Lacy and her husband Wes have three small children. “It’s so wonderful to raise my best friends,” she said to me. “My mom and I are best friends.”
I agreed wholeheartedly. If everyone had a mom like Lacy, we would have a much different and more compassionate world. Lacy knows that being a mother is a life-time commitment to a relationship of love and trust that is created in the few early years that we have with our children.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day; a day to celebrate our mothers, and for those of us who are mothers, to celebrate being a mother. This Mother’s Day column celebrates those mothers – both women and men – who have compassionately mothered others. My friend Ed was raised in a series of foster homes and yet has sweetly mothered a baby girl abandoned by her mother, compassionately raising her to healthy adulthood. He’s a mom too.
Jesus’ Compassion Toward Children
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in the gospel of Luke 8:19-21. When he was told that his mother and brothers were waiting to see him, he replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
As a child I loved the beautiful picture that hung in the Sunday School area of my neighborhood church showing Jesus with many children. The children crowded around him, filling his lap, his arms and gazing happily at him. The picture was a copy of the painting called “Jesus Blessing the Children” by Bernhard Plockhorst, who painted it to illustrate Mark 10: 13-16:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.— Mark 10: 13-16
Jesus’ love and compassion for all, including children, fills the gospels. He was a mothering influence to the sick, the poor, to those despised by his people, to everyone.
Compassion, not Control
In today’s world, many are confused about the role of a mother. To me the word “mother” means compassion, respect, love and kindness. It means to shelter and protect. To have a heart that is open to the Love that is God. To be able to shower that love on others without condition or exception. It means to be healthy psychologically and spiritually. To have done one’s own inner work so that she is not blinded by her conditioning. Perhaps in no other area of human life are we as blind as we are in the area of parenting.
It does not mean to be an authoritarian; to shame, control, ridicule, and use corporal punishment. And yet, there are many mothers who believe that this is justifiable when it comes to their children. And worse, use religion as an excuse for it.
The most current research on the long-range effects of strict parenting consistently point to poor mental health, depression, and anxiety. They show that authoritarian child-raising actually produces kids with lower self-esteem and creates behavior problems in them. Strict parenting deprives children of the opportunity to internalize self-discipline.
By contrast, compassionate mothers create a loving bond with their children. They show their affection, their approval, and their guidance. Their children grow up feeling secure and are self-directed and happier. See Raising Children Compassionately by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. and The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated KidsWithout Turning into a Tiger by Shimi K. Kang, M.D. These books and others challenge the old “spare the rod and spoil the child” parenting model and hopefully will replace it with enlightened ways of mothering children with understanding and kindness.
All of us bloom and grow healthy and strong in the light of love, acceptance, and affection. All of us yearn for recognition of our sacred worth. And all of us can be a compassionate mothering influence to everyone, just as Jesus did. It’s never too late.
We are grateful to the many compassionate mothers and we honor you. May you teach the world what you have learned and lived and shown your children about love and affection, gentleness and strength.
I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made whole for us all, one child at a time.— “One Child,” by Brian Andreas