I asked for suggestions on where we go from here on my Facebook page and have had a few messages and conversations, so today I’m going to pull from those and answer a few spoken and unspoken questions.
We’ll start with a simple one:
How are you doing (after sharing so publicly)?
Thanks for asking, I’m doing really well. It hasn’t been easy, but overall – it is good. I’ve received wonderful and encouraging comments and notes. Several of you have reached out to say how reading my story has helped you with your own. I know, for me, even when my path is not exactly the same as someone else, it helps to know that I am not alone on the journey.
I had braced myself for less than kind comments, but I’ve not had to deal with anything so far. What I had not prepared for were the comments and calls I expected, but didn’t get. People who I thought would support, or at least reach out, but have not. My mind can have a field day if I let it. Are they judging me? Are they angry, disappointed….ashamed? My healthier self says, perhaps they don’t know what to say, but I also realize that all those negative things may be true. Some may be ashamed and angry. Some may not know what to say. Some are passing judgement. Dealing with those reactions and emotions was something that I spent a lot of time working through in therapy, but it’s more difficult to navigate emotions you don’t even know for sure are happening. What I do know is for every angry or disappointed person out there, there are many more who are finding hope. Also, as one friend likes to remind me a bit bluntly, ‘most people aren’t thinking of you at all.’
I know anytime I start to spiral into the ‘what if’s’ about what others may be thinking, it is a learning opportunity. A place for growth. I need to be still and quiet my mind. I need to lean into the fear and uncomfortable feelings. I’ll ask myself; Why is this bothering me? Why do I need that person to say anything? What do I need to let go of to move on? Does it matter?
And I remind myself, often: I’m doing what I am taught to do in my faith. I’m sharing my authentic self with the world. I’m resting in my truth and I’m trusting that what I believe to be true is, in fact, true.
I also remember, we don’t get to control other people’s reactions to anything. More importantly, we don’t need to be impacted by those reactions. Once you realize that you are complete, whole, worthy – just as you are – then other people’s reactions are for them to work through, not you.
That leads to another questions I’ve been asked. One I had to answer quite clearly for myself, too:
Why in the world are you doing this?
This one can actually be asked several ways: Why would you expose these things? Why would you tell something so shameful? Why does everyone in this world feel like oversharing is ok? How did you ever get comfortable enough to share your story?
First of all, honesty rids secrets of their power. Secrets are where shame thrives and when you expose them to any light at all, they begin to lose their power over you. Second, I knew this would help someone. I found my own healing by listening and reading about people who had overcome their past. Third, my faith tradition talks about humility, love, and mercy. I had received such an abundance of all of these, I couldn’t keep it to myself. As I began to understand what my faith was truly about, what Jesus actually said and did, I was compelled to share.
As for over-sharing and what other people think? Those are just ways that evil – however you may define that – tries to keep people small and scared. I look at it this way, if 100 people roll their eyes and shake their head at my ‘over-sharing’, but one person finds life and hope – then it’s totally worth it. To be frank, I’m not talking to people that judge me. I’m talking to people like me, who need mercy and hope.
This isn’t easy. I still have to remind myself when I see people for the first time, that I’m the exact same person that I’ve always been. I remind myself if there is a change in the relationship, that change has happened in the other person, because I’m the same. The truth is, if a relationship is changed for the worse due to anger, shame, embarrassment, judgement – that isn’t about me. If a relationship is changed for the better – more love, better understanding, more empathy, acceptance – that isn’t about me either. I enjoy the latter reaction more, but in either case, I’m the same. My value is not dependent on other’s opinions, good or bad. (Easy to write, harder to remember.)
And then there is the unspoken question(s),
What about abortion…does this mean you are pro-choice, or did it make you pro-life?
Let me be honest, no one really asked me this out loud. I know people have questions, but few will even say the word abortion. Even I find myself whispering it under my breath in a conversation. It is divisive and difficult, and we don’t do a good job of listening to the other side.
To answer directly – I would never label myself pro-choice or pro-life. Both of those labels are abhorrent to me. They take a very complex issue and erroneously simplify it into two questions – do you value life, or a woman’s choice – as if to do both is outside the realm of possibility? This oversimplification disrespects the importance and value of the actual people impacted. The babies, the mothers, the fathers, and the mother and father’s of the young women who find themselves making this ‘choice’ – they are all cherished and valuable. Yet neither side properly acknowledges that all of these people exist within this issue, all are impacted, and they all matter.
There is common ground on the issue, despite what the media may portray. There are a few things almost everyone would agree on: Regardless of when you think life begins, almost all will agree a pregnancy holds the potential for life. Regardless of how you identify yourself politically, no one likes abortion. No one is out advocating that we should have more abortions. Both sides would like to reduce the number that happen. That’s important – both sides would like to reduce the number that happen.
It’s critically important everyone acknowledges that no one is advocating for the actual act of abortion. As a matter of fact, the majority of people I speak with, on both sides of the issue, can agree that there are long term negative consequences in many cases, for society, and for the women and men involved.
Here is what I desperately want everyone to understand: While some may long to live in a world where they can stand on principal and declare something as wrong. While others may long to live in a world where they can stand on principal and say it is no one’s business to decide what is right or wrong for me. Neither of those positions are true for everyone and neither side will ever make a difference in the very thing we claim to be so passionately for or against. We will never make a difference. We will not give women more freedom, and we will not save the potential lives we are losing each day. As long as we allow politics to drive an argument instead of sitting down and having a discussion, nothing will ever change. The question we all really need to ask is do we want to win a political fight, or do we want to help men, women, and babies. We will not do both.
