This Mother’s Day I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting and my Sister told me I should post it here to the blog. So here it is;) And remember, this all applies certainly to mothers, but also to any person, young or old, in any station in life!
Mother's Day is such a great day! We get to celebrate our Mothers and Motherhood. A day dedicated to all women of all ages. A day probably second only to Valentine’s Day for the most last-minute flower purchases in America!
It’s a beautiful day!
You Mothers out there, is Mother’s Day a beautiful day for you? Or is it a little stressful? Is it a day of comparison for you? A day that perhaps has become a vivid reminder of all the things you are not? Of all the ways you are failing as a Mother? Of all the ways everyone else is better than you?
Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I know that many do. And it is this issue of feeling inadequate that I wish to address this morning.
On Mother’s Day we often talk about the ideals of Motherhood. About what a Mother should be, or what we think they should be. About the responsibilities of Motherhood, the influence and power Mothers have over the world. We often talk about the ways we feel our own Mothers are succeeding. About the ways in which they are going above and beyond the call of duty. About how dedicated and selfless they are. We rightly call them saints and angels.
But do they feel like that’s true? Or do they maybe feel a little added pressure to live up to a standard that they don’t see in themselves? And do the other Mothers who hear us speak feel inadequate because they think they are certainly not living up to the standards we say our Mothers are achieving?
Why does this happen? Why should any mother feel inadequate or discouraged? Why do Mothers tend to criticize themselves so much? Why do they seem to focus on the virtues in others and only on the flaws in themselves?
Are they really doing that badly? Are you really doing that badly?
Well, let’s look at all the things Mothers are supposed to do and see how everyone stacks up.
Here’s the list:
- Be perfect all the time in everything that you do and don't ever make a mistake ever.
That’s all. Just be perfect! Right? Isn’t that the way it feels?
You have to be a perfect Mother. You have to have a perfect family and keep your house perfectly clean and have a perfect yard. You have to make three perfect meals a day and be perfectly spiritual, having perfect scripture study, both personal and family. You have to have a perfect family home evening every Monday night and have perfectly well-behaved kids. You have to be perfect in your callings, hand-knitting perfect doilies for every occasion. You have to be perfectly happy and cheerful all the time and you can never get angry ever, or look like you don't have it all under control. Your kids have to be perfect, too, because it reflects poorly on you if they're not. So they have to be perfect students. And perfect athletes. And they have to play every musical instrument known to man, and they have to do it perfectly. And then they have to go on to be doctors and lawyers and presidents and probably the king or queen of the entire world or else you have failed as a Mother.
Isn’t that how it feels?
Isn’t that the kind of pressure you’re under all the time?
And if you can’t live up to it then you feel this very particular emotion. It’s a very destructive emotion. It’s called shame.
Sometimes we get shame and guilt confused. But shame researcher Brene Brown teaches us the difference in her book Daring Greatly. She says guilt is where you feel like or recognize that you have done something bad. But shame is connected to your self worth. Shame says that you are bad. That deep down to your core you are worthless. That you are not worthy of love and happiness.
So when you Mothers fail to be perfect, quite often you might feel deep down that you are bad as a person. That your self-worth is lessened. That you are not worthy of love or happiness. That perhaps God couldn’t possibly love you because He can’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. So He probably can’t even look at you, right?
This is one of the great lies from the father of lies!
Dr. Brown has interviewed hundreds of women about shame and here are some of the answers she got when she asked them to define shame or tell how and when they experience shame. See if you can relate to any of these:
“Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.”
“Even though there’s no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.”
“Being exposed--the flawed parts of yourself that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.”
“Being judged by other Mothers.”
“Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less than perfection is shaming.”
Dr. Brown teaches us further:
“If you recall the twelve shame categories….the primary trigger for women, in terms of its power and universality, is the first one: how we look….Interestingly...motherhood is a close second. And you don’t have to be a mother to experience mother shame. Society views womanhood and motherhood as inextricably bound; therefore our value as women is often determined by where we are in relation to our roles as mothers or potential mothers.”
“But the real struggle for women--what amplifies shame regardless of the category--is that we’re expected to be perfect, yet we’re not allowed to look as if we’re working for it. We want it to just materialize somehow. Everything should be effortless.”
“Be perfect, but don’t make a fuss about it and don’t take time away from anything, like your family....to achieve your perfection. If you’re really good, perfection should be easy.”
“Don’t upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings, but say what’s on your mind.”
“Just be yourself, but not if it means being shy or unsure.”
“Don’t make people feel uncomfortable, but be honest.”
“Don’t get too emotional, but don’t be too detached either.”
Do you see how impossible this standard is?
