“I have a confession to make.”

I had never met the woman standing in front of me, but I could tell whatever she was about to say was serious.

“When I first heard that you were going to be our speaker, I rolled my eyes. I thought, What could a former Miss Wisconsin who looks like that possibly teach me? She’s got it all together. What could she possibly know about suffering?

I stayed quiet. I had a feeling this woman wasn’t done sharing her revelation.

“Then you started talking… about your childhood and the prison and the cancer and everything else. I was wrong. I was wrong about you and I was wrong to judge. I am so sorry.”

She nearly had tears in her eyes as she finished her thoughts.

What could I say? It’s not like she booed me from the crowd when they introduced me. She was quiet about her contempt. Polite. She was just throwing daggers from her mind.

I thanked the woman for being so honest. As she walked away, I thought, Me too.

How often do I do that? Decide how I feel about a person just by the way they hold themselves? See a woman on television and assume it’s gotta be easier for her? Turn down a possible friendship because we’re too different?

What is my internal dialogue falsely determining? What is your internal dialogue falsely determining?

I don’t know that I would be bold enough to say to another woman, “Ya know, I really didn’t like you when I met you” but I’m so glad this woman found her brave.

Her confession changed me. It turned on a light bulb in my head. And that light bulb is illuminating the dark corners of my mind, the crevices where the evil thoughts hang out.

Kindness starts in our minds. It’s not the $5 we spend on a stranger’s coffee. It’s not the condolence card we send to a friend. It’s the words we speak to ourselves and others in our head.

Everyone has a struggle. Everyone. No one is left unscathed from this world.

We each have a story to tell. Just like a good book, some chapters are tragic and some are light-hearted. Perhaps when we see someone who looks like they have it all together they are just going through a chapter of ease. But perhaps not.

Thanks to one woman’s conference confession, I’m going to work much harder to never judge a book by its cover.