You Don’t Have to Lie to Live + a few other things I wish I’d known

I am three years from 40 – watch out world, I am getting too old to mess around. Okay, I never really messed around, but I have some costly wisdom under my belt, and I want to share it with you, in my annual birthday blog! 37 is about to be on and poppin’, also known as LIT. So, here’s a few things I wish I’d known, when I was younger.

Go shorty, it’s your birthday.

You don’t have to lie to live. Sister, I wore a mask for more than half my life, and I intend, to do my best to never put that thing back on. I have chunks of memory missing from the times I was so focused on myself, pretending I had it all together, crafting an image that revealed my ideal self, not my real self, lying to keep people at a distance, avoiding the intimacy brokenness and honesty gives us. It was so much work. I know the new rage is lifestyle vibes (with 250,000 followers), but the things people craft for Instagram, ain’t got nothing on our beautiful, messy, wild and glorious real life. I am not hating on a pretty feed, I’m just saying this: Integrity over image, every single time.  #mombun #target #notasponsoredad #iphone6cameraproblems #keepingitreal

#StruggleStreet is a real place, and everyone lives there. If there’s anything I’ve learned over 15 years of working with people, it’s that the struggle is FOR REAL. Doesn’t matter who you are, how much money’s in the bank, where you live, what kind of education you have, whether you love Jesus or not, we’ve all got issues, problems and pain. Don’t let the highlight reel of social media fool you, life is hard, and everyone is doing their best.

Do your work. Speaking of issues, problems and pain, do the work. Blaming, shaming, offense and unforgiveness will destroy our lives and destinies. Not only will we remain stuck in our past, but we will continue to see life through the lens of pain, rather than the lens of purpose. There are battles we choose, and battles we don’t. We don’t choose abuse, or disease, or natural disasters, or racism and sexism, but we do have to respond to them. I am not saying that’s fair; I am saying, that’s our part. We do choose healing, forgiveness, purpose, reciprocal relationships, boundaries, safe people, therapy and recovery. That’s our part, as well.

Do no harm, but take no crap. This is my life’s mantra. I am just not here for it, okay? Not here for the cat-calling and inequality, the little sideways comments, people who like to talk trash and gossip for fun, trying to convince people of anything, tolerating ideals that hurt or exploit people, rage and revenge, running myself in the ground, staying silent to keep people comfortable, hiding, pretending and performing in order to avoid true intimacy and mutual friendships. How powerful we can be, when our yes means yes, and our no means no; when we seek to help and not harm; when we see right through the bull-crap and refuse to take any of it.

Just say no. This is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given me. Say, “No”, without explaining yourself, or listing out why you’ve said no, just say no. Your no, is enough. We’re conditioned as women to believe that the first time we say no, is not our final answer, that it means phase one of negotiations, or that we owe whoever is asking our entire life story, to assuage our misplaced guilt that our no is not good enough, unless it’s attached to some really good reasons. You don’t have to feel guilty; no means no.

Get good at grey. Y’all, I am the first to admit that formulaic faith is irresistibly appealing. I can’t actually find it in the Bible tho. As one small example, I present to you, Daniel, a Bible hero, whose obedience meant slavery in a foreign land; as a teenager, he refused the richness of the King’s table in exchange for simple purity (Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t have passed this test at 15 – give me all the things, yes and amen. I would have called eating at the King’s table my blessing, and missed the actual blessing.); his best friends were thrown in a literal fire; people plotted his death, repeatedly; he was thrown in the lion’s den. He did everything right, and this is what he got? (Don’t get me started on Joseph, Job and Esther.) Let’s not romanticize the Bible and what it means to obey, to walk in love, to live with faith. It’s nuanced, contextual, personal and communal; it’s grey, not black and white. My friend, sometimes, we do everything right, and the marriage falls apart. We pray for a miracle, and someone we love dies. We save, budget and invest, but cannot predict the natural disaster that sweeps us clean. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. John 6 reminds me how to respond when things are more muddy than they are clear.  After a hard moment, when things didn’t make sense, the passage says At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” John 6:66-68 NLT Let’s not allow our current circumstances to dictate our decisions. Don’t give up in the grey, or sabotage your relationships, or risk your future, by trying to make things black and white. Get good at grey.

