A Story About Windows
I want to start off with a story. This comes from a man named Thomas S. Monson who was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gave this message in a spiritual conference, a devotional, and I have remembered this story ever since the very first second I heard it. So let me share it with you:
“A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash. ‘That laundry is not clean!’ Lisa exclaimed. ‘Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean.’ John looked on but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments. A few weeks later, Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, ‘Look, John. She’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it!’ John replied, ‘Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows.’”
I just want that to sink in for a second.
“I got up this morning and washed our windows.”
The whole time this woman had been looking out her window judging her neighbor for her dirty laundry when, in reality, it was her window that was dirty.
How many times do we do this to each other?
In one of my very favorite spiritual songs, there’s a line that says, “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly?”
I don’t know about you, but I definitely have struggles. Like definitely, definitely, have struggles in my life. Especially in my life as a mom.
I remember seeing moms in the grocery story snap at their kids. I would tell myself things like, “I’m never going to be a mom who snaps at their kids in the grocery store.” Or seeing a kid with snot running down their face and think, “My kids will NEVER have snot on their faces when we go out in public.” Or seeing a child with a dirty shirt and say to myself, “My kid’s shirt will never be dirty when we go out in public.”
Oh my gosh. Ha!
Now I get it.
Now I totally, totally get it!
We Mommas Are In This Together
I think we are so quick to judge each other when really we don’t know the situation that’s going on.
There have been times when I have snapped at my children in the grocery store. And you know what? It was a time when life felt really heavy and really hard. And it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. That is not my norm. It is not my norm to snap at my kids in public in front of other people.
Do I snap at home? Yeah, way more often than I would like to admit, but for the most part, I try to live by the rule: praise in public, criticize in private. So that my kids don’t have the shame of being embarrassed in front of other people in addition to the hardship of already being taught something hard.
I value having hard conversations, but I don’t personally feel the need to scream at my children. I do think it is totally okay to use a harsher tone so that they hear you and take you more seriously, but I strive not to be mean, or yell, or shriek, or scream. Again that’s my norm.
But, I have definitely shrieked.
I have definitely yelled.
I have definitely screamed.
I have definitely lost my cool.
And sometimes that’s happened in public places.
I know for me, I immediately have a feeling of guilt. For my own self. Because I know that I’m not showing up the way that I want to. For my own children, for myself, and I know that there’s at least one person who just heard me that probably judged me. And so all the guilt just gets piled on even further.
Right now I want to speak to the young moms or those who are not yet parents (if you are an older momma, I feel like you GET this. You understand this! And you are the one helping us younger mommas out!) I want to invite us all to stop judging. Just stop.
I want to challenge us to be better at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes because we have no idea what is going on in other people’s personal lives. We have no idea if they just found out that their sister has cancer. Or if their spouse just left them. Or if their mom just died. Or if they just found out that their best friend has a terminal illness. Or that their child might be passing away soon. Or they are buried in debt. Or whatever.
We don’t know their situation.
If they snap at their children in the middle of a grocery store, give them the benefit of the doubt. Look at them. And Thumper in reverse.
Thumper, from Bambi, says, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I say Thumper in reverse. “If you have something nice to say, say it. Don’t just think it. Say it!”
If you see someone in the grocery store struggling with her children, stop and talk to her and tell her, “Girlfriend, I have been there. I know exactly what you’re going through, don’t even worry about it.” And let her know she’s not alone and that we moms, we’re in this together. That way we can stop that comparison and mom guilt and mom shame. We have got to be in this together. And we have got to stop the judgment. On other people, and on ourselves.
Last fall, I was at a pumpkin patch with my family and we walked past this family. The mom was wearing her baby and she also had a little boy who was probably around 3-5 years of age. That little cutie had totally pulled his pants down, pants down to his ankles, had turned around, and was peeing. Like, in a public place for all to see! I looked at her and I just smiled and I said, “Oh momma, I’ve totally been where you are.” She kind of smiled and looked at me like, “Okay, I’m wearing my baby, what are you talking about?” And then she looked down and noticed her son. She didn’t even know that he was peeing. She was like, “Oh my gosh, what are you doing?!” I was laughing so hard because I have been there. I have totally been in public places where all of a sudden my son is peeing and I had no idea. And you know what? We have got to laugh in those moments. We have to. Because life is too short to just be angry and grumpy about everything.
Our children are beautiful souls who really just don’t know any better. And it’s our job and responsibility to teach them.
When we see those mishaps, in public places, it’s also our job to reach out to that other mom and say, “You know what girlfriend, you’re not alone. I know what you’re going through and we’re in this together.” And to actually say it out loud. And to have that personal connection, that personal touch.
Are We Being Hypocritical?
There is an author, Brené Brown, and she is one of my favorite authors ever. She shared in her book Daring Greatly a story about teaching her own son not to gossip. When we choose to gossip, it typically means that something is wrong inside of us. And that we have something that we’re feeling uncomfortable or insecure about in ourselves, and therefore we see it glaringly obvious in others. Brené taught her son this.
One day, he overheard her at an elementary school activity talking negatively about one of his classmate’s moms and the cleanliness of her house and that maybe they shouldn’t have this PTA event at this person’s house because their house was not clean.
As soon as they got home, Brené’s son called her aside and asked her, “Mom, is something going on inside your heart? Do you feel like you’re not good enough?”
Brené was caught off guard thinking, “What are you talking about?”
And he answered, “Well, I heard you being mean to my friend’s mom.”
It was a total gut-check moment for Brené.
She told him, “You’re right. You’re totally right.”
I think that is an important lesson for us as parents. To first recognize how we’re speaking about other people, and also to recognize if we are being hypocritical. Are we teaching our children things and then turning around and doing them ourselves? I invite myself, I invite all of us, to truly reflect on that. If you’re teaching your child something, are you doing it? Because it’s so cliche, but they really will learn more from the things we do than from the things we say.
Grace For Those Who Judge US
In addition to not judging others, let’s give other people grace when they choose to judge us. Taking offense is a choice we can make. If someone does say something to you that is judgmental and hurtful, remember that you have a choice whether or not you want to be offended by the words that they said.
I will be completely 100 million percent real, this is something I’m still working on myself. The quickest way to hurt a woman is to talk her down when it comes to her physical appearance or her motherhood. And when people attack me in one of those two areas, it still hurts me too. I am not superhuman. Those things still hurt me and I’m working really hard to overcome that by remembering the thought I just shared: “When we choose to gossip, it typically means that something is wrong inside of us. And that we have something that we’re feeling uncomfortable or insecure about in ourselves, and therefore we see it glaringly obvious in others.” So really? They’re saying something hurtful to me, but they feel it themselves too.
I am choosing to give those people the benefit of the doubt as well. What did the Savior say when He was on the cross? “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
When other people make comments that hurt us, we can follow Christ’s example and forgive them, because maybe they didn’t know that what they just said was actually incredibly hurtful. We can give them the benefit of the doubt and wonder if they’re going through something hard themselves. We can choose whether or not we take offense.
This blog post is twofold then, right? Don’t judge other people, and don’t let other people’s judgments affect you. Give others grace.
And momma? Give yourself grace too. You are doing better than you think you are. You are enough. You are an incredible mom. Grace Momma, Grace.