October 2, 2016

Controversy and Brokenness

It was almost a year ago that a woman wrote a blog post about how to have a well-run Catholic home. There were lots of helpful tips in it and several disclaimers about season of life, and so on. So many women were inspired. So many were encouraged. Many saw how they could not or would not presently fulfill the list of to-do's but still saw the merit in the post. I myself read the post, knew that at 8 months pregnant there was no way I was going to live up to the woman's standards, and laughed it off as "not everything on the internet is written for me."

But, as I see it, she made one grand mistake. This woman wrote about all the things that can be done and should be done and she explained that "Supermom" gets them done. It did not matter that she was writing in a kind, humble, and even at times playful tone. All those caveats from earlier in her post were wiped away and what was left were hurt, insulted women.

Why am I writing about a controversy that's eleven months old? Well, as conversations online continued about this post I went back and re-read it a second time. And this time I wasn't able to laugh it off. That term - Supermom - just really irked me. In the end I broke the post down to this conclusion: You should do these things because that's what super moms do and if you do not do them then you are not a super mom. Really, you're not even a good mom. Pretty much, you suck.

And this well-written post with helpful information turned into, "Pretty much, you suck." And it weighed on me.

I have thought about that post and the conversations that surrounded it at least once a week since it was first published. Since then, and as something separate, I have also tried to understand Mercy - what it is and what it looks like - and what I've come to see is this:
People are broken and wounded, and when those wounds are illuminated or rubbed in salt it hurts. We feel embarrassed and exposed and we feel pain and shame. 

My wound is that I am not enough. And I have learned that when the perfect combination of exhaustion + stress + salt in my wound happens my brokenness really shows. I am super sensitive, easily offended, and - most unfortunately - quick to lash out in turn. I don't know what was happening in my life when I read that post for the second time all those months ago but I am certain that I was in the midst of that perfect combination. That well-intentioned post became a spotlight on how poorly I was doing, how far below the "Supermom" standard I fell, and how much I lacked. And, more importantly, because of my wound and brokenness I wasn't able to just not read it and/or move on.

At the time I didn't understand these things about myself, but now I get it. What I needed was not for someone to put me in my place with a, "This isn't about you!" I needed someone to mercifully reach out to me in my pain and say to me, "Bonnie, I think that you are hurt by this in some way. Maybe you feel bad because you can't do what she says a super mom should do? But I want you to know that you are a good mom and you are doing a good job." (Because, see, my reaction wasn't really about the post at all. It was about me.)

And as soon as I realized that I cringed because I knew I have been just as unmerciful, if not worse. I cringe to think of the times when women - in blog posts or comment boxes or Facebook threads - were speaking out of their brokenness and pain and I did nothing to make it better, but in my self righteousness probably just made it worse. I am truly full of sorrow and regret that instead of recognizing what was happening and trying to bring healing, peace, love, and mercy to their tender spots I was indignant, vain, impatient, and hard-hearted.

Which goes to show that I am a broken, wounded person. And an ass. With a grinch-sized heart. Ugh. "Masters, remember that I am an ass."

This post doesn't have some neat little ending. I don't really know where to go from here, in part because I think different situations call for different responses. I don't want to live in a world where people have to protect everyone's precious feelings. I think we do need to be able to hear tough things, especially when they are true and most especially when they will challenge us to be better. But I also don't want to forget that people are broken. My friend Kathryn has had to remind me repeatedly that hurt people hurt people and so, as for me, I will be praying that when people hurt me I don't hurt them back. Instead, I will pray for the grace to make myself small and to pray for their hearts and mine.

