I have an acquaintance who is trying to live her life and raise her children the best she can. In that struggle, she’s found herself in a unique circumstance. She has proven her bravery by allowing the world in. She’s been blogging her challenges, successes and failures at George. Jessie. Love. as she grows and parents in a situation she never expected to be in.
When you put something out there publicly you take a chance. You are embraced by support but can also be pummeled by derision at a time when you are at your most vulnerable. Here’s the thing about these situations. We don’t choose them, we’re just trying to live through them in the way that is best for our families. They are infinitely more difficult if another component is to be publicly chastised.
I feel for her as I, too, have been in a situation I never expected to be in. I was also open about it, and was met with both support and criticism. I’m in another one now that I am unable to share, I really don’t know if I would even if I could. I don’t think I’m as brave as Julie.
Please know that we, all of us, have morals and values. They are not specific to one religion or political party. We all make choices based on our beliefs, morals and values, but I’ve yet to see a religious tenet that requires us to berate the choices of others whose actions don’t fall in line with ours.
Hatred and intolerance are a by-product of fear. Those of us who are different from you: be it our religion, color, nationality, abilities, sexual preference, physical or mental afflictions . . . we are not different out of any desire to frighten you. As we walk our paths and make our decisions and live our lives we don’t make our choices based on a conspiracy to hurt you.
When we are uncomfortable with someone’s life-choices, here are our choices as I see them:
*We can give in to our fear and publicly criticize those who choose a different path than the one we, although not in their situation, imagine we would choose. In my estimation, this is the ground zero of where bullying comes from.
*We can acknowledge that we imagine our choices in that situation would be different, maybe even better, but out of kindness and respect choose to keep it to ourselves.
*We can decide that even though these wouldn’t be our choices, we truly don’t know what these people are going through and compassion and support are key components to making the world a better place. The world is full of people who are different from us. Really, it’s OK to embrace that.
As we live our lives if we make mistakes (and we will) others can relish in that, even see it as proof that we were wrong to begin with. They can choose to kick us while we’re down or they can choose to help us back up. Either way we will get back up and we will carry on. With you or despite you.
This is a letter I sent to Julie back in February. I share it, with her permission, in the hopes that we can all take a step back and rethink the purpose served by harshly judging others publicly, even those who admittedly put ourselves in the public arena of our own free will:
Through comments of mutual FB friends I’ve seen some of your recent posts relating your experiences in going through your daughter’s journey. From the few posts I’ve seen it’s clear that you’re not naïve, you understand that there are people out there who will question your path. You’ve started to construct a shield by both surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and blocking the access of those who would judge you harshly. As you gain strength from those who support you, I recommend that you also consider the position of those who will judge you harshly.
In terms of being judged, I can draw a lot of comparisons between your situation and the choices I made 20 years ago when I learned that the only way I had any chance of having children would be through IVF, in-vitro fertilization. I took an uncertain path fraught with physical pain, emotional turmoil, baby steps forward and grand jetes backwards. I, too, was open and honest about my choices, surrounded myself with the support of friends and family (which, mind you, is so much more difficult pre-FB), but I also found that you can’t escape the negativity forever. I started IVF in a new (to me) conservative state in a locally unprecedented program headed by a doctor brought in from yet another state. This elicited editorials in the local paper making it clear that God made me infertile and by going through this process I was going against God’s will. Let’s be clear. You will be faced with hatred. They are coming, with guns blazing. They will aim a baseball bat at your head and chances are that bat will have God’s name on it.
If, in your own private moments, you let those thoughts in and come to terms with exactly how you feel about them, I hope that this preparation can actually become another part of your shield.
I was pregnant 4 times with 5 children (including the twin of my older son, who I lost along with one of my tubes in emergency surgery during a tornado warning while my husband was out of town – no, not LOL – well, maybe LOL now but certainly not then). While visiting family and pregnant with my younger son, I woke up at my mom’s house cramping and in a pool of blood. My sister dropped everything, came to get me and stepped on my heels following me into an ultrasound kindly set up by a local gynecologist I hadn’t seen in 20 years. We cried when we saw the heartbeat. I had come home to name my first son in Temple and ended up sentenced to bed rest and double injections. I was the only one not at the naming. At any point I could have (and if I’m going to be honest, did) question whether “the haters” were right. Is God trying to tell me to stop?
"They” say that God made me infertile, and changing that “goes against God’s will.” Really? I’m that powerful? Or does God give us all challenges? I ended up far from home at the same time that an amazing doctor ended up in that same place. The time, the place, the doctor, these are all tools given to me by that same God. No matter how difficult life gets, I cannot believe that God did not want these kids to exist, that it was a battle between God and I and I won. Absurd. I now have 2 sons, ages 16 and 17. My 17 year old is currently putting me through all kinds of hell but I still do not question what I went through to get him here. “The haters” forced me to look at my path through theireyes and the resulting strengthened conviction is a gift.
Ultimately you have to decide which of God’s children you think provide him/her with the most pride: Those who ACT with BRAVERY based in LOVE, or those who JUDGE with HATRED based in COWARDICE?
The haters say “how COULD you?” We say “how could we NOT?”
Those haters, invite them in Julie, then kick their ass!
*A final note:
There is a 35 acre plot of land in the midwest purchased by a Jewish Temple, an Episcopal Church, and a Mosque. All three are building there together. There will also be a fourth building, a Tri-Faith Center.Those holy places are being built together because a large group of open-minded people committed to respect, even embrace, difference. These people have the compassion and the courage of conviction to see that as a society we will be healthier and we will be stronger if we are able to be different . . . together.