What Are You Certain Of?

We don’t have cable television in our home.  Instead we watch TV shows and movies through Netflix and Hulu Plus.  About a year ago we realized that the shows we watched the most were recorded on DVR, and since we had no interest in watching real time news or sports, switching to internet TV made sense and saved us money.

Lately on Hulu Plus we have been seeing this commercial a lot.

It’s a Ball Park Frank commercial with three guys standing around at the BBQ, as guy #1 says that he is “99.9% sure” about a particular baseball statistic.  Whereupon guy #2 questions his certainty by asking, “Sure?”

Guy #1 then responds, “I’m 99.9% positive.”

Guy #3 chimes in and says, “So you don’t know.”

Guy #1 now replies, “I’m 99.99999% sure.”

Guy #3 then says, “If you don’t know, you don’t know.  It’s fine.”

If you don’t know….you don’t know.

This commercial brings up some important points to ponder.   That .00001% of uncertainty is important.  Why?  Because 99.99999% certainty holds significant space in uncertainty.

How much space?  Well, if you are holding a bomb that is going to blow and someone advises you to clip the blue wire to stop the bomb from going off and you ask them, “Are you sure?”  What are you going to do if they reply, “I am 99.99999% sure.”   You can bet your bottom dollar that .00001% of uncertainty will hold a significant amount of space in your consciousness.

How often have you been certain about something, but are actually only almost certain?

Almost is not 100%.

Let’s examine 100% in our everyday storytelling.  How many times have you sat and listened to someone’s account of a situation or an argument, and in listening, absorbing, and believing their experience, you accept it as truth?  Have you actually gathered 100% of the story?  Have you actually even gathered 50% of the story?  So can you, with certainty and personal integrity, turn around and share the details of that story with any level of accurate certainty?


But how many times have you done that?

Remember that old commercial for Sure deodorant, with the catchy jingle that got stuck in your head… Raise your hand, raise your hand, if you’re Sure.

I used to be sure.  Not because I wore the deodorant, but because I subscribed to what I knew as the truth to be…true.

I was certain of it.

I used to be certain of so many things.


I am certain of so little.

In this space of being uncertain about so many things, I am experiencing untethered freedom.


My acceptance of uncertainty has opened up so much space in my mind and my heart to experience life in a way that I did not give myself permission to do before.  Actually, it never really entered my consciousness before because I was too invested into holding onto my stake of certainty that was so firmly hammered in the ground.

Why was I holding on?  Because within my certainty, I had community.  I shared space with other people who believed like I believed.  Within that collective certainty, I was affirmed and validated.

But then I started to experience things outside of the circle of certainty.  I started to have certainty interventions.

Here are three of the most significant certainty interventions that come to mind:

Intervention #1:  I traveled to Zambia.  
In 2005, I spent time in extremely remote villages of Zambia, which were hours and hours away from the main road.  While in those villages I met some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Pictures from that trip hang on the walls of my home, because I never want to forget their faces and the impact that they had on my life.  It’s funny, because I think we as a group thought that we were going there to help them live fuller lives, but it was there in the dusty rural villages of Africa, that the Zambian people taught me how to live a fuller life.

Of the many life changing experiences I had in Africa, one was a game changer indeed.  One early morning, as I laid awake in my sleeping bag, I realized that I was no longer certain about who got into heaven, and by what method of selection.  In fact, I realized that I had become uncertain about what “heaven” even represented to me.  No longer could I be convinced that just because these people were born where they were born, and through geographical selection they had not yet been exposed to the truth of the God that I had been exposed to, they were going to spend eternity in a place called hell if someone didn’t get there and “save” them.  Really?  I became uncertain of that truth, and no amount of blind faith or interpretation could convince me otherwise.

Intervention #2:  I became a mom.  
I recall holding my son one morning at church when he was less than a year old.  I was cradling him in my Heart to Heart sling, and as I stood and listened to the beautiful music, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to my friend Alex.  He was a pastor and he was gay.  His coming out story was turbulent and mixed with a lot of judgment, accusations, and hurt.  I felt that hurt for him.

As I stood swaying to the music holding my precious son in my arms, I will never forget the feeling that came over me.  As I looked at my little baby boy, I imagined what I would say to him if 15, 20, 30 years down the line he came to me and said, “Mom, I am gay.”  I knew without any doubt or hesitation that I would take him in my arms and I would tell him I love him.  Period!  He would know that it didn’t matter to me one way or the other, because he was the heart of my heart and I would always love him and be proud of him just the same.  I would always love him as my wonderfully perfect, magnificent, spiritual being of a son.  As universal love washed through me, the certainty of what I’d been taught to be true about gay people and “sin” washed out of me.

Intervention #3:  I had hit my personal rock bottom.
In 2008 and 2009, I went through the toughest season of my entire life.  I hit my personal rock bottom.  Everything I had carefully constructed and manicured for my life to be, came crashing down around me as the truth of what was and wasn’t, became more and more clear to me through the dissolution of my marriage.  I spent 18 months in therapy doing some really, really difficult self work.  I was determined to heal and grow, understand and release.

Motivated by my desire for my son to experience his mommy as a vibrant, brave, healthy, and whole woman, I embarked up on a journey of awakening.  I was open.  I was questioning, wondering, receiving, and becoming.  I was forgiving.  The more I woke up to understanding that I didn’t need to have it all figured out, and that I truly had no control over anything else other than my own thoughts, words, and actions… my own experience… I started to experience real freedom.  So many of the things I once felt so certain of, moved to the “If you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s fine.” category.  Freedom.  In that space of freedom, I was becoming the authentic me –and I have never been the same.


Now, you don’t have to go to Africa, or shift out of your own foundation of faith, or hit your personal rock bottom to experience an intervention of uncertainty.  Perhaps all that is required is an honest appraisal of what you believe to be true, and what you are certain of.  And if for any reason you discover that there are things that you are 99.99999% sure of, I invite you to examine what dwells within the space of .000001% uncertainty.

I invite you to question.

I invite you to wonder.

What are you certain of?


And just because the jingle is now stuck in my head, I wanted to share it with you.  Here is a vintage 1980’s Sure deodorant commercial for your viewing and listening pleasure.  Peace.


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  1. Kathryn, what you have written here is beautifully uplifting, creative, honest, and inspiring. Much more revelatory as well as illustrative than my own Huffpost story which prompted your response. I am so grateful for your response to mine and for pointing me to your article. Our journeys sound similar and I resonate with much of your certain uncertainty. My best wishes in your journey. Keep up the great writing. Blessings.

    • Thank you for commenting on my post, Dr. McSwain. It means a lot to me. I have been receiving your Huffington Post articles in my inbox for a while now, and I admire the way you share your thoughts and journey. I look forward to being inspired more and more by you. Peace! Kathryn


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