Happy Hour Buddies to Best Friends

By JMathis

Pam and I are toying with the idea of becoming “best friends”.

Yes, you heard me right: best friends—a social construct that is beloved by five year olds and sorority girls alike.

Except that we’re inching towards our 40s, which makes the idea a bit creepy, if you ask me.

I think that’s why we’re so hesitant to take the plunge. After all, how do you go about becoming someone’s best friend after a certain age? Frankly, it’s not that easy.

Sure, in your 30s and 40s, you might have Happy Hour buddies, casual work friends, bible study friends, or even ‘mommy and me’ friends, but unfortunately, there is a huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who will come over to your place at the drop of a hat because you suddenly realize that your marriage is over. A huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who are willing to use their hair as your snot-rag, as you sob and dry-heave on their shoulders because your seventh round of IVF has failed.

It’s too late to make friends like that, right?

Once you hit your 30’s, life takes over and increasingly it becomes more and more challenging to develop new and lasting female friendships. You’re drained from work, you have kids to carpool, and you barely have time to connect with your spouse, much less devote any time for yourself.

I mean, at this point, if you haven’t made any permanent, snot-wiping friendships, you’re certainly not going to make them now, right? When you’re feeling this stretched for time?

Maybe it’s time to revisit that paradigm.

Pam and I, for example, started off as Happy Hour buddies, and we were really good at that for five years. Everything remained at surface-level—good ol’ slap-sticky kind of fun, gossiping about co-workers, dishing about celebrities, trying new hot spots.

Then, her mom dies on the other side of the world, leaving her dad dazed and helpless. She had to leave town for a month to be with her dad, and I agreed to take care of her dogs while she was away. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Fast forward a year later and I’m in the throes of post-partum depression. She immediately senses it and encourages me to see her doctor. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Her marriage falls apart six months afterwards, and I connect her with names of people who can help her get her life back on track as a single person. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Sometime later, my business gets whacked by the economy, and she buys me coffee every week, while providing me with invaluable financial advice to get me through that period of time. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Now zoom over to six months ago, when she realizes that she has developed a substance abuse problem. I start going to Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Wait a minute.

Maybe that’s not what Happy Hour buddies do (at least not most of them anyway). Happy Hour buddies wouldn’t do any of the above, because their whole existence is predicated on getting away from all of the Debbie Downers of this world.

You see, Pam and I never had the intention of being anything more than Happy Hour buddies. She had her circle of lifetime good friends, and I had mine. For quite a long time, we kept things very superficial and most of all, convenient. We didn’t burden each other with our sob stories; we didn’t wear out our welcome.

We were happy to swim in the shallow end of the pool for life.

But somewhere along the way, Pam and I crossed the line. It took 10 years for us to realize that we were more than just Happy Hour buddies, but recently, we awkwardly admitted that we were embarking on some “new type of friendship” that we weren’t really expecting from each other. We finally acknowledged that somehow, despite our insanely frenetic schedules, we always managed to be there for one another, and that we would continue to do so for the long haul.

Crazy, huh?

So, maybe you can make new best friends in your 30s and 40s. Yes, it might be easier to do if you spend all night on the phone together in high school, or lie sandwiched on top of each other in a dormitory or a sorority house.

But, maybe, just maybe, it still is possible in your 30s and 40s to find that special friend you either lost, or never had in the first place.

Perhaps if you just open up your heart wide enough to allow someone in to see your vulnerabilities and your shortcomings, you may just be surprised at who shows up on your doorstep with a shoulder for you to cry on…along with your very own pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Of course, not everyone will want to see you through your problems, and you may very well face rejection from people who don’t really want to become invested in your life or your excess baggage.

But, wouldn’t it all be worth it if you could find a new best friend at this age? Maybe your snot-rag of a best friend is somewhere out there, just waiting for someone like you to pull out the Kleenex.

In fact, like Pam, she may be someone sitting right under your nose and you just never realized it.

Put away your pride. Put away the broken heart that has been trampled upon by friends of the past. If only for just a moment.    

After all, that moment may be just enough time to let her know that you are there, and that you’re not planning on going anywhere.

The One That Got Away

By JMathis

I worshiped you from the day I met you.

We were only eleven, but you managed to win me over with your peals of infectious laughter, and your ability to ignite a room with your warmth and passion.

Everyone adored you and wanted a piece of you, but I will never forget how you made a special, little place in your heart just for me.

You possess a certain magnetism and zeal for life that elevate those around you to a bigger, better and brighter place. A place that is wide, vast and bottomless with love, friendship and immense beauty.

