Emily P. Freeman has the gift of puttinginto words the thoughts you don’t have time to think and sharing the kind of wisdom your soul needs to help you breathe. If you’re in a time of confusion, doubt, and foggy transitions that lead to decision fatigue, Emily is the voice you need to help you follow what she’s found is the best time-tested advice: just do the next right thing. It’s a grace to welcome Emily to the farm today . . .
We stand on the corner of Randolph and Green after a breakfast of sourdough toast, housemade sausage, blueberry pancakes, and coffee with raw sugar.
The Uber pulls up and we climb inside, falling into easy conversation with the driver.
Turns out, she’s a chef, but for now she’s feeling burned out. Driving meets the need she has for conversation, and she takes the long way through the city to prove it.
As she and my friend Shannan make small talk in the front seat, I pull up the driver’s profile in my Uber app.
To be quite honest, I’m wondering if her oh-so-friendly decision to take the long way to show us the sites is going to run up the meter. Do Ubers work like cabs? I can’t remember, so I try to find out.
While I’m in the app, I notice her reviews.
“You have great reviews!”
I say it from the backseat, careful not to stare at my screen too long, my attempt to keep the backseat dizziness from catching up with me.
“Yeah, they’re pretty good.” She tells us a few colorful stories about driving an Uber, the kinds of people she’s met, the stories that we wouldn’t believe they tell her. She seems to like her job, the questions we ask and the captive audience we give her.
“It’s a good job,” she says, “and I’ve never had a problem.” She pauses now, and then she says this: “Except that one lady that one time.”
My ears perk up, ready for a story. She’s already told us so many stories in our short commute; this one is sure to shape up as the best one yet.
The story doesn’t come. Instead, she says this about that one lady that one time: “But we’re not gonna give her words, ’cause that’s exactly what she wants.”
Shannan turns around and looks at me; our eyes meet big and impressed.
“We’re not gonna give her words.” I repeat it instinctively, trying out the phrase on my lips, catching her wisdom, repeating it slow, a responsive reading in a backseat church.
Later, Shannan and I will have a conversation about that phrase, unsure of how it went, exactly. I meant to write it down in the moment, but I got distracted by the driver’s next story. She went in for an eye appointment and came out with a diagnosis for a brain tumor, and I’m still trying to decide if I believe her.
In the end, we’ll agree this phrase captures the truth of what that Uber driver said about her critic in the car that one hot day in Chicago: we’re not gonna give her words.
The critic only lives if we let her live. And I don’t mean the critic who is helpful and has your best interest at heart.
I mean the spiteful one, the petty one, the one who said those things way back when. Maybe the one who lives in your own head. That time is past, and the only voice that critic could have now in your life? It’s yours.
I wonder how today would be different or how your next decision might change if you refused to give the critic words.
When it comes to making decisions, combating decision fatigue, and learning to trust our own heart in the presence of God, we have to be careful who we allow in.
Here’s something I’ve learned about the critics in our lives: it’s not necessary (or healthy, for that matter) to have people always agree with you, but the critiques to most seriously consider are the ones coming from those who believe in you. This is the critic who gets to have words.
But if the critic not only disagrees with you but also doesn’t believe in you, their words may be more difficult to sort out. These are the ones who have the least right to influence your life but somehow, for some reason, end up getting the most power.
Maybe right now you can remember a particular critical voice in your mind, and you remember their words exactly. What’s your next right thing in this moment? It’s time to call a truce.
We aren’t going to change their minds. Instead, let’s change ours.
Let’s stop giving that critic words.
Let’s stop handing her the mic.
Let’s take her seat away from the table and put it out in the hall.
Our friend Jesus knows what it means to be questioned, challenged, humiliated, and critiqued.
Not once ever did He allow a negative critic to change one solitary decision He made on earth. He was about His Father’s business, and all was well with Him.
His face was set like a flint. His soul was always at peace. His countenance remained kind. His choice was always love.
Here is the thing it always comes down to in the kingdom of God, where our belief slams right into our everyday life. The critic points out my weakness and my fear, but if I’m paying attention, He will also point out something else, a gift I would never dare to ask for and a motivation He never means to give.
The gift the critic brings, whether we like it or not, is a line in the sand. When the critic says words, we have to decide if we believe them. We have to decide who gets to have a say.
The voice of the critic forces us to face our biggest fears and, in turn, listen hard for the voice of God. I can worry or I can work. I can get stuck or I can move on. I can get defensive or I can be free. Instead of giving the critic words, here are some new words to consider:
I believe in the power of life.
I believe in the holy resurrection.
I believe nothing can separate me from the love of God.
I believe I am set free.
As we consider the decisions that weigh heavy on our minds, we don’t want to give our critic words.
Keep us in our stillness.
Quiet us in your presence.
Remind us of your love.
Replace the words of the critic with your words of peace.
As we lean our ear toward your heartbeat, allow our voices to rise up in your presence.
Then be our courage as we simply do our next right thing in love.
Emily P. Freeman is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Simply Tuesday and A Million Little Ways. As host of The Next Right Thing podcast, she helps create space for the soul to breathe, offering fresh perspective on the sacredness of our inner life with God.
Emily knows that when we have a decision to make and the answer isn’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction. If you have trouble making decisions, because of either chronic hesitation you’ve always lived with or a more recent onset of decision fatigue, Emily’s new book The Next Right Thing offers a fresh way of practicing familiar but often forgotten advice: simply do the next right thing.
With this simple, soulful practice, it is possible to clear the decision-making chaos, quiet the fear of choosing wrong, and find the courage to finally decide without regret or second-guessing. Visit nextrightthingbook.com to learn more.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]