Kyrie Eleison. +


  1. Love this, especially with some of the drama going around the internet now. Your heart is just so beautiful and I love how you articulated this all 😃

  2. This kind of reminds me of one of my favorite Ignatian pieces of advice: when we are in consolation, soak it up, and remember to prepare for the inevitably coming desolation – because it always comes to each of us. ( I really don't think he is being melancholic or negative here, just purely clearheaded and realistic. Not meant in a morbid way. ) and when we are in desolation, take courage, draw up on the "rest" of past consolations, and look forward to the moment that this will be lifted from our shoulders because this too shall pass and consolation will return. Not sure if you are seeing the connection here… Basically, but I'm drawing from your message is that when we are in a good place and have the opportunity to respond to others who may not be, let us all be generous, compassionate, and humble knowing what we most need when we are there in that low place - because not one of us escapes it at some point in time. Love that you stayed with this reflection and flushed it out for yourself and for us.

  3. Oh Bonnie, I absolutely love you. This is so, so good.

    I struggle with those types of posts too. I'm not a good housekeeper and there is ALWAYS stuff that is late or really really gross. It's just not my gifting and though that doesn't let me off the hook, it's also really not that big of a deal. I'm a great wife and mom, and I feel good about that. My strengths are emotional availability, affection, and patience and those might be different strengths than someone who writes a "supermom" post. (NOT that it's either/or, this is just hypothetical.)

    Honestly, I think that your ability to show mercy to yourself is a greater gift to your children than having a perfectly-run home.

  4. Love this, especially with some of the drama going around the internet now. Your heart is just so beautiful and I love how you articulated this all 😃

  5. I had a similar experience with a friend posting about how great it is to have older kids, and how much easier teens are than toddlers. Her kids are 14 and 12. Meanwhile, out of my 4 kids, my 18 year old has left our home, dropped out of high school, and is living a life that absolutely breaks my heart. I was furious with her, because I would give my left arm for my nights to be sleepless because of teething instead of horrible drama.
    But her pleasure at her stage in life has nothing to do with my pain. Her 14 year old son doesn't do his cores cheerfully so I feel worse about my parenting fails. When I'm feeling particularly bereft, I pray for all the children on the streets and in the grip of evil. And I try really hard to also pray for protection for her family. Because it would not help me for her to be wounded too.

  6. You are so awesome. Thank you for this post.

  7. Bonnie~ LOVING this so much.

    I felt much the same way when I read a bog post about two years ago....a HSIng blog, which I love/d had embedded in one of the posts on HSIng high school a little statement that read something like "there's a special place in heaven for moms who HS all the way thru high school." Wow, first of all, I'm excluded. Secondly, every mom who does not HS is too and wow how hurtful. I was so so upset for the rest of the day and for weeks afterward too. I unsubbed from the blog bc I couldn't have a reminder about that post popping in my inbox every day or even every week.

    BUT I grew to recognize that she wasn't shaming me. She was being offhandedly cute and funny and patting herself on the back as well as give a shout out to other "all the way" HS moms. But at the time, we had just put my oldest in school and it was going disastrously and we had doubts but knew it was the best thing we could do for him.

    I know many amazing moms who've never even considered HSing their kids and I guess I'd be relegated outside that "HS moms who HS all the way through" door once in heaven...I don't know.

    It still stings, but MERCY. I love that. As well as knowing that we all do the best we an for our kids with what we have. Some of usa re equipped to take certain paths some are not....and what about vocation? We left our decision up to God and this is what we were led to...much as it hurt bc we missed our son and we missed the old days and the HS days....then I read this post and it threw me for a loop. My husband of course said...what do you care/ How can you let something so small in someone's psot upset you so much? But it absolutely did, but it really got to ME and what made me, me...a HSIng mom who was no more a HSing mom for my oldest child.....

    THis was amazing.

    Sorry to ramble......
    Thanks for your candor and your generous thoughts today Bonnie.

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  9. It amazes me how easy it is to feel like I am too much and not enough at the same time.

    I have been writing and thinking about this topic a lot lately. I keep seeing a vision of myself dressed like a super hero with the words she doesn't do it all written across the picture.


  10. I like that your post doesn't have a neat little ending. You're talking about it with honesty, and that's a start. The truth will set you free. We can't work through our hurts if we don't acknowledge them, and we can't look God in the eye 'til we have faces. :)