Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Help, St. Peter, & Admitting my Own Shortcomings

Last week, I briefly mentioned that I finished reading The Help and that I had some thoughts to share on the book.

Since then, I've avoided writing this post...not because I don't wish to be transparent, but rather because it is so painful for me to do so. Change is painful.  But true growth requires us to change. 

So taking a deep breath, here I go...



As I read The Help, I couldn't help but make comparisons of women in my life who seem fascinatingly similar to the main characters in the story.

Not in a "we've got domestic help" and "we're opposed to civil rights legislation" sort of ways, but rather "I've got strong opinions and I'm not afraid to share them" sort of ways or "I haven't formed my own opinions and I'll defer to yours" sort of way.

That would be me.  The latter.  At least all through high school and college. 

Now, as a 40+ woman, wife and mother to three, I tend to have more strongly-formed opinions that are my own...not of my friends... on all sorts of issues including politics, religion, and parenting.  But, unfortunately,  like Elizabeth Leefolt, one of the white women in the story, who to be clear, is a villain, I too am often fearful to go against the grain...to differ with the friend who speaks the loudest...even if she's the wrong-est...and so I seldom voice those opinions, even when I know that what I believe is the Truth.

Why am I like this...I'm sure there's some pop-culture psychologist that would love to dissect my personality, but suffice to say that after having lived with myself for 40+ years, I know that I aim to please...I am the great compromiser...I dislike conflict.

But what I am learning as I "grow up" is that sometimes, pleasing and compromising can be destructive...even detrimental to one's self...and soul,  and that conflict is sometimes a necessary evil.  Especially, when we are called to defend the Truth.

So what does all of this have to do with St. Peter?
Well, like St. Peter, I have a deep and profound love for our Lord.  And like Peter, I have lied to myself and our Lord that I would never deny HIM.

So what happened that would make me compare myself to both Elizabeth Leefolt (a wishy-washy white woman who desperately wants to fit in with the Junior League crowd, hiring help she really can't afford and fearing retribution from her "friend", Hilly, who she has seen unleash her wrath upon enemies) and St. Peter (who Christ himself called to be one of His own and yet denied knowing Him)?

A run-in with the parent of my 7-year old daughter's friend.

It happened last Spring.  And my cheeks still burn hot with shame when I replay the events of the day as they unfolded on our front porch and then kitchen.

My daughter, longing for a playmate, quickly befriended the daughter of a new neighbor that had moved in across the street.  The girls were in the same kindergarten class, and were in close proximity in the subdivision, so fast friends they became.  Over the course of Winter and early Spring, I began to suspect that the little girl's family was not religious or even believers in Christianity.  My daughter would often speak about Jesus or Mary or going to Wednesday night religion class and the other child would stare with wide-eyed amazement and sometimes ask questions.  I either let Mary answer them in her 6-year old speak, or I would simply respond with a statement to satisfy curiosity, but not "evangelize" her against her parents' wishes.

Well, one Spring afternoon, a very angry mama showed up on my front porch after walking my daughter home from a play date that had been cut short.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that it wasn't my daughter's behavior that ended the play date, but rather the fact that she had told her daughter about Jesus.

"And she was having none of that."

Gulp.

And what did I do...hold on to your hats...

I APOLOGIZED to her for Mary upsetting them and then told my daughter NOT to speak about Jesus when she played at their house.

I "went along" with the loudest, wrong-est person out of fear of retribution, and then went on to "deny" our Lord by asking my daughter not to speak of Him.

And then I cried.  For I knew the error of my ways.

And then I called my sister ranting and raving about the nerve of that woman.

And I cried.

And then I called my husband ranting and raving about the nerve of that woman.

And I cried.

And then I called...

Well, you get the picture.

So, how did I rectify this?

First, I sat my dear daughter down in our kitchen and explained to her that sometimes grown-ups make mistakes.

Even mommies.

And that while I had told her NOT to talk about Jesus over at her friend's house, I now realize how wrong and confusing that directive was and instead, wanted her to speak whatever she felt convicted of...in not so grown-up terms.  ;)

Then, I went to confession.

