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Little Things

October 8, 2010

Even in the most painful of maternal failures,

our own angers,

and the angers of children and spouses

who believe we have failed in small things and great,

we draw ever closer to God,

and He receives us with tender compassion.

It is easy to forget,

to be swept into the moment,

particularly for the mother

whose life is composed of so many little things.

Can we draw close to God in the midst of anger?

Nothing is harder. First off, no prayer rises from the flames of anger. There must be forgiveness.

But don’t give up! Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, and it can be lightning-quick if we make it a habit. Begin now. Be the first to forgive, which is to say, the first to release everyone from any demand that you are temped to make as a condition of love. Just let go; that’s all. Jesus dropped all his claims against others; He will help you.

Second, anger usually means you’ve said something that feels like a commitment to a position so that if you compromise, you will lose your personal dignity. “If I back down now, that means I don’t have any spine, or any authority, or I didn’t really mean it and that I never mean what I say.” It takes a lot of humility to risk all those judgments, but giving up anger is not giving up principle. You can make a decision and carry it out with or without anger, same decision.

Yes, it’s true that we often change our decisions when we give up our anger; seeing them more clearly, we notice some rough edges that are not important to save; but giving up anger is not giving up principle. Step by step, maybe for the first time in your family history, you can be the one to learn to act on principle without anger. Pick a saint to help you; lots of choices.

I think of the prayer of St. Thomas More:

Give me the grace, good Lord to set the world at naught

To consider my greatest enemies my best friends,

for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him

so much good with their love and favor

as they him with their malice and hatred.

Sounds incredible, but he was in the Tower of London, and his former best friend was to have his head cut off. Not a small thing to forgive, but he forgave while refusing to back down on the issue of principle — that Henry VIII’s marriage to Ann Boleyn was unsacramental, invalid and sinful.

And then there’s the problem of bearing the anger of others, just or unjust. All I can say about this is that I think of the tenth of the Stations of the Cross, when Jesus is stripped of his garments. It is His way of sharing the humiliation of human life. Take his hands in your own and be still. Just or unjust, he is with you in the burden of others’ anger and scorn and in the vulnerability you feel.

Lives of mothers are so full of little things. Don’t let it get you down. He who cares for the sparrows will watch over every detail of your life. He never forgets; nothing is too small.

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