I know it’s Friday, but I hope you’ll forgive me for not being in the mood for quick take-ery. There is something weighing on me.
I got a comment last night that really rattled me. I was at my in-law’s house for dinner when my email chime sounded on my phone and I read this comment on my last post.
“I wasn’t evil in the traditional sense. Well, I guess that some of you might call a girl who wore a postcard-sized skirt around a college campus populated by very devout young men evil. You might be right. But what I mean is, I didn’t kill babies. Even in my darkest hour, that was not a line I would cross.”
That passage strikes me as kind of insensitive to women who might be struggling with the pain of abortion.
It sounds like you’re patting yourself on the back for not having been as “evil” as those women. I enjoy your writing but more and more these days it lacks the humility that once attracted me to your blog.
My knee-jerk reaction was to be annoyed. This past week, it seems that there’s nothing I have said that hasn’t offended someone.
But the “one more overly sensitive reader” blow-off didn’t work. I was seriously rattled by that comment. So rattled, in fact, that later on I brought it up when my father-in-law, the Ever-Teacher, was giving me some *ahem* constructive criticism.
If there’s one thing I can tell you about the Ever-Teacher, it’s that he doesn’t hesitate to point out the faults and weaknesses he sees in his sons, daughter, and daughters-in-law. Not, mind you, just for the sake of criticizing us; no, he knows that the sooner we see ourselves for what we are, the sooner we can begin to change, to cultivate virtue, to root out sin. And last night was no exception.
He agreed with the commenter. And he was right.
Moments like these always come accompanied by grace. One of the strengths of my writing has always been my honesty. Unfortunately, too often I have confused honestly with humility. I told my mother-in-law last night that, after all, I was just being honest. I wasn’t pretending to be any more or less than what I was. I didn’t have an abortion. I wouldn’t have.
How self-righteous is that? Anne is right. I was patting myself on the back for being better than women who have had abortions.
You know what? Many women who have had abortions haven’t jumped headfirst down the rabbit hole of drug addiction, without a thought to who they might hurt in the process. Many women who have had abortions now have children, and are wonderful mothers. They don’t lose their temper and yell at their children for no good reason.
And who is to say that I wouldn’t have had an abortion, had my lot in life been different? What if I had had to suffer the pain of a broken home, what if the father of my child had pushed me to “get rid of it”? What if I had no support whatsoever? How can I say what I would or wouldn’t have done?
When I began blogging, I was desperate. I was desperate to get outside of my life a little, to find a community, to have some sort of creative outlet.
And I loved it, for a while. I loved the friends I made. I loved the things I was learning, the blogs I was reading. I loved the friends I made in my comment-boxes, and all the wonderful things they had to say. But slowly it became less and less about me loving them, and more and more about them loving me. As my followers crept upward, all those little faces went to my head.
My posts began to change. I began to think less about what I wanted to write about, what I had learned, the lessons I had been taught, and more about what would get me a good response. More followers. An uptick in my stats.
Even my last post was carefully planned. I was feeling beaten up by the outrage over my post on men. I had made weak arguments. I hadn’t thought it through. I didn’t give the subject the time it deserved. So when I read Dr. Nadal’s post, I immediately jumped on the chance to write about something that would energize my base.
Ugh. Yeah, I even thought those words. Energize my base. After all, I thought, they’re all pro-life. They’ll all appreciate a post like this!
The thing is, the subject is worth writing on. But using it as fodder for my vanity? That’s debasing something that I have always claimed to hold in the highest regard — the pro-life movement. Furthermore, it’s manipulating my readers. My readers, you whom I love, who have been (even in your honesty) more generous to me than I had any right to expect.
I don’t know where to go from here. I know that a dam has been broken, if you will. I wish I could give you some grand promise, but all I can say, really, is thank you. Thank you for being honest with me, for being unafraid to point out something that I didn’t even see myself.
But even as I write this post, and try to find a way to wrap it up, I feel false, somehow. The Ever-Teacher talked last night about Hopkins’ poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”, which I read as soon as I woke up this morning. He was pointing out how, in the midst of the most dramatic part of the poem, Hopkins turns inward, scathingly.
|Ah, touched in your bower of bone|
|Are you! turned for an exquisite smart,|
|Have you! make words break from me here all alone,|
|Do you!—mother of being in me, heart.||40|
|O unteachably after evil, but uttering truth,|
|Why, tears! is it? tears; such a melting, a madrigal start!|
|Never-eldering revel and river of youth,|
|What can it be, this glee? the good you have there of your own?|
There’s something of that in me this morning. Something of the Pharisee. Even as I write, I can’t escape thinking, “Now they’ll see that I’m really humble! Now they’ll see how well I really take criticism!”
Ugh. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so frustrating.
Just for this one post, I’m turning off comments. I want to let this post stand on it’s own, as something that needs to be said. And I want to say it because it needs to be said, not because I need someone to give me a virtual hug in the comment box.
Bear with me, friends, as I figure out what virtue really means and how to live it. I’ll stumble more often than I’ll walk.