And I cried.

And I was forgiven for my shortcomings.

And while my soul was cleansed and absolution given and penance completed, my heart still felt heavy.

It still feels heavy.  But not as heavy.

For I am working on developing the confidence necessary to speak the Truth.  In little ways..

I am praying for courage...one of the Cardinal Virtues...

I am forcing myself to act courageously, even if I don't feel that way inside, in front of my children...

And I am praying for and forgiving the parent that caused me so much angst...and in fact thanking her for challenging me in my faith walk.

Because it is easy to be a Christian among other Christians when your biggest argument is whether your religion "worships Mary" or whether Christ is truly present in the Eucharist versus whether or not God exists and why secularism and relativism shouldn't be our new gods...

That my friends, is hard.  Especially, since we live in an era where tolerance is expected of everything, even the denial of Truth.

And so like Elizabeth Leefolt, who in the end still fired her black maid, but would not file charges of stealing against her (a small victory in terms of personal growth for Elizabeth),

and like St. Peter who, although bitterly sad and repentant, did not beat himself up to the point that he was no longer a follower of Christ, but rather rose to the occasion and accepted Christ's command to build his Church,

I too hope to grow and change...becoming stronger in my faith...not only by keeping His commandments and completing good works, but by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to stir within me the courage necessary to speak Truth and model Truth for my children.

Because after all, change begins with a whisper and that might be the best place to start before I can yell it from the mountaintops.

Today I am linking up with Ann over at A Holy Experience
for her

 and Courtney
over at

21 comments:

  1. I admire your honesty. It sounds like our personalities are quite alike - while I consider myself to be strong and opinionated, I too dislike conflict and try to avoid it. But at what cost? Do I still stand for the Truth when these conflicts start to make me uncomfortable? I worked as a nanny for a mere month before moving into my career field. In that short time, the 5 year old I watched saw a cross outside a church and asked me what it meant. My heart soared as I explained to her that Jesus died on a cross and then rose three days later. But then I freaked - had I told her mother I was a Christian and that would affect my interactions with her kids? Would she be upset when her daughter repeated the story of the cross to her? I wasn't around long enough to find out, but I still pray that I planted a seed. I like to think I would have stood my ground, had I been confronted, because what I told her daughter was Truth. But is that really what I would have said with my job on the line? Now I pray that with each situation like this I will have the strength (from Him) to speak up. And if I fail? I know I am covered by grace and He will give me another chance (or even 50 more chances) to try again and get it right. Like Joyce Meyer says, I just hope I don't have to keep going round and round that same mountain, but can get it right next time. :)

    Now you really have me itching to read The Help.

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

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  2. Thank you, Jody. For sharing your story with me and for treating my mistake with such grace!

    Blessings,
    Val

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  3. Valerie, this is an awesome post. and THANK you! how courageous you are to see the TRUTH and work toward not letting others dictate their "truth."

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  4. Thank you, Gardenia. Such a bittersweet lesson for me in not only asking for forgiveness for my own trespasses, but for the courage and grace to "forgive those who trespass against us". This was a teachable moment that my daughter will grow to even greater understanding of as she herself matures.

    Blessings,
    Val

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  5. Valerie- Thank you so much for your honesty, your willingness to share, your humility. Your story is so easy to relate to and so inspiring. I pray your heavy heart will lighten. Jesus has forgiven you and forgotten all about it. You used the opportunity to teach your daughter some valuable lessons. And by sharing your story here you have reminded me to persevere in my own struggle against "approval addiction". Thank you so much.

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  6. Thank you, Kari. This was so difficult to put out there...we all have that "approval addiction" factor in us...some more so than others...but as humans and sinners, we all experience it. Your kindness and extension of grace mean a lot to me. And your words about being forgiven...and forgiving myself, brought tears to my eyes.

