Social media has made information and personal opinion more accessible but it has also increased personal anxiety, pressure to perform and a disguised way of “mom-shaming”.
Mom shaming is real. It can be disguised as a personal opinion or through strong “advocacies”. Don’t get me wrong, advocacies are good but there are some who are insensitive and have a disheartening practice that calls out a mother for a particular parenting or life choice.
I have been sharing the struggles of raising my spirited 3-year old boy and mothers have shared their stories. Let me share with you REAL stories shared to me.
Bianca (not her real name) struggles with her possessive daughter’s attitude joins a playgroup and her daughter got into a fight. Tom grabbed her toy and she ran after Tom and hit Tom to get back her toy. The next day, the mother of Tom messages Bianca that Tom has a bruise and another mother from the playgroup messaged Bianca to tell her that Bianca is not able to manage her daughter, that her daughter is spoiled and her attitude is out of control. Bianca simply cried and apologized feeling so ashamed by her daughter and feels incompetent.
Carla (not her real name) messages and schedules a meeting or coffee date together with other mothers to talk about Megan’s (not yet real name) motives and actions. To talk about how wrong Megan is and tells her friends that if she, Carla was in Megan’s shoes, she wouldn’t do what she did. I thought this only happens in the movies but apparently it has happened.
Sally (not her real name) is spending time with her mom in a restaurant while her son plays with her yaya. The table with a group of moms near them give Sally “the eye”. Little do they know that she has spent the whole morning teaching, playing, feeding her son whose love tank is full. Now she opts to spend an hour with her mother whom she has missed.
Becky (not her real name) saw Carlos (his son’s classmate) hit her son Juancho. Becky confronts the teacher and tells her how Carlos always starts the fight. Little did Becky now that her son Juancho provoked Carlos and at other times would be the one to hit Carlos.
Samantha (not yet real name) has a 8 month old baby who practices BLW (Baby Led Weaning), they are in a restaurant and the baby is a bit messy in eating as he is using his hands to eat. A mother approaches the table and says “you shouldn’t allow your child to do that. You should discipline your child properly”.
Inside an elevator, Jessica, together with her son talks aloud about how rude another person is inside the elevator is. (Parinig). The person affected retaliated and they got into a heated argument. The son simply watched.
I am not saying that we should be fanatics, be superficial, be permissive and cheer our friend even if her actions are not of our preference. It is beyond “to each his own”. Instead we should be intentionally and actively involved not just with our children but also with our friends. It takes a village to build up and one stone to kill.
Here are 3 practical action points we can all practice:
1. Listen first before you speak up your opinion...at the right time.
“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19
It is always dangerous to speak up during a heated moment. It is so easy to shame and insist that we are right and the other person is wrong. Take yourself out of the room or even allow a day to pass. Schedule a coffee date or a life-on-life date or after a breather, train yourself to ask questions and fight the urge to dictate and correct immediately.
Ask questions. Listen. Hold her hand and let her know that you hear her struggles, and challenges; may it be breastfeeding, being a working mom, training her child and all the other pressures of parenting and marriage.
Once a person has opened up, your perspective changes, your heart will sympathize and your mind will act on compassion.
Tell her that you would like to give your observation and you are talking to her out of concern. Discuss the situation but do not stop there.
End it by asking, “How can I extend my help, support or encourage you?”
In my personal opinion, this is a loving way to “correct in love”. It is not enough to “be pranka” or “tell a person that she was wrong instead of hide it” “or “mas ok na sinabe ko sayo to kesa I-backstab kita”. Real mature concern takes into consideration the timing, the listening before being straightforward or “pranka”.
2. Compassion is better than being right.
“Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” – Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)
Conflicts usually arise when we believe that we are right and the other person is wrong. It takes 2 rubbed stones to create fire. Instead, have the right motive why you are sharing your opinions or advocacy – it is to provide information, share your personal experience to provide educate and not to impress others.
There are times when you may actually be really correct but take into consideration the concern of others too. Compassion involves timing, relationship and respect. Allow compassion to win.
Have the self control to hold back from shaming. Discussing “opinions” may sometimes be a “disguised gossip” and “disguised shaming”.
