Mother’s Day for the rest of us

If your mother was

absolutely atrocious

amazingly inappropriate

astonishingly unprepared

ridiculously ill-advised

horribly caustic









flawed, flawed, flawed, flawed, flawed, flawed, flawed

If your mother

never failed

to make terribly clear

that her unhappiness

her pain

her trouble

her drama

her version of who you should be

was more dear to her

than who you actually were

so that you

had to live your life


for whatever messed up version of love

you could get from her

then today

just today

on Mother’s Day

(with the birds blithely twittering

and the flowers spectacularly abloom)

give yourself permission

to love her.


Surrender to that.

For that love is

after all

your birthright

it is

the perfectly exquisite burden

which owns you.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • DR

    I love this, and you. This is perfect. Thank you.

  • Elizabeth

    This is amazing. Thank you, John.

  • Soulmentor

    Yes, this is a very fine attitude. Totally agree. My mother was a lovely, dutiful wife and mother…..a suburban Chicago woman stunted by marrying into a patriarchal Minnesota farm world, a poetic spirit who never again played her violin. Wrote a few poems I cherish.

    But she died years ago thinking I’m going to hell for being gay. Never abusive to me about it, but she made her dismay very clear, just once. I could never think of her the same again. Almost didn’t go to her funeral. My father wept when I showed up. The only other time I saw him weep was when his mother died. I never knew him either.

    • K

      Dear Soulmentor,

      I believe she now knows that she was wrong because I believe she would be shown the truth. If you can, let her reach you with her love and approval now for I believe she would want you to feel it.

      If your dad is gone too, I believe the same for him as well. I really do.

      Peace to your soul and love to your heart

  • Lymis

    John, that’s wonderful. Thank you.

  • Auntie Dasch via Facebook

    i can’t thank you enough for these healing words. xoxo

  • LisaZ

    This is right on. But it’s the last part that’s hard work and I’m always working on it. Thank you for this.

  • Keetcha

    My mom left when I was seven. I had seen her drunk so many times by then: laying on the floor, holding a knife to my dad’s throat, sharing herself with strange men when dad was away, locking me out and sending me away when I tried to come home after school, kicking me in the face from her bed, and then calling me various hurtful things as I got older whenever she did manage to have contact with me. In my teens I was ready to forgive her. It was just too great a weight on me and it messed up my head pretty bad. She just could not stop drinking or getting involved with men who beat the hell out of her. What I witnessed was her self-hatred unleashed. I spent years out of contact with her because of it. She remained sober when spending time with her granddaughter later and she never stopped asking for forgiveness. Now she lives in a home because of Korsakoff’s syndrome, not knowing what day or what time it is from minute to minute. Just as her brain was being attacked with the Korsakoff’s, she phoned me frightened but it was too late. There is no point in revisiting the past too often for obvious reasons and I may yet garner the courage to visit her as she is now. I have regular updates on her status. She was a child of war and something happened that she could not get relief from. I believe that the memory loss is a way of relief for her now, not aware of her intense pain anymore. She is in God’s mighty hand now. What else can I do but forgive her, there is nothing left. I have my own beautiful teen daughter whom I love to pieces and we are very close. Mother’s Day is full of pain and full of hope also for me. God has all the bases covered. I needed to share this today. Bless you John and all your amazing commentators. You are my computer church of late.

  • Michelle Henley Matthews via Facebook

    Thank you for this….

  • C

    Mother’s Day had always been hard for me as a man. My own mother died when I was very young, and not having anyone to celebrate this day was very painful. Sure, I could celebrate what I could remember of her, but that was different.

    When I married, I could celebrate Mother’s Day with my wife… until she became abusive, both mentally and physically. It was hard to celebrate some who called you “F___head” and then hit you and then said, “A real man could take some hitting.” (Later, I learned it was partly because of her own abusive childhood and earlier relationships.)

    Celebrate my wife on Mother’s Day? Forget it.

    Much later in life, when I remarried, I could celebrate my new wife, and then as our kids were born and began to grow, I helped them celebrate her. But when she left us to be with another man and his kids, leaving two little ones with me, Mothers Day fell flat.

    Church was especially hard as a single father, with the entire service on Mother’s Day usually taken up with gushing about mothers being there for their children, nurturing, sacrificing, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I was usually up all the night before myself with two young ones who needed some serious loving.

    It didn’t help that next month, Father’s Day in church was typically either not acknowledged at all or paid some lip service to dads who work outside the home so the moms can better raise the children.

    So, as a single father with two children 24/7, I often did not even go to church on Mother’s Day. It was simply too painful.

    Celebrate their mother on Mother’s Day? Forget it.

    However, years later, after much healing and transformation of spirit through God’s assurance of love, and my faith, I am now married to a wonderful woman who expresses love not only to me but also to two adult children who were not hers. She’s there for them as well well as me, and they treasure everything she does for them. And I do her.

