Within our country, our states, our churches, our schools, and even our homes there is division over many difficult and complex problems. We are less concerned these days with whether we should wear masks or not wear masks but, given the latest news titles, are debating topics like abortion, gun violence, critical race theory, and even things we would have previously accepted as fact like gender identity. If you are like me the news is difficult to receive, the terms seem fluid, the whole chaotic and complex, with my own personal responsibility in all of it difficult to discern.
Now, as a mother of four, add in the fact that school will be beginning shortly and anxieties are high.
The truth is there has been division since the introduction of sin into creation. It should not surprise us then, that we will all deal with the issue of division, particularly disagreements, amongst our spheres of influence throughout our lives. It seems understandable. Let’s just look at those of us who identify with Christ as women of faith. We may still have varying experiences, heritage, ideas, and circumstances.
Yet, even while we are trying to teach our children to be empathetic, to “walk in the other person’s shoes,” we fail miserably by neglecting to show a basic kindness to the people living closest to us. It seems we are always in competition with each other and the scary reality is that, more than not, those of us with children love to use those “quivers” to establish our positions.
Listen to the many conversations around you. How often are we comparing ourselves simply to wield some sort of superiority? The debated topics are endless. Will you work or be a stay-at-home mom? Are you sending your kids to public school, paying for private school, or choosing to homeschool? How much time do you spend reading to your children? Where are they in their academic studies? Are they involved in sports or any other extra-curricular activities? Oh, how we love to judge each other on the extra things we are engaged in. How about you mom? Do you clean your own home, cook balanced and healthy meals from scratch, all while making every appointment on time, and never missing a game? Are you particularly adept at managing your world while maintaining a spotless home, keeping up with friends, and maintaining that perfect figure? I know it sounds silly when we name them off, but we have all been engaged in these types of conversations and we are all guilty of making unkind remarks based on our personal preferences and opinions.
I am still, often surprised at the reactions we allow ourselves. When our ideals are challenged we frequently respond with rash or harsh words, vehement and polarizing. This is particularly painful within the body of Christ where we know that Christ is our unifier, or at least that He SHOULD be.
What we are less aware of is the vicious underbelly of doubt that lurks in the spaces of our mind when we engage in these critical remarks. None of us has it all together…all of the time. When we talk as though we are impervious to error anxiety, doubt, and self-loathing will be the natural consequences. After all, “Pride comes before a fall,” and God is often too gracious to keep us from having to eat our words. (Proverbs 11:2)
So how, despite our differences, should we go about the business of pursuing unity with the other moms we share our lives with?
Pay attention to your conversations. Ask yourself, “Am I trying to make myself or my child superior in some way? Why do I feel the need for this person(s) to see things the way I do? Can we agree to disagree?”
Always use respectful and kind communication. Even when a person is wrong there is a level of respect that should be given them. This means that none of us has a license to say whatever we please. If you question the validity of this just see the way David conducted himself with King Saul. David consistently showed the respect due Saul’s position. (1 Samuel 24:6) Now you may be asking, “What exactly is their position or mine?” We are all image bearers of God, so we should act and speak to each other accordingly. How would God have you speak about another one of His image bearers?
Particularly with those closest to us we can be incredibly critical. Would you really say this in the same way if you knew that the person was in the room? Don’t let familiarity breed contemptible speech.
Be empathetic. Realize that not everyone has the same gifting, circumstances, or opportunities as you and your family. More often than not, there are struggles beneath the surface that are not easily seen. (Galatians 6:2)
Don’t allow a difference of opinion to keep you from sharing the truth. When prompted, God does not want you to withhold your testimonies or words of correction. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, 18) You weren’t called to lose all conviction and justice under the banner of loving sinners. You are called to be salt and light. (Matthew 5:14-16) You are called to speak the truth to a dying world and they might not like the message. Just, make sure you speak the truth IN LOVE when you do. Check yourself before you speak. “Am I REALLY saying this for the other person’s good or do I have an anterior motive?”
Pray for the moms around you. Frankly, not every mom present in your life is a relationship made by choice. So when difficult situations arise don’t just pray for the situation itself, but also pray specifically for that “difficult” mom. The Bible says, “We do not war against flesh and blood.” (Ephesians 6:12) So be aware that often there are other challenges at play. Pray for your enemies, pray for them to see truth. Pray for their hearts, but also for their good. (Matthew 5:44)
Pray for each other’s children. Pray because we are all anxious. We all struggle in our various ways. We all want love and…. well-behaved children.
Kindness goes a long way. Be the first to reach out, to forgive when disagreements arise. Pursue reconciliation because it’s important. We were made for community and, as hard as it is to live in community, we will not be healthy without it.
Know that not all relationships can or will be repaired; always establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
We are often too timid to put ourselves out there. Don’t be afraid to ask a mom what you can do to help. Try to never miss an opportunity to encourage another person. Don’t underestimate the power and scope a kind word can have.
Photo and post by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.