A very close friend of mine and I have been having sort of a running conversation lately. We’ve each experienced a certain amount of failure in our lives and have each been on a personal journey of learning Â that love is the way.
I knew that when I was younger. I knew that when I lived with drug addicts who would sell themselves for crack. I knew it when I lived with a homosexual cook who insisted we all call him “Auntie Ray”, and when I lived with Gail, the schizophrenic who refused to sleep anywhere else but on a mattress with no sheets in the basement.
I knew that it wasn’t just about doing all the right things right, knowing all the rules and being “appropriate.”
I knew that being a Catholic was about loving God and loving others. It wasn’t about having it all together.
When I was newly married, I felt I had a lot to prove. Not to my husband, because I knew he loved me just as I was. However, I felt that I had a lot to prove to other people who had judged me harshly and had rejected me because of my past mistakes.
Most of all, I felt I had to prove something to myself.
See, I had many things I was ashamed of. Mostly, I was ashamed of the kind of mom that I’d been before I got my act together. I was ashamed of being associated with disordered people and places.
I wanted to prove that I was a good mom now. Not a mom who left her son with babysitters all the time so she could do ministry. Not a mom who didn’t discipline her son properly. Not a mom who made corndog dinners for nearly two straight weeks.
Yeah. That happened. He survived. So did I. And I can actually cook now, thanks.
When I got married, I thought “Now I will prove that I can do a good job. Now I can show everyone that I’m not a bad person.”
I’d felt mistreated many times as a single mom. After I stopped doing music ministry and left the community I lived in for years, I put all of my efforts into raising my son. He went to Catholic school, and usually the other parents would not talk to me. They ignored me, and it was really painful. They would all talk to each other, but when I was at a meeting or outside the school waiting for my child, it was as if I wasn’t even standing there along with them. Even thinking about it now makes me really angry.
I remember Â there was a mom who would openly talk about her sex toy parties. She was a married woman with two little kids. Man, was I pissed when I sat there and thought, “I’m a freaking practicing Catholic and I try my best to raise my son and do all the right things, and everyone ignores me. And this lady right here talks all about her gross parties and everyone still says hi to her.”
Being treated that way for so long made me feel like a crappy person. A worthless loser. A nobody.
I was tired of the injustice!! I would PROVE MYSELF!!
So when I got married, I tried to do all the things I could to be a good mom. I carried my babies in slings and I got a Land’s End diaper bag with a big monogrammed “S” on it, and I said the word “Appropriate” a lot. Because I was going to prove to everyone that I WAS appropriate now.
I was so desperate to prove that I was a good person. I wanted to fit in and be the kind of woman that people would call “faithful” and “on fire”. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t dumb and that I was a good wife and mom.
When I joined facebook, I was unstoppable. I posted every life site news article, every bad thing the democrats ever did or ever thought of doing. I went on a tirade when Old Navy sold a t shirt that somehow promoted gay marriage. “NEVER AGAIN WILL I SHOP AT YOUR STORE!!!!” I vowed to the world.
I got in arguments all the time about politics and abortion. I felt like I was really battling for the truth! I was good at it..I could cut people down with a few sentences, and boy it shut them up!
I WAS GOING TO SHOW THESE PEOPLE. I wasn’t gonna put up with any crap! Look at all those lazy Catholics! Look at how lukewarm they are! If only they were on fire LIKE ME.
Maaaaan, there was a fire burnin, alright. But it wasn’t the fire of the Holy Spirit.
And then. And then. And then.
God started showing me how ugly it was when other people talked that way. How much it hurt when people would shun me or people I love for not doing everything the perfect way, or for not having the same “zeal”. How being rude in the name of Christ is not Christ like at all. How un Christlike it was to treat people like scum because they’ve made mistakes or they’re not perfect like Jesus is perfect. To treat them as if they’re not even worthy of an acknowledgement.
I started seeing how much harm is done when we act like this, when we treat other people like this. And I also began to see the insecurity that fuels this way of acting.
Many of us have known shame and failure, and we have felt the awful feeling of worthlessness. That fear and shame can drive us to prove that we are worthy.
Over time, God has taught me and has been teaching me that acting like a jerk is not the answer. It’s not the way to show the world that Christ came to to seek and save the lost. It’s not the way to prove that I’m good enough or smart or loved.
Over time, God has helped me and is helping me to see that I am lovable and that I always was lovable to Him, despite my faults and failings. He also knows that sometimes I didn’t know any other way, and I was doing the best I could. I’m still learning.
I think there are a lot of people out there who are living with the shame of things they’ve done that God has already forgiven them for, yet they beat themselves up every day. I think it drives them to prove themselves just like I did.
I think there’s a lot of us who fail with the same sins every day, day in and day out..we feel like we’re never going to change, our situations are never going to change. But God is still with us. He still “makes all things possible.”
You don’t have to spend your life trying to prove that you have it all together. You don’t have to spend your life proving that you’re not who you used to be or that you’re not the worst version of yourself . Confess your sins and move on. Show some mercy to yourself and to others .. because love is the answer.
I shared the following picture and statement on Facebook and Instagram last night, and it got a lot of likes. I believe that’s because this is something we need to hear over and over and over again.