When the Response You Want Hasn’t Come Yet

I’ve been thinking about crickets lately.

Not the black, six-legged, insect kind. The kind that show up when you pour out your heart to someone and get nothing in response.

When the response you want hasn't come yet

Crickets.

They say silence is deafening, and sometimes, I think they are right. In this case, crickets are louder than cicadas on a humid August evening in Kansas.

Louder, and often more hurtful.

It doesn’t matter if we are communicating via text, email, phone call or even hand-written letter. When we share something important, we want a reply, and we want it now. We want the information, affirmation or confirmation we think our words warrant.

But when all we get is nothing, it’s easy to take it personally, isn’t it?

Someone very wise once told me that, when facing a lack of information, people tend to fill in the blanks with stories of their own—usually of the worst-case-scenario variety.

He was on to something, I think.

There’s always a slim chance that I actually have offended the person I am waiting on. Maybe I said the wrong thing and didn’t realize it. Maybe my carefully worded email rubbed my friend the wrong way. Maybe the last time I saw her, I looked at her funny and it hurt her feelings.

Most of the time, though, it’s nothing even remotely so nefarious.

I know this because for a long time, I was on the other end of the cricket spectrum.

For more years that I care to remember—starting some time after we uprooted ourselves from our comfortable life in Northwest Arkansas and moved back home to Kansas—I didn’t stay in touch much.

I often let emails from friends go unanswered for so long it was pointless to answer at all; the thought of writing back simply wore me out. I stayed away from Facebook and other forms of social media because I had no energy to craft any kind of written response about anything.

I just couldn’t do it.

This happened during those wilderness years I’ve written about herehere and here—that long season when changes in my life and body forced me to focus mostly on my family’s critical needs and put the rest on hold for a while.

Now that I’m on the other side of the wilderness, this blog has given me a chance to reconnect with some of those long-distance friends, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

But the main point of my cricket-spectrum story is this: There might be a good reason why you haven’t heard back from someone to whom you’ve poured out your heart.

While it’s possible the person you’re waiting on is just a big jerk, maybe she is still processing the information you gave her.

Maybe she is waiting on other information before she can give you an answer.

Maybe she doesn’t realize what a huge deal it was for you to share whatever it was that you told her.

Maybe your struggle seems small in relation to what she is facing right now, so she doesn’t think it metes much response.

Maybe she is busy, preoccupied or overwhelmed.

In other words, in all likelihood, her lack of a reply probably has nothing at all to do with you or her feelings about you.

There’s no way to know, of course. So rather than get all spun up while you’re waiting, you might want to try what I’m learning to do myself these days.

Give the person you’re waiting on one of the greatest non-material gifts anyone could ever receive—the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t default to thinking the worst—of someone else or of yourself. Focus on what you know to be true—what God says about you, your abilities and your position in His family—not on why the person you’re waiting on hasn’t responded yet.

And if you’re hoping for a specific outcome, pray for God’s will to be done, not yours. If there’s a better waiting-room strategy than that, I can’t think of it.

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Crystal Storms at Intentional Tuesday, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.



39 Responses to When the Response You Want Hasn’t Come Yet

  1. Aimee Imbeau says:

    That inner chatter is always getting us into trouble, isn’t it Lois? Can you imagine if we started just thinking the best of others instead of the worst? It is a hard thing to train the heart to do, but I am working on it! Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

  2. Lois, this challenge is appropriate for all of our relationships, including our children, marriage, etc. Reading brought to mind so many instances when I have not granted benefit of doubt and jumped to conclusions. I now many times it is instinct, and these instances spark our insecurities, but benefit of doubt is exactly what I would want someone to give me. I love the “cricket spectrum” and grateful for this challenge and wise advice!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’ve done the same thing more times than I can count, Crystal, and it always brings more anxiety and stress than anything else! There really is such peace in easing off the expectations and trusting that the answer will come when the time is right. Thanks for your thoughtful words today, my friend!

  3. Ruth says:

    I recently e-mailed a friend about something I felt was important, then I waited and waited and waited. At one point I started to get impatient, and God convicted me of how selfish I was being thinking that the response I was expecting was more important than what she was going through. I had gotten so preoccupied with what was going on in my life that I forgot to pray for some HUGE changes that were going on in her life. So here I was being piddly and forgetting that maybe it was actually she who needed me and not the other way around.

