Father Leo, the faith-filled foodie of Grace Before Meals, was the keynote speaker at the first annual Catholic New Media Celebration. His speech was both funny and moving as it inspired the audience to “be not afraid” to use their talents to do God’s work. But there was another message fused into his speech that struck a chord with me: The importance of humility in blogging and in life.
I have to work really hard at humility. Pride’s a stubborn companion of mine. It surfaces in nearly every aspect of my life. I take on more than I handle (because if I can’t do it all, then that makes me somehow less of a person, of a mom, of a wife, of a Christian….). I have trouble delegating (because if you want something done right, you should do it yourself). Instead of sometimes asking my husband for help, I wish he would just read my mind and offer to take a night shift with the kiddos. (Can you say martyr mommy?)
I also devote way too much energy into worrying about what others will think of me (including faceless folks roaming the blogosphere). Did that email I just sent out sound snappy (that wasn’t my intention; I was just trying to click send before my baby scaled our bookshelf. I better send an apology email later.)? If my overtired preschooler throws a fit out in public, I’m afraid the grocery clerk will think she’s a brat and I’m a lousy mother. If I admit to being “just” a mom at one of my husband’s social outings for work (where nearly everyone is a doctor or has some advanced degree), people will think I’m not much of an intellectual. If a friend doesn’t call me for awhile, it’s because I did something to upset her. You get the idea.
So, obviously, I need all the help I can get in the pride department. Based on the wisdom of Fr. Leo as well as others, here’s how I’ve decided to tackle this ugly monster both in my blogging and in my life as a whole:
- Keep my ego in check. It’s tough to feel rejected, to feel like no one is reading my blog, a labor of love I pour my heart into week after week. I have a fragile ego. I tend to take things personally, even when I shouldn’t. But as a Christian blogger (and person), I have to remember to stop asking, “What’s in it for me?” My life, what I write on my blog, isn’t about me at all – it’s about God, his love for me, and my Christian duty to reveal that love to others. Society tells us it’s okay to do what makes us happy and to confront anyone or anything that stands in our way. God’s logic is a little different: He tells us to do what makes him happy, which often means doing things we wouldn’t think of doing if we were only pursuing our own contentment.
Fr. Leo made a great suggestion to help keep ourselves from falling into the trap of pursuing “meology” rather than theology. Make a spiritual checklist and from time to time, ask yourself a handful of questions to make sure that you’re taking on whatever task is at hand for the right reasons.
Inspired by his talk and advice, I came up with the following questions to help me keep my ego out of my blogging and the rest of my life:
1. Why am I doing this? Is it only for personal gain?
2. Am I more concerned about my own ambition or God’s?
3. Is this really what God wants me to do with my time right now? Is this God’s will or just something I want to do to make myself feel better?
4. How can I be less self-serving?
- Remember my purpose. I never meant for this blog to be only about me, a way to make myself feel like I was doing something other than nursing babies and singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” over and over. Sure, it provides a way for me to satisfy my compulsion to communicate. But I also meant for it to be about finding God in the trenches of motherhood and a way to have a written record of my kids’ childhood and my journey as a mom (one that can’t be destroyed in a fire!). It helps to remind myself of this when I feel like no one is reading or when, as a mom, I think no one notices all the diapers I change and the smudgy faces I wipe clean. Besides, there is always someone noticing: God.
- Reevaluate how I measure success. I have the tendency to base my self-worth on quantitative things or the opinions of other people. In theory, I don’t believe success or my worth as a human being has anything to do with worldly standards; however, it’s really tough for me to not get caught up in Sitemeter statistics, the weight on the scale, the number of bylines or clips I can accumulate, my marathon time, advanced degrees, job titles, etc.
Blogging puts me in the public eye, so there’s always the temptation to start to thinking of this blog as an external measure of my value as a blogger, writer, evangelizer, and even as a human being, especially since there’s no such thing as a report card for moms or a yearly employee performance review. It would be easy to obsess over how many comments I get, by my blog’s monetary worth on Technorati, or by how many times my name comes up when you Google it. If you’re anything like me, “how to get [insert kid-caused stain] off the [insert odd place where kid left her mark]” isn’t the only thing you Google with more regularity than you’d like to admit.
Even though I make a conscious effort to not pay much attention to stats or whose blogroll I’m on, just being human, I like to know that I’m making a difference, that I’m entertaining people (other than my kids’ grandparents) by sharing silly anecdotes, that I’m encouraging other tired, newbie (or even veteran) moms (or dads) out there, that my words are reaching someone not just for my own purpose but for God’s, too.
But if I’m really doing God’s work, then I may not profit from it right away. Sometimes God reveals the fruits of my labor in the form of blog feedback or in the nursery worker who remarks on how sweet and happy my child is. More often the case, God doesn’t give me obvious kudos. There are times when I feel like my blog or even my mothering is all in vain. But if I keep God close, if I truly do things he calls me to do, then he will work through me and I will experience the sweet taste of success, if not in this world, then in the next.
- Don’t take myself or my little blog so seriously. This is a biggie for me. Do I really need to write thought-provoking posts every single day? I used to think, “Oh no! I haven’t posted in several days. What will my [very small handful] of regular readers do?” Uh…they’ll have more time to play Chutes and Ladders with their kiddos and so will you. If I stop this blog altogether, the world will go on. If I don’t lead that committee, the job will still get done. If I say no to an editor because I’m swamped, there will be another assignment down the road. One of the hallmarks of humility is accepting our limitations and not thinking we’re going to cause the world to crumble if we don’t do something.
- Celebrate the work of others. I’m naturally a competitive person (even when playing Chutes and Ladders), but in the Catholic blogging community, I can’t start to see my fellow bloggers as a threat. We’re all working through myriad points-of-view and style to spread the Good News. As I mentioned here, if a Christian blogger’s combox is overflowing with comments, we should rejoice. The Word is getting out. Our “real” competitors are secular media, talking heads who embrace the wrong kind of trinity – the one Fr. Leo referred to as Me, Myself and I.
- Give thanks to God. One of the best ways to humble myself is to remember that everything I have and am able to do is because of God. “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” (Romans 11:36). And even when I do get a pat on the back – whether it’s a byline, an encouraging comment on my blog or best of all, a literal pat on my back from the small hand of my child – the glory belongs to God.