Once there were two mothers whose children attended the same school.
The first mother was greeted with a smile whenever she came to her child’s classroom. The child was well-behaved and attentive, and the other students were envious of the handmade costumes the child wore to school on special curriculum days. Knowing that the child was from a large family, the teacher complimented the mother on how well she balanced the needs of her growing brood.
The second mother — well, she wasn’t so lucky. Her child did not behave particularly well in class and was not a favorite of the teacher’s. When it came time for conferences, the teacher recounted all the ways the child was underperforming. She went on to imply that the child’s lack of achievement wasn’t a big surprise, however, because she knew another woman with a big family and “her house was a real zoo” also.
As you might have guessed by now, these two mothers were actually the same person — me. Not only did both incidents actually happen, they
happened just a few months apart! One would have to conclude that either a) I suffered from multiple personality disorder or b) both teachers’ impressions of me (supermom vs. chronic underachiever) were somewhat off base.
We live in a society that focuses intensely on results, whether it be in academics, sports, finances or any other area of people’s lives that can be measured. That’s not all bad; we do need to monitor our children’s progress in school, for example, so that we can find out if they are really struggling.
But being too concerned with results often leads us to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Especially with the rise of social media, we can start to develop an inferiority complex and give into
despair, which takes a huge toll on our spiritual lives. As is so often the case, however, the Catholic Church offers us a way out of this dilemma.
The Church has long taught that we should begin each day by offering our “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” to Jesus. Growing up, I never really understood why that was. But now it makes a lot more sense,
because when we offer all our work to God at the start of the day, the success or failure of that work is no longer the primary consideration.
When we start each day by offering our work to God, we’re letting go of our goals and desires and making space for him to work through us. These daily morning prayers help us to see the value of our work through God’s eyes — not the world’s — and little by little our need for affirmation from others starts to abate. Yes, we still ask for God’s help in successfully completing our work, but if things don’t go the way we hoped, we can accept the results — good or bad — because we’ve placed them in the hands of our loving Father.
Another benefit of the morning offering is that it helps us to think just in terms of today and to live in the present. It keeps our imagination from taking off on flights of fancy about all the problems that could come up five, 10 or 20 years from now.
I can’t honestly say that I’m now immune to negative comments about my family, home or other aspects of my life, and I still catch myself comparing myself to other moms. But I’m getting better about considering these matters in the presence of God.
I’ve also noticed that God frequently chooses to work through my failures, rather than my so-called successes. A lot of my friendships started because I met another mom who was going through the same struggles with their children that I was. And I’d have to say that some of the humiliations I’ve experienced in raising my kids have made me at least a little less quick to pass judgment.
I’ll close with another quote from St. Josemaria — one that I’ve repeated to myself countless times:
“Renew, then, this resolution: In times the world calls good I will cry out: ‘Lord!’ In times it calls bad, again I will cry: ‘Lord!’