  4. Liz says:

    I have been in that unpleasant waiting room more times than I care to remember! It always helps me to imagine I’m waiting on the Lord to answer, not another person. Helps to put things in a little gentler perspective! Such great advice here! Blessings!

  5. Lisa notes says:

    This is such good advice. We often take that waiting period too personally. But most of the time the waiting has less to do with us than we think. Thanks for encouraging us to give others the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Brenda says:

    Lois, I love this! I, too, am of the opinion that anything we presume about a non-response is going to be far worse than what is actually going on. One thing I love about being in the mid-forties is that — with age comes more propensity for grace. Ya know? These days, my go-to feelings in response to unexpected replies or non-replies is–grace and prayer. Yes, that’s a benefit to others, but honestly, it seems to be we who benefit most from that type of gentleness. ya know? Love your words here, Lois. Thanks for sharing. ((hug))

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oh Brenda, I DO know what you mean about being in our mid-forties! There’s so much that I used to get worked up about that I now see is no big deal, or at least not worth the emotional energy I used to spend on it. Grace and gentleness for not-yet-responders and for ourselves–absolutely! Thanks for your perspective and encouragement today. 🙂

  7. Thank-you for sharing this. I am trying to grow to become more comfortable with the silence in between conversation. I think it’s a learned cultural habit (I remember Job’s friends who sat with him DAYS before talking!) It’s uncomfortable, but I think it can give rise to the real depth of a person’s heart. Thank-you.

  8. Kristina says:

    very wise words! It is so easy to take things personally. I think instead of jumping conclusions, maybe I should pray for them. that takes a lot of humility. visiting from #tellhisstory #28

  9. I have a friend that often leaves me with crickets. The thing I am learning is that she is always reading the emails. She just doesn’t always know how to respond. And honestly if I really want a response I will do better to call her on the phone than to email her.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Deanna, I’m in the same boat with some people in my life. You are so wise to communicate with your friend in a way that she responds to, even if it’s not your preferred method. It can save a lot of frustration and hurt feelings, I think! Thanks for stopping by this week. 🙂

  10. I was just talking with a friend about this…how I try to give others the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve had my doubts confirmed enough times that’s it’s tough to not think the worse. But I am a blank filler-inner and typically not in my favor. I’m trying to be better about it too because in this day and age, replies seem to be lengthened by the sheer volume of messages we receive, vs. any bad intent. Thanks for this, Lois. You are leaving me in a better place today, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s a great point about the volume of messages, Tiffany. Even though technology has made the sending and receiving so much quicker, it also has opened the door to so much more communication that people have to filter through. That’s so hard when your experience makes it hard not to think the worst–there’s no easy answer or quick fix to that, is there? I so appreciate your thoughts about this, my friend!

  11. Unfortunately I too am a great fill in the blanker. I have to step back and remind myself not to even go there at times.
    Wise words!

  12. Hi Lois,
    I’ve been thinking about your words since they arrived in my in-box and I’ve been on both ends of the situation you describe. The benefit of the doubt is a huge gift that’s difficult to give and so is grace, but it’s so necessary in our relationships. You’ve beautifully described the way I so often feel and prayer is the best pathway in these circumstances!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I agree wholeheartedly about prayer being the best pathway in this, Valerie. I know I talk about it a lot here, but praying for God’s will, not mine, really helps me when I am waiting … to hear back about an article submission, a response from a friend about something sensitive, anything. It settles my heart and helps me let go of my expectations–both of which are hard to do on my own!

  13. Trudy says:

    I love your wisdom here, Lois. Because of past junk, I am often sensitive to silence and easily read into it as rejection. But I try to remember to give others the benefit of the doubt. God knows their hearts. I don’t. I love this encouraging advice – “Focus on what you know to be true—what God says about you, your abilities and your position in His family—not on why the person you’re waiting on hasn’t responded yet.” Thank you. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      This is so powerful, Trudy: “God knows their hearts. I don’t.” I can see how past hurts would make dealing with silence more difficult, and I appreciate your willingness to push through those hurts in an effort to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s definitely a growth process, isn’t it? I find that it’s much easier to do this with some people than with others … probably because of the history involved! So good to get your thoughts on this, my friend!