Did you know that the school cafeteria was a magical place whenever I was with you?

While we haven’t been close since graduating high school (different schools, different states, different paths in life), I love that you still hold a special, little place in your heart just for me.

I want you to know that my birthday is just not complete until I receive a call or a text from you.

I know that seems either trivial or insufficient to some people, but for me, it lights up the rest of my year.

For at a young age, you had already given me the greatest gift a friend could ever give another: the gift of inspiration.

You inspired me to strive, you inspired me to reach, you inspired me to share, you inspired me to give freely of myself.

You inspired me to set aside negativity in favor of joy. Sheer, unadulterated joy.

Twenty-five years later, you still inspire me to achieve bigger, better and brighter. Why? Because twenty-five years later, you are still you: spreading love, laughter and joy to all who cross your path. While I may not be the one directly in your path these days, it warms my heart that your new friends are soaking in the rays of your sunshine—it’s their turn now to learn from you.

After all, it was you who taught me one of life’s greatest lessons: friendship is to be given away liberally and abundantly, irrespective of who you are, what you own, and how much time you have to invest in someone’s life.

You taught me that friendship is to be multiplied and spread widely—not something to be horded or parceled out stingily to the highest or flashiest bidder.

I know that you are not a Christ-follower, but you possess all of the qualities that all Christians should and must possess.

For that, you inspire me to be a better Christian.

To this day, you inspire me to be the friend that I hope to be to others.

You are the one that got away, but yet, you are the one who is forever closest to my heart.

Thank you for shining your light on me for that brief period of time.

It shines on through me even unto this day, as a personal reminder to keep paying it forward.

I love you, girlie. Always will.

I Samuel 18:1-3. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

2 Samuel 1:25-26. How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

Stripping Down to Nothing

By JMathis

Forget who you want to be.” –AbbyA

I must admit that I am having great difficulty with internalizing these words.

From as far back as I can remember, I have been fueled by crazy, maddening ambitions for myself. Ambitions about career, fame and ministry have always been at the forefront of my mind, and unfortunately, my brain just won’t allow me to forget who I want to be.

I suppose I could euphemistically spin and characterize myself in a positive light–that God has blessed me to be a driven and forward-thinking individual. Indeed He has, but as far as I can tell, this would still be a disingenuous lie. After all, my desires for the future often have very little to do with God and His plans.

In fact, the hard questions that I have been asking lately involve whether the desires of my heart are even truly aligned with the will of God and His very best for my life. How do I really know that I am not using my God-given talents just to push another one of my personal agendas?

While I love the Lord deeply, the more I engage in self-analysis, the more I realize that most of my pursuits have everything to do with my quest for personal greatness—even those very pursuits that I am supposedly doing in God’s name—pursuits such as church-building, helping the homeless, writing this blog.

This desire for personal greatness, this deep-seated need to be recognized and applauded, stem from my sins addressed in I John 2:16: For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

This verse makes me remorseful and sad. Sad that I have consistently taken credit for God’s work in me. Sad that I have attributed to myself all of the successes, gifts and abilities that He has given and revealed to me over the years. Sad that I haven’t truly given back to my Creator.

Sad that there is still so much left of me.

In this 31-Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, I am looking to strip away the things that are not of my Father. To strip away my desire for the accolades and successes of this world. To strip away my need for material things and worldly adventures. To strip away my compulsion to be better, to be more, to be GREAT.

To strip myself of me.

How do I go about doing that in just 31 days? This very pride that took a lifetime to build? How do you just strip all that away in just one month?

As in strip-poker, where you have to begin somewhere (a toe-ring, a hair clip, a watch), here is a start. A start towards a real future. Will you start this journey with me?

1)      Practice repentance: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

2)      Practice contentment: “…be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

3)      Practice patience: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

4)      Practice humility: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice repentance, contentment, patience and humility. Over and over until you are stripped.

Strip away everything that pertains to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Make it a daily exercise to strip yourself of you.

Practice forgetting who you want to be.

It is then you will find Him, so that you can finally hear what He wants you to be.

Worshipping at the Altar of Television

By JMathis

femmefuelThe television. Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer. This is what I know about television.

Yet, I ingest this poison nightly.

I have all these dreams that I want to fulfill in my life—dreams which require much prayer, thought, planning, diligence and hard work. Yet, after a long day of work and going through the nightly motions of making dinner and putting my daughter to bed, I am too “exhausted” to even dream my dreams. Slowly, these dreams fade to black as the drone of the TV replaces them one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until they are no more and bear no more significance to my life.

How many times has this scene played out in your home?


More than you care to admit?