A person may be wrong in many aspects but shaming her toward other family members, friends, moms, colleagues or even online say a lot about who you are and what you are teaching your child to become.
Compassion is better than being right.
3. Love in action and build each other up.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1Thessalonian 5:11
It is not enough to correct a person. Instead, may we all practice love in action. To ask how we can work together; to offer help.
If you are deeply concerned and affected about your friend’s decisions and parenting, then have the goal to build her up and learn to comfortably say “how can I help?” instead of listing down all of her mistakes. She feels bad enough.
If a mother has a rowdy toddler across the table, come up, offer help to entertain instead of shaming the mother. The mother feels exhausted enough.
“Stick and stones may break my bones but words can also hurt me. Sticks and stones break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me. Pain from words has left its scar on mind and heart that’s tender. Cuts and bruises now have healed. Its words that I remember.”
Let us build up and not shame. Our response is our responsibility but your shaming makes you accountable to the Lord.
Find the perfect timing to correct and respect the person but keeping things private. This builds up the person and does not shame or cause anxiety that leads to depression.
Hurt people, hurt people. Kill the hunger to shame and the need to feel good by comparing your decisions as better than another. At the end of the day, they are accountable to the Lord.
If you find yourself with a person who shames repetitively, protect yourself as well and detach from this person. Being reconciled doesn’t mean that you always need to be best friends with everyone.
Let us stop shaming people and practice to be more kind, to have more courage to stop the urge to criticize and shame and be more compassionate to practice love in action.
Every person has her own challenges and hurts, see people the way Jesus sees them. Look beyond the behavior and see her hurting heart. She needs your help and not to be shamed.
Being corrected is also an uncomfortable feeling. But if we want others to be more compassionate, we also need to soften our attitude, learn with humility, and be teachable today. To listen to correction, process, learn and reboot!
Let us build a community that builds each other up. Because it is possible!
Let us train and captivate our mind, heart and hands to –
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” - Philippians 4:8
See description and differences of Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion.
Sympathy – feeling sorry for another’s hurt
Sympathy is feeling sorry for another’s hurt or pain. There is some emotional distance with sympathy – you are not experiencing the pain for yourself, rather you are saying “Isn’t it sad that this person is having a bad time”. Sometimes sympathy can tip into pity, and that is where some caution is needed. Pity is an emotion that tends to dehumanize and belittle. Most people who have a disability or other challenges will despise being ‘pitied’ as pity strips away the rich reality of their human experience and leaves just the difficulty or disability on view. For a deeper relationship and understanding, empathy is needed.
Empathy – walking in another’s shoes
Empathy takes things a little deeper – it is the ability to experience for yourself some of the pain that the other person may be experiencing. It is an acknowledgement of our shared experience as humans and recognition that we all feel grief and loss and pain and fear. You do not need to have experienced exactly the same events as the person who is suffering but you do need to have the ability to really imagine how they must be feeling in their situation. Empathy is a vicarious experience – if your friend is feeling afraid, you too will experience a feeling of fear in your body; if they are sad, you too will feel sorrow. Feeling empathy is allowing yourself to become tuned into another person’s emotional experience. It takes courage to do this but if you have ever experienced real empathy from another when you have been hurting, you will know what a gift it can be.
Compassion – love in action
If empathy is the ability to really experience some of the feelings of pain that another person is feeling, then compassion is to translate that feeling into action. You understand that your friend is feeling worried and stressed with their aging relative in hospital, so you cook the family some dinners and take their children for an afternoon. True compassion reaches out to all people, no matter whether they are your friends or not, and even to all living creatures. It is the ability and willingness to stand alongside someone and to put their needs before your own.
Living a compassionate life can be learned – it is not just something that some ‘extra-good’ people are born with. Changing habits takes persistence and practice but it is achievable through the right methods.
Many of the worlds’ wisest people have stated that giving to others in life is the source of the greatest contentment and life satisfaction, so there are many personal benefits to be gained as well.
Compassionately correct in love and at the same time be a person that humbly listens to correction, process the situations and accepts the need to reboot.