      • Trudy says:

        Yes, it’s definitely a growth process. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back. I, too, find it easier to do with some than with others. Thank you, Lois, for understanding.

  14. Leah says:

    I’m laughing right now because this is so what I needed to hear today! God is so good. I sent one of my very best, oldest friends a message about a crisis that happened to me recently and I got the crickets. I reached out to her husband, “Did she get a new number?” he said, “No?” and she replied, “Hey! Heard you were trying to get a hold of me”. I told her what happened (again) and… crickets. I was stewing about it this morning. Now that I read this, you’re right! She probably doesn’t know WHAT to say or needs more information etc. Thanks for writing this- perfect timing! It’s still making me laugh.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Real-time application of the insect angle! I love it, Leah. 🙂 I’m glad the post helped you understand what is going on with your friend. Also glad it made you laugh … that’s always a nice side benefit, isn’t it?

  15. Lois, loved this post. I’ve been on both ends of the crickets spectrum as well. And you’re so right! So often, the reason the other person doesn’t respond has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with what’s going on in our lives. When I begin to focus on the worst case scenario, I often have to remind myself, “Jeanne, it is NOT all about you.” The benefit of a doubt is the best way to respond when we don’t get the response we’re wanting.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom here. 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “It is NOT all about you.” I hear you, Jeanne. I wish that this phrase that I frequently pitch to my 14-year-old daughter didn’t have so much relevance in my own life, but it does!! It’s hard, but I am trying to practice the discipline of believing the best until proven otherwise. There’s a lot less worry and a lot more peace in that, don’t you think? Thanks for adding to the conversation this week, my friend!

  16. Call me Jiminy. : )
    I can take a really long time (so long it’s awkward as you said) to answer people on matters. It drives me nuts that I’m so slow to respond- but it’s often because my authentic processing, praying over, and responding does take time!
    I can’t think of a time I didn’t respond to someone because of something they did- I like to resolve conflict immediately. Conflict (even unspoken) tends to elicit faster responses from me.
    But as you said, not hearing back can have me assuming the worst. I try to keep in mind who I’m communicating with and how clear the sensitivity of a matter is when sending/receiving. Benefit of the doubt is a really helpful gift!! Thanks for sharing! This got me thinking : )

    • Lois Flowers says:

      OK, Jiminy! (Still laughing about that one, by the way!)

      Seriously, though, you’ve raised an important point about all this … that we need to consider the personality of the person we’re waiting on. I can be slow to respond for the same reasons you cite … I want to think about my words and make sure they express exactly what I want to convey before I hit “send.” (I can also take that to extremes, of course, which is another issue entirely.) 🙂

      It really is all about extending grace, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your perspective about this, Bethany!

  17. Oh, my! You have spoken to my inner-Eeyore today. I am quick to interpret silence (or anything) in a negative way. My impatience makes it hard to trust when things are not happening! So good to get this push in the right direction!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Your “inner-Eeyore” … I love that, Michele! And I also think you’ve boiled it down to one of the big driving forces behind all this–impatience. I know patience is something I need extra supplies of (and the sooner the better, of course)! 🙂

  18. Linda Stoll says:

    Lois, thanks. Why do we always imagine the worst case scenario, like someone’s out to get us, or doesn’t care.

    Sometimes I think we’re just so self-absorbed that we forget that others might be in a most difficult place … and that the world doesn’t spin around our own needs.

    This is a real thought-provoking piece. Thank you, friend. I need to remember your wisdom …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I think you’re right about the self-absorption issue, Linda. I know that was certainly true for me when I was younger, and even now if I’m not careful. “The world doesn’t spin around our own needs.” It’s the message I preach to my girls, and one I frequently need to hear myself! Thanks for your thoughtful words, my friend!

  19. Sherry Stahl says:

    Lois, I think this is such a great post for women. Too often we let the enemy fill our head with thoughts of rejection when the other person doesn’t mean anything by their behaviour. Giving “the benefit of the doubt” is what I tried to teach my kids, and myself as I got older. Today I was behind you at both the #RaRaLinkup and #IntentionalTuesday
    ~Sherry

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