Be the good person they think you are

I love my mom for many reasons. One reason is that we can be laughing one moment and then be delving into some serious stuff without even realizing we made the jump until we’re both thinking aloud about how yes, this is something that could help us lead a more holy life. Which is usually followed by more laughter or a child shouting, “It’s my turn to talk to Gaba!”

We had an early morning conversation today, and it was a lovely way to start my day. We talked about all sorts of things: how people let us down;  how it’s demoralizing when you try to make something new for your family for dinner (and spend a lot of time doing it) and no one likes it (not even the dog); how it’s sometimes tough to determine how to best use our talents that might not really shine in the trenches of motherhood (or if we should use them at all; Mom/Gaba says we should); how my husband always provides a balanced, truthful, and objective assessment of virtually every situation or concern I’m toiling with; how mothers sometimes need an outlet that has little or nothing to do with mothering; how humility isn’t thinking of ourselves as less but thinking of ourselves less often (which I quoted from this excellent funk-fighting post); as well as how excited she is about traveling to see her big sister this coming weekend.

We also talked about something that just might be life-changing for me.

“Mom,” I said happily. “You just gave me something really good to blog about!” And something to try to embrace in my daily living.

Someone might remark that I’m a great mom, and I might say something like, “On a good day, maybe.” Or I”ll crack a joke deflecting the kudos because I’m uncomfortable about the compliment – or because they didn’t see me the day before hopping around, howling, and screeching at my children like a maniac after I pierced my foot on a renegade Lego.

My mom does the same thing. She carries her cross of chronic pain with such grace, and I tell her this much. “No, I don’t,” she’ll say. Or, “I’m no saint.”

None of us is – yet. But why not try to become one and to live a life worthy of all the compliments and glowing appraisals we receive?

My mom’s parish priest, who is also a dear family friend, recently effusively praised her for all the work she does for the myriad ministries she’s involved with at church. She told me that at first she felt like he was just being nice, but later that night she thought that maybe she should just be grateful for his encouragement and simply try to live up the praise.

With all of her surgeries and health problems, she’s been tempted to give up volunteering altogether. Yet, she knows it is good for her to stay involved, to visit others as a homebound minister who were in more pain than she was, and to head up some ministries without feeling like she has to be as hands-on as she once was. Her decision reminded me of a quote someone shared after this homeschooling discernment post of mine that has  helped to change the way I see parenting and homeschooling.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
–G.K. Chesterton

It’s easy for us to question our ability to be spouses, parents, volunteers, employers, friends, and Christians because we do sometimes do all of these things poorly. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the effort time and time again. Likewise, our continued failings don’t mean that people won’t sometimes witness us doing these things well and tell us so. When they do, maybe instead of thinking that they just don’t see our dark side or they’d think differently if they’d been with us when we morphed into a mommy monster and rather than being tempted to start to mentally enumerate all that we do wrong, we ought to simply be grateful that we sometimes do get it right. And sometimes people notice when we do.

We recently hosted a get-together to honor the Blessed Mother during the month of May. A procession of children shuffled over to our simple garden statue of Mary and placed flowers in vases crowded around her. I couldn’t help thinking of how Mary graciously accepts the love offerings of her children with a humble heart. Mary does not need to be showy. But she doesn’t need to think less of herself either. She is unassuming without being self-effacing. She is deserving of the gifts of flowers. She is worthy of roses.

We, too, can lead lives that make us worthy of the roses others hand to us. During our soul-affirming conversation, my mom and I made a pact that from now on when we receive a compliment, we won’t doubt its truth. We will graciously accept it as the grace that it is. Then we will strive to live up to the way others perceive us to be.

We will become the good person they think we are.


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7 Responses to “Be the good person they think you are”
  1. Thanks for reminding me to be charitable to both others and myself when I’m praised as a child of God, worthy of what is good. God wants it so, but it is hard to be accepting of that grace. I’ll join you in working on it!!

    I’ll miss seeing you tomorrow. Hugs!!!

  2. Kris says:

    Good reminder. And now I’ll compliment you – you are a wonderful writer, and an even more wonderful mother!!

  3. Angela says:

    When I compliment someone, I want them to genuinely feel it, and to believe in my sincerity! But you’re right, it can feel awkward to accept praise from others, especially when we perceive ourselves as constantly falling short. I try to respond to acknowledgements with both words and an attitude of, “Thank you, that means a lot to me,” rather than false humility (putting myself down).

    • You know? I’ve never felt when people (or myself) don’t take a compliment well, that it is false humility. I know I really dislike getting complimented (though God compliments us all the time, and wants us to know our worth!), and I do deflect it many times because of not feeling worthy. Kate, you point out that really we all should try to accept the praise the grace, which is a great point. But sometimes I feel even saying thank you is vain! LOL! I need to trust that the grace and praise really are a good thing and try to live up to it!!!

      Just another perspective to Angela’s great comment! Is it always really false humility, or just feeling unworthy?

  4. Erica S. says:

    I needed to read this today. Thank you!

  5. Angela says:

    I probably didn’t word my comment correctly…sorry about that. What I meant was really to emphasize that we are inherently worthy because we are His beloved children. We may be weak, doubt our contributions, or even feel that we’re getting credit for something that was easy. God deeply loves us, even when we feel quite unworthy of a kind word. If God’s work shines through, let’s rejoice in being His instrument! I hope that comes across as more charitable :-)

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