    We celebrate her every day, and especially, but not exclusively, on Mother’s Day. I celebrate her because I now experience the love that God had intended for me.

    If you never knew darkness, why would you appreciate light?

    • Mother’s Love

      Dear C,

      I’m sending love to that small boy inside of you that lost his mother. I’m rocking him and holding him and telling him he is loved – always and forever.

      And I’m telling you, the grown up man with the little boy inside, that I am very sorry for all the heartache you have been through. I’m am glad you are basking in the light now.

      Peace and love to you – always and forever

    • Karen Miller

      To C – My husband reared his 3 children alone. His wife left him when the youngest was a baby. They are grown now, the eldest is 43, the two boys in their 30′s. They call every Mother’s Day to wish their dad Happy Mother’s Day. They know he was both mother and father.

      I have yet to make the difficult call to my mother. I do not have the mother that is celebrated by Hallmark. However, I will gladly say this. Happy Mother’s Day to you C. You, more than many mother’s have earned this day to celebrate parenthood.

      Peace to you and yours.

      • Christine

        I read an article written to a Miss Ettiquette type. A woman was getting married and wanted a tradition wedding and to be given away. She had had three fathers: her biological father she was now in touch with, the father who raised her as a child, and her mother’s current husband. uncertain what to do and not wanted to offend any of them, she asked “Who should walk me down the ailse?” The response…?

        “Easy. Your mother.”

        It was obvious, really. Her mother had raised her from the beginning and be given away be her mother would offend any of her parents. But she was so caught up in the genderedness of it, that the woman, who had considered all other possibilities, missed it.

        I wish we wouldn’t gender these days. Not everyone has a mother and father, and not all mothers and fathers have traditional gender roles. Had we just called it Parent’s Day, C, you would have known all along that the day was to celebrate you.

    • C

      Thank you all so much for your words of support and comfort. (And thanks to John to have a forum where such issues can be raised.)

      Mother’s Love, I appreciate your sending the love.

      Karen, I know that my “mothering” of my children was a VERY GOOD THING.

      Christine, when I was facilitating a Single Parents’ Ministry at my church, we began celebrating “Mothers and Fathers’ Day” on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for that very reason.

      Bless you all!

  • Adara Pallady via Facebook

    Thank you, John.

  • Heather

    Take all of what you said, change Mother to Father & vice versa and then this was written just for me. I thank you for this. 40 years in to my life and I’m still working on deciding if I forgive.

    Thank you John Shore for having so much insight and sharing it with the rest of us.

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    Thank you John. I needed this.

  • Amomof2

    I cannot believe, today, that God demonstrated Love and Understanding for me and sent these wonderful words to me through your blog. Thank you, John.

    I’ve been heartsick this week believing, again, that I was in the wrong. I’ve been looking at the “truth” of who my family is and not really willing to cover up the lies and enable her to be the half baked mom she has been. It hurts to know how many years I enabled her nasty behavior and several of us justified it. I haven’t been able to say thank you to the woman who called it what it was back in middle school: abuse.

    I’m very grateful that God gave me a space this morning to speak the truth to others, and am feeling better about today. May I continue to be the mom my children need, and stop the cycle of abuse, addictions, and excuses.

    • Mindy M.

      Grateful for this moment of brightness on this day for you, Amomof2.

  • John Gragson via Facebook

    the peace of the Lord be with you.

  • Diana Wells Miller via Facebook

    You have absolutely no idea how much I needed to read this today.

  • Emma

    Thanks for this. It’s hard when you feel like you’re the only person in the world raised by a toxic mother– amidst the lovely Betty Crocker Mums we see everywhere, to acknowledge that some mothers are awful– that’s a very healing thing.

  • Don Rappe

    Good words.

  • Christy

    thank you.

  • nickole huffman

    I’m sitting here with a lump in my throat.

    thanks for recognizing those who have not grown up in a loving relationship with a Mother. I looked out the window today as we were leaving a park (my Husband and children were celebrating ME today) and I saw generations of families out celebrating the mothers in their lives, and I muttered, “It really stinks that my Mom is an idiot.” There are those toxic relationships in our lives that we must steer clear from but there’s still that hole in our hearts that screams, “IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY!!!!” and we continue to grieve and mourn what was lost. I often wish that things were different….but I’m thankful for a God who seeks to redeem my life, redefine TRUTH for me, and speak lovingly despite the words that were spoken to me in the past. I’m thankful for Him.

  • n.

    See this is why i suck at buddhism. And christianity, for that matter.

    And yes i changed the name i usually post under.

    • n.

      Reading some of the stories here in the comments, and of course John Shore’s family stories, i think my parents weren’t that bad.

      But still needed this. Wish i had seen it Sunday.