The Freedom in Truth with Jen Hatmaker

The Freedom in Truth with Jen Hatmaker
Words by Shelly Brown

Years ago, with four toddlers at my feet, I did the tired mom shuffle through a bookstore whose employees were hopeful that I was wrapping it up.

It was 5:50 on a Sunday afternoon, and it’s quite possible that the most saintly person on earth would still give an eye-roll to a large family who walks into a place of employment minutes before closing. We did a quick lap around, picking up a few new books to read and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess caught my eye. I have no idea why—there was nothing fancy about the cover—but I just knew I was supposed to read it. I grabbed it from the shelf and quickly shepherded the tiny humans to the checkout so that the cashiers could celebrate freedom at 6 p.m. 

That night, after the kids were asleep, I settled in to read my newly-purchased book, having no idea what it was about. Not only was I introduced to Jen Hatmaker, I was also given literary permission to not have it all figured out, thanks to the fierce, free, and fiery Jen Hatmaker.

She’s like the best friend you wish you had, or your favorite aunt to whom you can go for truthful advice. Her namesake brand includes all formats necessary to easily access her authentic stories and spirit: recipes, podcasts featuring her favorite people, lists of her personal favorite books, and ministries in which she believes. 

With her successful brand, and the release of her 12th—yes, 12th—book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen Hatmaker has become a household name for women who value growth and authenticity. She is a favorite of our Good Grit staff and has also been on our bucket list to feature. Moments before she hopped on stage at Rachel Hollis’s Rise conference, she gave us some serious wisdom and insight into the newest addition to her publishing resume, and why you should not miss this great read.

What is the wisdom from this book that you want your daughters and the next generation to know?

I can’t help but think, What if someone would have granted me, at 18, the permissions to be authentic and free? That’s what makes me excited about this book. How much time would I have saved and how many losses could I have avoided? I would never bemoan my own journey; it’s the only one I have. I have never shown up for a book this genuine, this integrated, and telling this much truth. I didn’t expect the result to be how unafraid I feel. The freedom to live truly has the surprising effect of purging fears. That’s what I want for all of our daughters. I want them to feel strong and sturdy in the way that they were made. This is not a book for self improvement; it’s a book for self-discovery. It’s what is already in you.

You’ve just released your 12th book. What is your advice about the process of becoming who you are in an authentic way? 

Time has been my process. Time to grow up, time to develop my own worldview, time to give myself permission to press on the systems that I have always operated inside of, time to reevaluate my own theology, time to expand my exposure and worldview. Nobody, and I do mean nobody read my first books, and I have zero regrets. They were rubbish, and I still don’t regret it. There is no way I could be in the fierce, free, and full-of-fire phase of my life without all of the other phases I’ve had. I’m thankful for what those seasons gave me—the lessons and all of the things that those years taught me—even the really hard parts. I went through a reinvention about three years ago. I had a lot of personal convictions about who I was willing to stand by, and why. That experience created a lot of loss. It was scary, and I didn’t know how to rebuild or where. It felt like all subtraction, and I didn’t know that an addition portion was coming—the addition of being honest, integrated, and telling the truth. There is something so liberating about saying, “This is who I am. This is what I believe. It’s such a liberating way to live; you’re no longer shape-shifting for every room you walk into. Truth telling is its own reward.

For women who are dreaming of who they want to become, what is your advice?

I deeply want to encourage young dreamers. Those who are moving around big ideas and big ambitions, creativity, art, whatever it is. I want them to know that I decided to write my first book when I was 29, with no experience. The desire was burning inside of me—I had something to say. I set out entirely imperfectly. I just decided that I was worthy of the dream. The whole world is filled with ordinary people who just decided to show up for their life.

You are a successful author, entrepreneur, wife, and mother. Have you found the secret of time management and balance?

OMG—why do you have to ask that? [laughing]

I have been hunting that perfect formula for 15 years. I keep thinking there is some strategy or spreadsheet. What I’ve discovered in my life is that productivity and projects are very seasonal. I’m in a season now with my foot all the way down on the gas pedal. I try to plan ahead with my team and work in advance to be ready for a busy season. After the bulk of that season is done, we begin to unplug. There is no perfect balance. I look at my calendar from 30,000 feet. I know that an upcoming season is going to be busy, so I clear space where necessary. I keep wanting to know when I’m going to be really great at this. When I figure it out I’ll let you know!

This is our Culture issue. What are your thoughts on personal culture in family, business, and community?

Culture has become a granular concept. We all have more than one. I’m a member of several different subcultures—they all challenge and stretch me. I’m grateful for this variety of spaces to learn how to flourish and lead well. I have a really close subculture in all of my family, plus our extended families. All of our parents, my siblings, and my husband's siblings, literally everyone we love dearly, is in Austin, Texas. I have a friend culture, a work culture, a church culture, and I love them all. The thread of them all is showing up as a culture creator, not just a culture consumer. We have power over the cultures that we are embedded in. We are creators. I deeply believe that in virtually any culture I am in, I have the power to create new possibilities. No matter how toxic a culture may be, I believe in the power of women to come in as creators. The things we choose to say, the way we show up for our people—it all matters. I would like to challenge the notion that we are all passive, or victims of toxic culture. We can see ourselves as representatives of culture, and creators of it. Until we tell the truth, we are living at half capacity. Women are conditioned to keep everyone comfortable. If we can reimagine the great deterrent of discomfort, then we can really craft our cultures toward love, generosity, and inclusion. I don’t think there is anything women can’t do in the rooms that they are in.

You’ve been so open about how you’ve rebuilt your life. What have you learned from the deconstruction you went through?

The deconstruction is just the necessary first step sometime. The reconstruction is possible, but we have to be willing to let go of ideals and structures that don’t serve us anymore. We know what they are in our gut. I honor that struggle. There is always a cost built in, but we have to ask ourselves which cost we want to pay. Do we want to pay the cost of telling the truth and living in freedom? Or do we want to pay the cost of shoving it all down and pretending? Either way, there is a cost.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

Everyone will need some of these chapters in big ways, some in medium ways, and some not at all. I have this vision that as women read this, someone has to put this book down, pick up the phone, and make a hard call, or maybe drive to someone’s house and say, “It’s time.” 

I’m hoping it moves the needle forward for women in ways that I could never even imagine. I hope that they decide, This is it. Whatever the thing is that someone isn’t able to tell the truth about, the other side is awesome. I want to be a guide, a friend, and a cheerleader to say that you are worth it.

Jen’s newest book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You, is available now from your favorite bookseller.