Try again. Did you fail? Did you hurt someone? Did someone hurt you? Is a secret making you sick? Do you feel like it’s too late? Did an addiction derail you? Has an important relationship fallen apart? Try again. Trust again. Love again. Say sorry again. Change again. Forgive again. Believe again. It’s not too late. You’re not too hurt, too broken, or too messed up to do something great. A friend of mine always says: “Your sin ain’t special.” There’s not a thing in the world you can’t overcome. You’re not disqualified. If you’ve got breath in your lungs, you’ve got life left to live. We need you. Do us the honor of hearing your voice, receiving your offering. Be brave, get up, and try again.

I’m in the middle of a “try again” season, And I keep returning to the things I’ve shared above. Wisdom is costly, and when we fight like hell to get it, we have to hold on to it for dear life. I think we’re always on the edge, about an inch from crazy, from quitting, from breakthrough. So, here’s to not losing our minds, not giving up, and breaking through. I’m rooting for you, and I’m in this with you.


Hey there fellow truth-teller, welcome to our community. I'm so glad you're here. I love to help people take their mask off and tell the truth, and I believe the world needs what you have to give. I write books and blogs, live in Harlem, New York, with my hubby, and two rambunctious boys.


  • This is so great Ash!! I love it. You make being in your ’30’s look really good. Can’t wait to see how you slay in your ’40’s mama. You like fine wine guuurrrl!!! Miss you mucho. ❤

    On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 3:32 PM, Old-Fashioned Truth-Telling wrote:

    > @AshAbercrombie posted: “I am three years from 40 – watch out world, I am > getting too old to mess around. Okay, I never really messed around, but I > have some costly wisdom under my belt, and I want to share it with you, in > my annual birthday blog! In honor of my 37th year, here’s” >

  • This deserves a shoe-throw, woman. “Get after it truth-tellers and freedom-fighters…” Hailz yeah. And I am front and center here for every last word! Cannot wait until we get to hang out again (like real time together), and share what we’ve learned these past years, and talk that real talk. So much love…Mia

  • This is beautifully written, Ashley. So much here! Thanks for sharing. I was nodding my head the whole read. And YES, “Wisdom is costly, and when we fight like hell to get it, we have to hold on to it for dear life!!!!” May have to print this and fold it into my wallet to review often. <3

  • Ashley! Yes! Yes to living with integrity in the messiness of life! And thank you for your wisdom about getting good at the grey. I needed to hear that as a fairly black and white/systematic person. I’ve seen this truth for myself as I’ve gotten older but in my current season it was deeply needed for me to hear not to let my current circumstances dictate my decisions. Ugh. Thanks for handing out the truth again. Love you!


    I really can’t put into words how much this just preached to me and encouraged me and empowered me and humbled me and taught me and inspired me and sharpened me. Thank you so much for sharing this Ashley! For writing this with honesty and authenticity and transparency and love and grace and knowledge. You’re seriously the best. Appreciate and love you <3


  • I’m so glad I found this. I am starting your plan in Youversion tomorrow and googled you to make sure you’re legit. 200%!! Love how down to earth and real you make it all seem. Heading out of 30s myself in a few short years, so much joy to look forward to in my 40s! Thank you for being so inspirational!

    • NIC! Thank you for coming through, and for your encouragement – it’s an honor to journey with you! We’ve got the best years ahead. Grateful to you!

  • Thank you very much I needed this, my life is so upside down right now!

    • Praying for you right now, and I hope that in the midst of what you are facing, you will find hope and peace as you continue to look forward to the future. This moment won’t last forever, and you are not alone sister!

  • This is amazing. I love it. I especially loved your Do no harm but take no crap! I take too much crap. Thank you for opening my eyes to make change for the better in my life. I love your blog ps. Your such an inspiration – always have been. Much love xx

    • You’re amazing friend – so cool to see your life flourishing across the world!

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