a part of life.
As we expect the unexpected, we can expect expectations to sometimes be unmet, unrealistic, unfair, unset and unclear because that is their nature. We can also learn to decrease the gap between expectations and reality as we learn to communicate better with those around us.
DISCUSSION: What is the most helpful piece of advice you have for managing expectations?
This post was inspired by the comments of Mark Allman in the post Happy Anniversary.
Track meets provide a unique perspective on being the best. At one meet, a runner can get the best time and win a race only to find himself less than the best at the next meet even if he runs the same time as in the previous meet.
Then there’s the idea of a personal best. Regardless of time in comparison to other runners, running a personal record (PR) trumps overall place and time. Even the slowest runner at a meet relishes the idea of a personal best.
Also consider the idea that the best in one race, say a 400 meter (once around the track) may very well fail to be the best in a sprint (shorter than a 400 meter) or in a 3,200 meter (8 times around track). In other words, the best in one race usually won’t be the best in every race.
We tell our son, “We’re happy when you do your best,” whatever that might be on any given day. We remind him that his best will vary from day to day too. If he gets a personal record, we need not remind him of this. But when he struggles, like all of us do, he needs reminded of how best fluctuates but always remains the goal of the day.
The best involves giving all you have to the task at hand. It doesn’t mean living for chance but combining chance with preparation. Weather can impact your best, other runners can impact your best, even the crowd may impact your best. But your preparation, good or bad and sufficient or not, exists as an element you can control, and it also significantly impacts your best.
Best also never means that better isn’t possible, first because best varies from day to day and second because the element of growth always leaves open the possibility of a new best. The key, then, lies in progress over perfection.
Strive for the best.
Be your best.
Prepare for the best.
Appreciate the best.
Push beyond the best.
Progress over perfection.
DISCUSSION: Do you always strive for your best, whatever that is on any given day? If not, what needs to change for this to happen?
Strange Things Are Happening
Wrinkles. Slowing metabolism. Almost constant aches and pains. Physical changes resulting from aging.
Driving. Dating. Independence. Teen boys growing into adults. Life’s seasons usher in change.
Friendships fade. Marriages end. Busyness distracts. Life’s choices result in the rippling impact of change.
“Strange things are happening.” So goes the song in Toy Story to reflect the pain accompanying life’s inevitable changes.
Change brings new excitement along with nostalgic longing to relive moments and feelings. And of course, regret shows up in the process of change too.
My heart aches from change at times. I can’t keep up, and my comfort zone feels tight.
“They say that change is good, but it isn’t.” (Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory)
Out of control weight gain. Families growing apart. Estrangement. No, change is not always good.
But it is inevitable. Sometimes we can shape the change as it comes. Sometimes, we simply have to choose how we let change shape us.
The only constant in life is change. At least, that seems to be truth when the focus lies with how change challenges our comfort and expectations. We must learn to expect the unexpected and deal with change as it comes at us. Right?
Fortunately, we have another option.
Change As A Catalyst For Transformation
My oldest resists change. He’d like the same meal routine week in and week out, and he’d also like to stay well within the realm of the known and expected at all times. Change visibly shakes him, but he eventually accepts and embraces it even if never becoming completely happy about it.
My youngest adapts quickly to change. He even seems to need it and to resist much structure. Change motivates him to activity, much like my morning cup of coffee wakes me up, but he fades quickly until more change comes.
Two extremes, yet neither fully functional. Expected, I suppose, in teenagers. Maturity will hopefully bring balance.
How do you react to change when it happens in your life?
While each of my sons reacts differently to change, both ultimately use it as a catalyst for progress and growth. They don’t stay stuck in their comfort zones.
Stability In The Unchanging
Though my boys respond to change in two very different ways, they both grow and mature through it because they also know stability. They have structure and consistency in their lives as much as two imperfect but being perfected parents can offer.
That stability only exists in our family because God provides it. My husband and I don’t. Our routines don’t. The presence of an unchanging, holy God gives the only real stability and consistency that can exist in a world where all else seems to live in the unexpected even with our desperate attempts at controlling everything.
- Stability in a God whose character never alters.
“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
- Stability from promises that never fade or fail.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37)
- Stability like a rock.
“My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3)
- The only light to guide in the storm of inconsistency and instability that is life this side of Heaven.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Change is inevitable in this world. So too is God’s unchanging nature. Where do you place your focus?
No Doubt About Jesus
All parents dreams of what their child will one day grow to be. I am no different with my boys. What career will they choose? What about sports? Who will they marry? Parents usually have tremendous hopes and dreams for their kids, but they have no way of knowing for sure what they will become.
When Jesus was a baby, his mother did not have to wonder what He would grow up to be. Isaiah made very clear what baby Jesus would one day do and be.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Whatever my children will one day be are only guesses teeming with possibilities for greatness. When Jesus was a baby and even many years before he was born, his destiny of greatness was already clear.
Focus on Jesus
This Christmas season, make a deliberate effort to focus not only on Jesus as a baby, but also on your current relationship with Him and how you are growing in that relationship. Intentionally consider the fact that this baby in the Nativity scene at Christmas is a King worthy of your best.
As the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” ask yourself if Jesus is getting your best. Remember that He knows your past, present and future, and He loves you exactly as you are today. He deserves the best you have to give.
What can you deliberately and intentionally change your focus to make sure Jesus is getting your best every day?
The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.
With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.
How to Help Those Struggling with Depression
If you’ve never struggled with depression, do you ever wonder what you can say or do to help those who do suffer? If you do, this post will hopefully offer you insight into accomplishing that desire.
When I was at my most depressed, I received little to nothing of what others said or did to try and help me. I just couldn’t see anything positive. Looking back, I realize that even though I didn’t think so at the time, having people just not give up on me even when I had given up made all the difference. No matter what I said or did, they always took me back and forgave me.
The best counselors and friends were the ones who simply listened but maintained boundaries in that they refused to climb into the pit with me. They were able to maintain mental and physical health in their own lives and not let me pull them in the pit. So, I saw them as stable people who accepted me where I was as well as examples of where I wanted to be.
While some did suggest I simple “change,” just “be happy,” for the most part the people in my life allowed me to be however I was going to be, not really accepting the behavior, but loving me regardless. And when they saw any positive, whether momentary or a genuine step toward change, they latched on to that for as long as the wave existed even when they knew it would fade. This went a long way helping me make small, gradual changes that over time added up to make a huge difference in discovering victory.
Related to this, those who did not try to force me to change were the ones I wanted to be around. I know most of them were praying for me, but they did not try and insist I change. They accepted me for who I was at the time. When I did reject them, which I did often since intimacy of any sort was thin at best and impossible at worse most of the time, they did not take it personally. They knew, somehow, it wasn’t meant personally. They gave me the space I needed, even letting me be miserable, and were always available when I came out of the darkest recesses of the pit for a while.
Generally speaking then, the people in my life who had never suffered depression, helped me by staying consistent with who they were, by accepting me for who I was and where I was, by seeing beyond where I was and to who I could become, and by praying for me.
My husband said he felt helpless when I was depressed, and I guess he kind of was. I assume that’s how many people who have not had depression feel. The odd part is that this is how people with depression feel too. So, realize that the helplessness you feel in not being able to help the person get out of depression is similar to the helplessness the depressed person feels in being trapped in it. Interesting, don’t you think?
DISCUSSION: What can you add regarding how to help someone who is depressed? Any questions?