Are you women and girls (or men. Men experience shame just as much as women do, we just tend to experience it for different reasons) out there experiencing these types of feelings? Do you feel like you aren’t enough? Like you’re not righteous enough or strong enough or sweet enough? Do you feel like you aren’t spiritual enough or faithful enough or motherly or wifely enough? Do you feel like you're not pretty enough or fun or funny enough? Do you feel like you aren't doing enough or that you're just simply not enough?
Are you sweet daughters of God holding yourselves to a standard of perfection that you can’t possibly achieve on your own and then beating yourselves up when you can’t deliver?
Well let me just say in no uncertain terms that your worth is NOT conditional. Your identity NEVER changes. You always have been and ALWAYS will be the daughter of a God. You are made up of divine and Godly DNA!
Whether you are perfect or whether you are enormously flawed, your worth will always be great in His sight! (D&C 18:10)
Now don’t let this piece of doctrine slip past you without understanding the significance of it. Without really grasping it. God so loved the world--He SO loved you--that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer, to bleed, to plead for the suffocatingly excruciating pain of that bitter cup to be taken from Him so that He would not have to drink it, but to drink it anyway, to die a torturous death only hours later, with crude spikes driven mercilessly through His gentle, sweet, perfect and sinless flesh, and to rise again.
For each one of you, without a single exception. No matter what you’ve done or not done. NO MATTER WHAT.
He suffered and He died and He rose again. For you. Because that is how much YOU are worth to Him. Imperfections and all. Sins and all.
Because He loves you. Because you are loved more than you can even know.
And truthfully that is the solution to shame.
I have heard shame defined as fear, personalized.
But perfect love casteth out all fear. (Moroni 8:16)
And Jesus loves you with a perfect love. Your Heavenly Father loves you with a perfect love. Always.
The truth is I could talk for days about the reasons we experience shame. I could talk about misunderstanding the reasons for the commandments and misunderstanding grace (we are saved by grace, by the way. I just can’t help but throw that in there). I could talk about how powerful our emotional state is and how it is the driving force behind pretty much everything that we do.
I could talk the specifics and the mechanics and teach you about change and mindset.
But I think that ultimately the solution will always come back to this one thing. It all comes back to love. To perfect love.
There is a quote that I found recently that I really like. It says:
“Every choice we make creates an experience….take note. When we choose from fear, we become exhausted. When we choose from love, we experience joy, peace, and ‘flow’. We are free agents always….we decide how to play the game.” - Pat Bley
So now when I’m talking about love here, you might think ‘well of course I love being a Mom. I love my kids and I love my husband and I love the gospel’.
But recognize that there is a difference between loving something or someone and feeling love or, more importantly, feeling loved.
We can love God, but try to keep the commandments with a feeling of fear.
We can love our family members, but try to fulfill our family responsibilities from a place of stress or obligation or fear.
And when we do that, we become exhausted.
We need help.
We need to feel that perfect love that casteth out all our fears. We need to feel loved by God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We need to feel that love burning within us. That will give us the strength, the peace, the joy, the energy to accomplish all our tasks.
That is what it means when Jesus told us to take His yoke upon us, because His yoke truly is easy, and His burden really is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
In other words, we need grace. We need that enabling power that comes from the love of God.
In a talk given at BYU Education Week, Brad Wilcox gives an analogy that I really love.
“Many of us have heard an analogy in Sunday lessons that goes something like this: there’s a man in a hot desert who sees a fountain at the top of a hill. With great effort he climbs the hill and receives the life-giving water. The teacher then asks: what saved him? Was it the climb (his works)? Or was it the water at the top of the hill (Christ’s grace)? Now the answer that we’re supposed to give in Sunday School is that they’re both essential. While it’s effective in teaching the necessity of grace and works, this analogy really doesn’t fairly illustrate the interaction between the two, or the extent to which the Savior goes to enable us. The water may be at the top of the hill, but that’s not where Christ is. He has descended below all things. He comes down off that hill. He brings the water to us. That’s how we can make the climb.”
Sisters (or really anybody), as you make the climb before you each day to be good mothers or daughters or friends or women, don’t, for even one second, try to climb alone. Jesus is not waiting for you at the top of your mountain. He is standing beside you. Pleading with you to let Him fill you with His perfect love, with His enabling grace.
He wants to help you every second of every day. He wants to help you every step of the way up the mountain. In fact, He wants to carry you. And He can. And He will. If you let Him.
He loves you more than you can even know.
I would like to echo Elder Holland’s message here:
“...the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed….
Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them….I love that doctrine! It says again and again that we are going to be blessed for our desire to do good.”
“To all mothers (and I would add to all people in general) in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.”