My husband and I are guilty-as-charged, as there are nights when we huddle in front of the television without saying a word to one another. So depleted and choked by the worries of the day, we forget to even speak to each other, as we give into the comforting glow of the television set—the television set that appears to give so much, and demand so little in return.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I worry that all this television watching will play out like scenes from one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Without giving the premise of the movie away, the film takes us through the relationship of a couple—once vibrant in their love for each other, they soon become estranged as their differences become magnified in the boredom of their day-to-day relationship. Here are scene notes from what a typical day was like in their relationship:

Joel and Clementine sit and eat dinner in front of the TV.

It’s hard to make out what they’re watching. They sit on opposite ends of the couch. They look bored. The scene quickly degenerates. The room fades.

Joel looks over at the faded Clementine across the couch. She stares straight ahead at the TV.

Joel watches TV. Clementine walks by in her underwear, looks at the TV. She slips into a skirt.

The scene starts to fade. Clementine puts on her shoes and heads out the door.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I find tremendous irony in watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), where Oprah is telling me in earnest to be in hot pursuit of my dreams, while I just, well…sit there. And, then sit there some more. It is abundantly clear to everyone else but me, that I am in hot pursuit of absolutely nothing when I watch Oprah “challenging” and “prodding” me to “live my best life”.

Even though I might convince myself that her words are somehow inspiring and propelling me to live life to its fullest, why then can’t I get off of the couch? Who am I kidding? Is this a sign of a highly-successful person?

Since when is it acceptable to watch other people (like Oprah) live out their dreams on television, while you lean back and forget about your own hopes and plans for the future? The notion seems so ludicrous if you were explaining it to a young child, and yet we adults have no problem succumbing to it night after weary night.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Now, I am not going to act like some rabid, self-righteous, hypocritical zealot claiming that television is evil. However, as I glaringly point the finger towards myself, I am going to challenge you today to examine your mind’s consumption of what is offered by the boob tube.

Apart from the spiritual and physical ramifications of wasting your life in front of the television, have you ever examined its role in how it interrupts your thoughts, your day-to-day to do list, your plans to start and grow a business or a ministry, or even your ability to relate to others—particularly your significant other?

Are the seconds, minutes, hours and weekends somehow dissipating as you find yourself worshipping at the altar of your television?

After all, your new job will not fall into your lap while you lie on the couch.

Your soulmate will not find you while you lie on the couch.

You will not get your body back while you lie on the couch.

Your marital problems will not magically disappear while you lie on the couch.

More importantly, you will not find out God’s purpose for your life while you lie on the couch…and watch TV.

Did God put you on this earth simply just to lie in front of a TV all night? Isn’t there more to our lives than watching Rachel Berry fulfill her dreams of Broadway on Glee? Than seeing which housewife mauled another housewife on The Real Housewives of God-Knows-What-City?

Rather than feel guilty, let’s chip away at this altar one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until it is no more and bears no more significance to our lives.

In this 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, will you fast with me some parts of our daily television viewing?

Maybe we can take time to call a friend instead?

Read the book or the magazine that has been collecting dust on the shelf?

Do simple stretching exercises?

Spend time in the Word?

Surround ourselves in the stillness of God’s presence?

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3: 17.

Take time today to really free yourself from this Time-killer. This Brain-killer. This Relationship-killer. This Dream-killer.

I’ll do it with you.

Let’s turn Oprah off and go live our best lives yet.

Restoring Eden One Bite at a Time

By JMathis

My mom is one of those old-time ethnic mothers who is obsessed with keeping you uncomfortably fed and full. My guess is that since she grew up poor, food was scarce and something to be hoarded, particularly when there were eight children to feed.

She harasses you until you are stuffed, and forces you to eat everything that is put on your plate. At the same time, she also expects that you should just be able to magically metabolize all of this food, and remain svelte and lean while eating (like) a horse.

Of course, this duality just never worked for me, and I have been a yo-yo dieter since elementary school. I remember my mom sending me mixed messages by restricting my intake as early as 5 years old and putting me on the cabbage soup diet when I was just 7 years old. However, whenever the slightest bit of progress was made, she was back to the idea that I needed to inhale everything she put on my plate. After all, she was a terrific cook, and she beamed with pride whenever her family ate every morsel that she presented in front of them.

As a result of this eating schizophrenia, I have been battling the pudge my entire life, which opened the door to a host of eating disorders. Between my college years and until about age thirty, I was a pretty “successful” anorexic. Most of my twenties were spent tricking my body into staying thin—on the surface, at least, it looked like I had everything under control.

