This is no revelation, but I was struck anew with some thoughts on giving grace to others, because we often have no idea what they are going through or have endured. I was reading a fellow blogger’s post, as well as some of the comments following it, and what I realized all over again is, that all of us (sure, me too) have endured, or are enduring, pains in our lives: loneliness, loss of loved ones, marital challenges, broken friendships, addictions, illness, financial struggles, fears…and the list goes on.
What do we often see, though, as we pass by the same people every day? Smiles, pleasant appearances, the look of “having it all together”. Nice car, pretty clothes, fit physique, successful career, healthy children–what could possibly be wrong? Every one of us has wept, prayed in anguish, written frantic and pleading words, or stayed up into the wee hours of the night trying to think over every last angle of whatever problem we’re facing.
Complicating matters is this terrible tendency we have, especially as women I think, to compare ourselves to others. We foolishly believe that “she” over there has it all, whatever “it” may be to us. We either fall into a trap of thinking we will never measure up, or we elevate ourselves and say “I’m glad I’m not like so-and-so”. Both are dangerous. We make friends, but at what point do we actually let our guards down and let others in? It’s not realistic to share all the details of our lives with everyone, of course, but there must be some among our circle of friends to whom we can open up and share some of those past or present struggles.
With that being said, I have a renewed desire to think and speak and act with grace towards the people around me. Maybe there is a mom I know whose kid misbehaves more than mine–before I judge her (and the child), wouldn’t it be more productive for me to strike up a conversation with her on the playground? Maybe she feels overwhelmed, maybe her child has other difficulties that lead to less-than-stellar behavior. Maybe there is a friend who seems to have everything lined up in life…have I slowed down enough to give her a chance to tell her full story? Are we as women more about tearing each other down or building each other up? We know how powerful words can be; are we using them to help each other? How realistic is our view of others, and of ourselves?
I’ll go first: some of you reading this know me in “real life”, not just in the blogging world. What do you see? A physician’s wife…who misses her husband when he is working long hours, who often does not get to attend evening gatherings because that is the only time I get to see him or he isn’t home and I need to be with the kids, who walked beside that husband through med school and residency and saw some pretty challenging days. A mother…who sometimes feels isolated by the demands of being a stay-at-home mom, who adores her children and her role in life, but who would love to see friends more often, who wonders just like the rest of the parents if I am doing things “right” for my children. A physically healthy woman…who has struggled in the past for years with skewed body image and unhealthy dietary habits, who tasted the sorrow of pregnancy loss, who takes blood pressure medication to prevent fainting, who longs to run again but is “on hold” because of knees and the demands of mothering. A joyful Christian, who still struggles with emotional ups and downs, who has to give her heart daily or even hourly to Jesus because it gets so full of impatience, greed, envy, anger, unforgiveness, who would love to be in a bible study again but has to wait until her toddler outgrows her extreme case of separation anxiety.
I am not complaining–I’m just trying to give examples of how I, and all of us, need opportunities to be real with each other. We need each other, ladies. I am thankful beyond words for the women in my life with whom I know I can be truly “me”–my mom, close family members, dear friends near and far. I’m praying tonight that I will have new opportunities to give grace to those around me, and hoping that you will think about how that might look in your life, too. I will end with a verse that came to mind, from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (ch. 1, v. 3-4): “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”