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8th Commandment Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Liz Ten Commandments The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

The Danger of Being “Fine”

“I’m fine.”

“Just great!”

“Doing well, thanks.”

No matter how we’re actually feeling or doing, it’s generally considered a matter of American etiquette to put on a cheery face and respond nicely to anybody and everybody we meet who asks the quintessential question of politeness: “How are you?” Even in the face of grief, loss, injury or suffering, you’ll hear folks attempting to respond to the question with as much positivity as they can muster.  It’s almost reflexive.

Have the flu or broke your arm? “Oh, I’m doing OK, really!” 

Just had a 24-hour labor ending in a C-section or finished a round of chemo? “Oh, I’m just a little tired. I’m sure I’ll be on my feet in no time!”

Someone you love passed away? Going through a divorce? “Oh, I’m ‘getting there’ one day at a time!”

While societal customs insist we put on our bravest, happiest attitude for everything from the casual encounter on the street to the concerned inquiry from a friend, are we really doing ourselves any favors by defaulting to “fine?”

 In this Washington Post article from last July, pediatrician Dr. Smita Malhotra talks about shifting her outlook on defaulting to a happy face after she realized she was lying to her young daughter about her feelings.  She comments that, as a physician, she can clearly see the damage that forced positivity has on mental health:

“By constantly telling children to “turn that frown upside down,” our society sends them the message that being sad is almost unnatural. That it is something that needs to be fixed immediately … In my work as a physician I have seen increasing numbers of children and young adults being put on antidepressants. In many cases, these drugs are needed … But sometimes, they are used as a way to avoid dealing with sadness.”

Dr. Malhotra goes on to explain how mindfulness and honesty about one’s own emotions is a healthier choice that leads to greater resilience, more empathy for others and a realization that we do not have to be defined by our feelings.  Her column comes from a secular and medical viewpoint, but her words also have great value for those of us who live the Christian life. What she’s talking about is actually directly related to one of the Ten Commandments. Number Eight, specifically.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Before you go feeling panicked you’ve got one more reason to head to the confessional, let’s put the brakes on for a moment.

It’s not a mortal sin to let “I’m just fine,” slip out of your mouth when someone asks you how you’re feeling.  And it’s not immoral to want to protect others from your own suffering, or keep your personal problems private, or put on a happy face, or make the best out of any bad situation.  The Catechism summarizes the Eighth Commandment as “forbid[ding] misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.”  It defines a lie as “speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”  It also makes clear that intention and circumstances often define the gravity of a fib, and that we’re never bound to reveal information to someone who has “no right to know it.”

But it’s also not being needy, or too negative, or a “complainer” to be politely open and honest with anyone, even a stranger, who asks what’s going on in your life.  In fact, this approach has a lot of spiritual benefits to recommend it.

Displaying our mental, physical and spiritual wounds to those who inquire about them grows us in humility and truthfulness.  It makes us vulnerable like Christ was vulnerable, but it also allows others the chance to be Christ by ministering to our needs.  It opens up channels of trust by allowing others in our lives to see our true selves, and it helps us all dispel the widespread and anti-Christian societal illusion that the only people worth associating with are the ones who “have it all together.”

So the next time you’re having a bad day and someone asks you how you are, pause a moment and considering answering more honestly.

“I’m struggling a little today.”

“Oh, my heart hurts over the things going on in the world.”

“I’m working on feeling positive this morning, but I’m not there yet.”

“Not so well. Actually, could you help me with this?”

You might feel needy and awkward, but you might also find God’s comfort and love hiding in an unexpected place. 

And that is just fine.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

 
Categories
Ink Slingers Martina

23 Ways Society Lies to Catholic Women

 

Society tries so hard to feed women lies about our self-worth. What makes it worse is that the comments directed to Catholic women aren’t just a stab at our womanhood, but the Faith we profess and strive to live each day. Oftentimes, I find myself in casual conversation with other Catholic women and how the message society sends to women is often demeaning to those who choose any path that’s different than what society has defined as “successful.” As a result, I find there to be varying levels and degrees of inadequacy that women may experience as a result. We have sometimes unknowingly bought the lie that any of the following must be true for us to fit the mold of that perfect female in society. Among the many women who I asked what lies they had heard over the years, it was refreshing to see a common thread that more and more women are catching on to those lies and seeing them for what they are. Here are just a few of those lies:

  • Birth control will solve all your problems.
  • Teen moms always fail. Teens can’t be good parents. Kids ruin your life. Your career and/or education is the most important thing in your life.
  • You don’t need a man. Men are the enemy.
  • Women’s issues translate to people touting free birth control or abortion access instead of issues we actually care about like jobs and security.
  • Instead of focusing on why women are different and amazing creatures… we should be trying to constantly prove how we can do anything men can do 
  • Being a mom isn’t a job. That everything has to be perfect all of the time. That if you stay at home, your husband won’t respect you because you don’t bring in money. That all men are pigs. That all men only want one thing, and you should be ok with that because we are all “sexual beings” and it’s ok to experiment. That he won’t buy the cow if he hasn’t had the milk (lol). How much times have changed… we went from “if you have sex with him, he’ll never marry you”, to “if you don’t have sex with him, he won’t ever commit to you” – Good Lord, help us.
  • Children don’t need fathers.
  • Wanting to be a stay at home mom (or even a mom at all) is proof that you’re oppressed (and, usually, have “internalized” and accepted that oppression as normal).
  • A “real woman” can “have it all” and successfully balance being a mom and having a full-time job. Thus proving that if you feel like a failure when you try to do both, that you’re just not good enough.
  • Sex without commitment and consequences (and by extension, birth control and abortion) is good for women.
  • Women are better than men.
  • That your worth comes from achievements and productivity.
  • If your toddler is attached to you, you have trouble letting your children grow up.
  • Children are inconvenient. 
  • There’s nothing wrong with sleeping around if you aren’t going to get married. Virginity is a “waste”. Women can do anything men can do and vice versa.
  • A Catholic woman’s stance on serving her husband is lowering the intelligence and worth of women because we should all be feminist who think men are objects or something, right?
  • Children are super expensive. For us, children have been a bigger “line item” than we ever anticipated😉
    The message then for me is that children are not *worth* the expense. 
  • Sort of the same line of thought, though not so much a message for/about women: kids don’t naturally like/welcome younger siblings, sibling rivalry is the natural way and you always need to go out of your way to prevent it and make them at least “okay” with being “replaced” as the youngest.
  • It’s normal, acceptable, and good for men to look at porn and you are a horrible, controlling spouse/partner if you don’t want your SO to watch porn/go to strip clubs/masturbate.
  • If you stay at home, you have it so easy. Everything should be done perfectly all the time. Homemade birthday cakes, clean house, obedient children. It’s not like you have an actual job.
  • Oh, and you can’t spend money on yourself because you didn’t earn it. And you made this choice, so you’d better not complain or show signs of having difficulties with it.
  • As a Catholic woman: There is only one way to be feminine. Whether it’s the traddie version of the Stepford wife or the Proverbs 31 superwoman, there is only one ideal. And you don’t even come close.
  • Your beauty is external. I would add that, no matter your accomplishments as a woman, you are not good enough/less than/uninteresting unless you are sexually attractive. Your value comes from your external appeal.
  • As Catholic woman we are oppressed, too. There is no place in the Church for women if we can’t be priests.

Do you recognize any of these?

Perhaps you have heard your own.

What do you wish society understood about you, a Catholic woman?

Categories
Respect Life

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…

"Good women have abortions" Photo taken by Elizabeth McClung

UPDATE: I received an e-mail* from the good folks at Whole Woman’s Health that said:

Hi Martina,

I’m a representative of Whole Woman’s Health. We recently came across a photograph of our staff members that had been posted on our blog, on your website. We’re politely asking that you please remove our photograph from your website. 

In the future, if you’d like to use any of our photographs, please contact us first.

Thank you, 

Andrea

*Catholic Sistas considers any and all correspondence with us to be public domain, to be used at our discretion.

You may view *still* view their PROUD display of posting this banner by visiting that particular blog entry.

All evil is wrapped in a pretty package. No one would choose to do evil if it actually presented itself truthfully. In an effort to create awareness this month, we will be taking various pictures of the lies that are perpetuated {sometimes proudly, such as in this photo} and fed to women who may not know the difference. This photo was taken at a local abortion clinic here in Austin, Texas, where they proudly posted this picture – ON their blog. The sad reality is that we are in agreement with them on this one, but from opposite sides of the iron fence.

Elizabeth McClung, executive director of the Austin Coalition for Life, had this to say about this picture:

Uh…since when did I say that women who have abortions are bad? How heartless and judgmental of a person does one have to be to think that way? Thanks Whole Woman’s Health for posting a sign that I agree with! Also a good sign that they are reacting to our presence in front of their clinic. If we weren’t having an impact on the women going inside, they wouldn’t feel the need to respond to us defensively or offensively. 🙂

This photo obviously speaks for itself, but what do you think the caption should say?** Respond in the comments section to let us know!

**If you have taken or discovered a picture that perpetuates the lies and want your photo featured, please e-mail us at catholic.sistas{at}gmail{dot}com.