By my thirties, however, and particularly after having a baby, my body just stopped cooperating with these parlor games. No matter what shortcuts I used to lose weight, my body rebelled even more, and stubbornly held onto every calorie ingested. My cool, calm exterior began to unravel, as all of my food frustrations started bubbling to the surface. I couldn’t understand why the methods I was so good at for years, were suddenly failing miserably.

This internal war escalated until last year when I finally made peace with myself. I prayerfully came to the realization that I had been living a selfish and self-centered life. My youth had been wasted fastidiously counting calories, while I ignored my Creator and the purposes for which He created me. How could I put the Lord first when the bulk of my day was spent stressing about every little bite I put into my mouth? How could I properly focus on those around me in need when I was too obsessed with my own appearance?

Perhaps you are allowing your body image to be defined by voices at home, in your social circle or by the media. In whichever case, it is time for those voices to give way to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

As we all know, listening for the voice of the Lord is a daily process, and by no means a quick-fix. I can attest to the fact that your eating choices may not change overnight, and it may be difficult to attain balance after years of body-abuse, self-loathing and emotional eating.

Regardless, it is about yielding to His Voice, and being patient with His transformation of your body and your mind. It is about His thoughts dominating your thoughts, and His ways overcoming your ways. It is about learning and re-learning how to lead the lifestyle of the Holy Spirit and not of the world.

Contrary to what Jersey Shore says, it is not about GTL: Gym, Tan, Laundry. It’s about seeking the Kingdom of God first, and letting His Voice speak to you throughout your day, so that you are victorious over your struggles and your temptations.

Make peace with yourself today. Make peace with your body today. Make peace with your Creator today.

As part of our 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, put away the shortcuts, put away your impatience, put away your emotional baggage.

Trust that He is restoring Eden into your life…one bite at a time.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Bringing Sexy Back: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

By JMathis

I must admit. Post-kids, sex is so confusing and frustrating.

I never thought it was possible, but that day has finally arrived, ladies and gentlemen.

After my daughter was born, our biggest problem was frequency. We just never seemed to find time for it especially since our bed is like a cable network that only displays one show on a back-to-back loop: Three’s Company.

Stanley Roper: Not in my building!

Jack Tripper: I swear, it will be completely platonic.

Stanley Roper: What’s that mean?

Helen Roper: Like you and me, Stanley.

Then, some time ago, we got scared straight after reading a scholarly article *ahem* from Cosmo that said we were veering steadily on the path towards a (cue menacing music: Dum Dum Duuuuum!!!)…Sexless Marriage.

Out of fear that Cosmo readers would come chasing us down with pitchforks, we fervently started scheduling “play dates”. On an actual calendar. No, seriously. If it wasn’t marked on the calendar, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Ahh, crisis averted.

So, we got smug for a little while. Sexless Marriage is now a Sexfull Marriage. Mission Accomplished!

But, then, once again, it got complicated. Like AbbyA, “I carry all of my emotions to the bedroom.  If I am beat up in my marriage relationship, I have no passion for sex.”

My husband and I may have increased the frequency of sex, but the mind-body-spirit connection was just not there anymore.

Take last month, for example. For our date night, (Phase 1) we went to this trendy eatery tucked away in the Design District, followed by (Phase 2) a really thought-provoking indie film at this funky art house theatre. In the last 45 minutes of the movie where the anticipation is steadily building to the grande finale, we get TWO phone calls from the babysitter (aka mother-in-law). My husband runs out of the movie in terror thinking the worst—abduction, bathtub drowning, choking on a chicken bone.

No, none of that.

Apparently, our daughter was “inconsolable” because she missed her stuffed animals back at home.

Umm, yeah, so? Does this warrant a phone call in the middle of date night? Right when the movie is reaching its cinematic climax?

As if this weren’t enough to destroy date night, we then get a SECOND phone call 30 minutes later. My husband runs out again to take the call. I end up watching the last few minutes…ALONE.

Just calling to let you know that she’s sleeping like a baby. Just wanted to give you an update in case you two were worried!”

For the record, we were not worried. Truth be told, we could care less.

[Insert feelings of extreme annoyance on my part.]

Umm, really? Really, really? Can this “sense of relief” not wait until the end of date night? Or, at the very least, until the end of the movie?

Needless to say, I am seething on the car ride home. Date night is officially a bust for me because I simply can’t get over the fact that we were interrupted TWICE over something so seemingly nonsensical and trivial. To add insult to injury, years of deep-seated mother-in-law issues suddenly start bubbling to the surface.