    Blessings,
    Val

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  7. Wow, Valerie, thank you so much for sharing! I can completely identify with being a people pleaser. I imgagine I would have done much the same if I had been in your position. I'm so glad you were able to use it as a teachable moment for your daughter.

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  8. Thank you, Liz.

    Yes, we think we know how we will behave in situations like these...but unless one is practiced...well-versed...prepared for confrontation about Truth...it can catch us off guard when it actually occurs and cause us to fall all over ourselves in apologies.

    Thanks for your honesty as well. I find that I'm surrounded by loved ones who understand my people-pleasing weakness!

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  9. Absolutely fantastic and honest post; I think many of us can relate!!

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  10. Dear, it was interesting to read your post. Yes the Truth will stand out finally, no matter how many of them out there are ignorant and refused the Living God existing and manifesting in our lives who truly believe in Him today. But Jesus did say one thing that is Love conquers all. Love is the only way to God and that's the only thing we have to let the world to know and all other things will be known..

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  11. I love that you shared this. There's a lesson here for all of us. And the way you tied it to The Help (we've all seen/read it...right???) is SO spot-on.

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  12. Thank you, Sarah! One of the motivations behind sharing this post was that I think I knew deep down that this is a struggle many of us share...wanting to "not rock the boat". But at what cost?!!!

    Blessings,
    Val

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  13. Welcome to "her Little Ways" Mag! I so appreciate you taking the time to stop and share your thoughts with me. And you are so right...Love will conquer all. And so in the end, I like to think that although God was deeply pained by my lack of courage, he was also proud of his child for holding her tongue...not unleashing bitterness...thus, showing love.

    Blessings,
    Val

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  14. Thanks for dropping by, Shannan. Yes, a lesson for many of us...an age-old struggle with a contemporary twist!

    Blessings,
    Val

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  15. Now you made me cry. I am guilty of falling on both sides here. My kids are often the ones that call me out on it. I hate that we have to often loose friends but are they really friends when they pull us away from Christ. My husband and my oldest daughter hold grudges, but never in a mean way. I think I just need to listen to them more. They distant themselves from people like your neighbor without guilt. I worry that I gudged and then get myself into situations like you described.
    I have never met your daughter but I love her. I can't wait to know her in the eucarist when she old enough. It sounds like we can all use her spirit to share our faith (which is part of our baptism!)
    Great post Val, love ya and wish we lived closer!

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  16. Oh goodness--I avoid conflict at all costs.
    I think you handled the situation very well.
    We are not perfect and God knows this, that is why he is all forgiving thankfully!!
    Stay true to yourself!

    Melinda

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  17. Lovely post & blog!

    If you or any of your readers would like to post for the ACWB http://associationofcatholicwomenbloggers.blogspot.com

    send me an email

    jacquelineparkes@hotmail.co.uk

    God bless

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  18. Thank you, Neen. Seems that the two of us are in habit of making each other cry on a regular basis. So very thankful to have you in my life...and while I wish that we had known each other in high school like we do today (thank you, facebook!!!), I refuse to waste time looking backward and just love looking forward and thinking about how our friendship will continue to strengthen and grow!!!

    XO,
    Val

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  19. Thank you, Melinda...for your friendship and grace! I appreciate your vote of confidence in me! ;) I'm so blessed to have you in my life and look forward to being able to get together soon!

    Blessings,
    Val

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  20. Thank you, Jackie. I appreciate you kind comments and offer to post for the ACWB. I will be contacting you via email.

    Blessings,
    Valerie

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  21. Don't be so hard on yourself Valerie. Sometimes we encounter new situations that take us by surprise and we impulsively respond, and impulse can lead to a mistake. It wasn't as if you willfully wanted to do that. But I agree with the person above that this should be a lesson for us. I have a two year old boy. If this should happen to us, I'm now prepared to respond with a "so what? If you don't like it, then our children can't play together." My goodness it's not as if your daughter said a four letter word. These atheists are too much. It reminds me of a vampire movie where a cross makes the vamp shriek.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Your kind words are appreciated! As Mother Teresa said, "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

Valerie