Monday, February 15, 2010

Love One Another

It saddens me that so often women tear each other down-- either directly or indirectly through rudeness, criticism, discouragement, negativity, judgment, or gossip-- over our differences in choices or opinions. I've seen women tear each other down over things like how many kids they have (or if they have kids at all), whether they work or stay home, how they choose to labor and birth, whether they breastfeed or use formula, how they choose to discipline, whether they have their kids in public school, private school, or homeschool, and on and on and ON! I'm sure we've all been guilty of this, but the fact that it's commonplace doesn't make it okay.

Like most women, I've been guilty of being judgmental of people who do things differently than me, but that's not an attitude I'm okay with in myself, and I have worked hard to change it. I believe that most people are doing what they feel is best for them and their families at the time, based on the information they have, their own hearts, and how they feel God is leading them. We may all come to different decisions about different things, and we may disagree on some things. That's normal! It's okay if we don't agree on some things, but it's not okay for us to tear each other down because of our differences. Disagreement does not have to equal judgment. In the end, we are all responsible for our own decisions; just as I believe God will guide me if he wants me to change something in my life, I believe God will guide others if he wants them to change something. Therefore, my place is not to judge other women; it is to be a friend and to be encouraging. I believe in the fruit of the Spirit being present in all aspects of my life, and this includes my relationships with other women.

I worry a lot that people will assume I'm judging them if I simply have a different opinion and share it. Because I am passionate about things like birth and families, I feel that it's important to share information and be honest about my thoughts and experiences. But I also feel that it's important to be approachable, friendly, and non-judgmental in doing so. God used people who were encouraging, non-judgmental, and firm in their beliefs to help guide me to where I am now, and I am so glad.

Here is the trap that I've found I fall into if I'm not careful, and I wonder if other women have similar struggles. I'm confident in my beliefs and decisions, and I'm not going to hide them or apologize for having them; that is healthy. But confidence combined with a passion for a particular issue can lead to being critical and judgmental if left unchecked. I think the answer to being gentle and encouraging lies in determining what I love and value most: people or the issue at hand. If I am putting the issue above people, I am much more likely to tear other people down. But the fruit of the Spirit is there when I love and value people first and foremost; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So how can women move toward loving and valuing each other more? I think this is the key to being more encouraging and supportive of each other. And honestly, I think one of the most obvious ways to do this is to intentionally cultivate relationships with each other.

This is something I want to facilitate. After reading about the idea of Friendship Fridays, I've decided to do something similar. So starting on March 5, I will be opening my home on the first Friday afternoon of every month for women to just spend time together and get to know each other. I'm definitely open to doing this more often or at a different time, but I think this is a good place to start. Children are welcome, of course; children are a part of many women's lives, and it seems counter-intuitive to exclude them from a women's group! There will be coffee, tea, juice, a little snack, and toys for the kids to play with. I think it'll be great fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

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