When we get home, my husband is nonplussed about all of this and is ready for Phase 3 of date night—all guns blazing—as if nothing ever happened. I shoot him a look of a million daggers, but guiltily realize that we must move forward with Phase 3, lest we get universally tsked tsked by Cosmo readers everywhere—after all, it’s on the calendar. Gotta stick to the calendar at all costs! All hail the calendar!

And, what am I thinking about the whole time during Phase 3? About how hot and sexy things are under the sheets?


Just a constant, angry loop of: “Two phone calls? Two phone calls?? Really??? REALLY??? TWO PHONE CALLS????”

Yes, I am that petty, and so much more.

Forgive me, Lord.

What’s the point of all of this calendared sex if there is no mind-body-spirit connection?

Sex is an act that is blessed by the Spirit of God, confirmed in the mind, and re-affirmed by the body.

When one of these elements is out of whack, the whole act loses its luster.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

If you are languishing in some area of your sex-life, pray for a renewal of your mind-body-spirit connection. Turn off the worries and annoyances of the day, flood your heart with God’s love towards your spouse, and give into some good old-fashioned rollicking fun.

Pray for your physical relationship to experience a spiritual and emotional renaissance. Pray to God to bring the sexy back.

I know I will.

After all, from what I hear, it’s supposedly the best sex a girl can ever get.

The True Softness of Men

By JMathis

My poor husband has been throwing up all night. No, not like out of a scene from Animal House, but rather a tragic case of Father’s Day food poisoning—think more like from the recent movie, Bridesmaids. For him, this Father’s Day will definitely be one for the record books, but certainly not in a way that he will want to relive. Hip hip hooray for Father’s Day.

So, in between puking sessions, I am seeing his vulnerability and his dependence on me. Cowering and shaking, his pure, infantile nature is coming through. He only wants the nurturers in his life surrounding him right now—me and my mom, but more importantly, he calls for his mommy. This is not the tough-guy husband I am used to seeing.

My husband’s impenetrable exterior, shielded by walls of sarcasm, bite and vinegar, has collapsed by the side of the bed.

My salty pirate of a husband has become a puddle of tears and whimpering.

My daughter wakes up and starts crying loudly in the middle of the night for her pet manatee, Hammy, which of course, is nowhere to be found tonight. I am beyond exasperated and quietly swear to throw Hammy “where the sun don’t shine” once his whereabouts are determined. Why can’t she quiet herself and let her father be the baby for once—just for tonight? She never wakes up like this, so, why of all nights is she making a ruckus like this? This is her daddy’s night to be babied, and yet, that just does not compute in her playbook.

In all of this madness tonight, I am realizing the true softness of men.

I am seeing that they are not so different from us women. They cry when feeling hurt, raw and exposed. It’s just that their tears are not allowed to be seen by the public. Society has taught them quite masterfully that tears are “women’s work” and are meant to be suppressed and squashed.

It is only in these rare moments of physical pain that the tears involuntarily roll down their cheeks.

The pressure to be financially successful, to be a provider to all of mankind, is all-encompassing for men and is relentless. They invented the rat race and now they fall prey to it daily—never allowed to get off, lest their manhood be called into question.

We cannot see their tears and frustration with the demands placed on their shoulders by society, family and friends. Yet, it is there, day after day, like a crushing weight. Little boys are taught to be tough from day 1, under all circumstances, regardless of the amount of strain that is put upon them.

This inability to deal with these lifelong pressures causes some men to emotionally and/or physically lash out, while causing other men to retreat into the cave of no feelings, no emotions, no weakness. In either case, it is a harsh cup out of which they drink. Yet, they partake daily because this is what they are taught to do from the very beginning of time.

Women—while we love to laugh and joke about the Neanderthal men in our lives, we cannot forget that they bleed just like us. The only difference is that their mommies and daddies told them to suck it up and “take it like a man”, while we were allowed to release our pain with our tears. In many ways, our childhoods were much more liberating than theirs.

On this day after Father’s Day, take a long, hard look at the men in your life. Have you really thought about the worries and fears that plague them internally? Have you ever waded deep to find the vulnerability that exists behind their hard shell? Have you stepped into their souls to help them search for their true softness? Or, have you too, succumbed to society’s views and expectations for men?

Pray earnestly for the men in your life. Pray for their soft, squishy interiors—the emotions, the feelings, the tears—which are never seen. Pray that their vulnerabilities are allowed to be seen by the Lord, and that their hearts are exposed to receive healing, nurture and unconditional love from their God. Pray for them to seek dependence on God as part of their daily, indestructible armor.

Pray that they are allowed to be babied from time to time.

After all, they bleed like us and cry like us.

They just need the Lord to show them that it’s okay to expose their true softness.