(I wrote this piece for the May 2022 newsletter of the California Association of American Mothers, Inc.: https://www.americanmothers.org/)
How can we find joy and peace in motherhood? By embracing the difficult work of growing in virtue and fighting against vice as we care for our families. The following thoughts are drawn from chapters 4-6 of Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood by Carrie Gress.
A virtue is “an innate potential in a person that through repeated use becomes a habit, freeing her to do what she knows is good, true and beautiful while bringing out the best in her character” (p. 55). Humility is the queen of all virtues because it helps us know what other virtues we need to work on: “Know thyself,” as Socrates wisely advised us long ago. Humility means joyfully embracing our littleness and our limitations because we know that we are in the hands of Someone who loves us, wants the best for us, and will help us grow.
Pride is at the root of all the vices that deform our character and damage our relationship with God and others. Pride says, “I am the center of the universe, and I know best.” In the end, pride leads only to misery since it closes us off from giving and receiving true love.
Pride has some specific manifestations for women that motherhood can help us correct. The first one is vanity, or focusing on self-centered, superficial matters. Pregnancy and childbirth can help concentrate instead on the sort of beauty that will last unto eternity rather than the perfect figure. Learning to focus on the needs of our husbands and our children can lead us out of ourselves into joyful service.
Envy is another typical manifestation of miserable pride for women. Instead of being grateful for who we are and who are families are, we waste our time and energy comparing ourselves and our families to others and always coming up short. The mission of American Mothers is a wonderful antidote to envy! Celebrating each other and seeking to grow together as moms are surefire ways to cultivate joyful humility.
Being fickle or flighty is another way that women tend to fall prey to pride. Motherhood can help ground us and teach us the humble perseverance needed to establish a happy home rather than placing ourselves and our fun first. Closely related is the prideful vice of individualism. This trait is so pervasive in our culture that it can be hard to recognize as something negative, but no one can find ultimate satisfaction in life by always demanding “what we want, when we want it, how we want it” (p. 77). Motherhood is a crash course in reorganizing our lives around something other than our own egos. Finally, impatience is one of the most common struggles we all have with our pride. Fifteen years into motherhood, I still lose my temper on a regular basis. Joyful humility can give us the perspective and courage to apologize and keep trying.
This Mother’s Day, let’s give our families the gift of trying to grow in the virtue of joyful humility!