What if we make it illegal? It was before and it still happened, but often times instead of one life lost, there were two. What if we keep it legal? It is now, but legal doesn’t make it healthy for society – or women – it just makes it more safe. The baby – the potential life, and the men and women who make these decisions deserve more space in our conversations than whether the act should be illegal or medically safe. This is not a black and white, cut and dried issue and the questions we are debating don’t even touch what either side claims to value. And if you say, ‘yes it is black and white’ – well, that doesn’t change a thing and I would argue you are more interested in winning than helping.
Before I told anyone about my past, I would read statistics that said 2 out of 3 women have had an abortion. I always thought that one side or the other made that statistic up to support their arguments. I could never believe that it was true. Then I started sharing my story and I realized those statistics were probably correct. I have yet to tell my story without hearing ‘me, too’ or ‘my daughter’, ‘my mother’, ‘my sister’, ‘my best friend’. Not one, single, time.
Those who are ‘pro-life’ are led to believe that only liberal, left wing godless women, and women in poverty have abortions – the occasional rumor of someone outside of those demographics is quickly dismissed as an anomaly. But, this simply isn’t true.
This is who has abortions: Christian women, Catholic women, women who find themselves in situations where they have made poor choices that would be revealed, women who don’t believe it is a life yet, young college girls scared to disappoint their family, married couples who feel they can’t afford, or handle, another child, young women who fear they aren’t ready to be a good parent, mothers who believe they are protecting their young daughters’ futures, women who feel they can’t afford a child. Women you sit by at church every Sunday. Women in your family. Women you love, admire, and respect.
There are no clear answers on how to solve this problem, I just know that what we are doing now isn’t helping. This is one of the only things I know of that can be done with 100% secrecy. This is one of the most shame-filled things a woman of faith can do, and yet she can do so in secret and no one ever has to know. So, we have men and women living right in our midst, like me, who are carrying around this pain. Many will leave their faith and never come back. Many sit with you at church and feel unloved, unforgivable, and unknown. Others have to act like the choice doesn’t hurt them at all to stay true to their political leanings.
Here is what I ask those who identify as pro-life to consider: Are these men and women still loved by God? Is mercy and grace still available for them? If so, does the faith community make them feel that way? Are there resources and groups to help them? Does the position and rhetoric of ‘pro-life’ allow room for someone to stand up and say: I did this and I need help to heal?
As a woman of faith, with a past of painful choices, I can answer these questions: Yes, I am still loved by God. Yes, mercy and grace pour over me in abundance every day. No, my faith community never helped me directly in regard to having had an abortion. No, I was offered no resources from any church I ever attended. No, the rhetoric of the political right made me feel worthless and unwanted by the church.
Here is what I ask people who identify as pro-choice to consider: Do you believe that the choice is devoid of consequences for every woman? Do you think that every supporter who makes this choice never experiences regret or shame? Do those women whose safety you value, have a safe place to acknowledge their pain? Do you allow room for someone to support safety, but denounce abortion? Does the position and rhetoric of ‘pro-choice’ allow room for someone to stand up and say, I regret my decision and I need help to heal?
As a woman who is thankful for the safe medical facilities that were available – I can tell you that it is often not a choice, but a feeling that you lack choice. I can tell you that I’ve spoke with women who didn’t feel it was a life, but later they find that they are still haunted by regrets and shame. The political rhetoric seems to demand a cavalier position with no regrets, that doesn’t acknowledge the diversity of women who may both support the desire for safety, and also weep over the damage done by their ‘choice’.
I would like to suggest that where and how abortions occur is actually not the conversation we should be having. We will never end all abortion, regardless of it’s legality. Given that fact, I would rather a woman go to a regulated and safe environment than a back alley. The question that we should be asking? How can we help the women who make or may make these choices?
We should be making sure young people understand their value. We should be honest and open about the long term consequences this can have on someone’s psyche. We should be ready to offer grace to someone who has made bad choices so they don’t feel the need to compound them. We should show compassion to the people who feel differently than we do and not alienate them.
I want those who believe life begins at conception to acknowledge and value all of the lives impacted: mother, father, and child.
I want those who believe it is a private choice, to acknowledge that it can cause significant psychological damage down the road for some people.
I want those who make the choice and never look back to appreciate that they are not everyone and that is not everyone’s story.
I want young women to understand that their choices can lead them down roads they never expected, and I want them to understand their value from the very beginning. And if they find themselves in a seemingly hopeless position, I want them to know where to turn to find hope.
I want us to stop acting like this is simply a matter of legislature. I want the church to stop pretending that it is only the immoral who make these choices and acknowledge the men and women in their midst who need mercy and grace. This is not simply a legal matter, it is not simply a health issue, this is a complex human issue and we should all step up to address it with love and humility. We should care about everyone involved and we should work towards a solution that puts love at the center of every discussion – love for the babies, for the mothers and fathers, for the families. That’s the only thing that will ever have lasting impact. I would even argue we should walk away from the political battle completely, if we truly want to make a difference. The political battle is a smoke screen that makes people feel like they are addressing the issue when they are really just addressing the logistics and making the issue worse. Leave it legal, even if you hate it, so it is safe – because all of the lives are valuable. Drop your arguments, put down your weapons, and work together to create a loving and lasting impact on people, instead of a fleeting impact on politics.
I will make time for anyone who wants to talk. I would love to spend time with anyone who needs to heal. I am a safe place for you to come, and I hold no judgement. I want to provide for you what I longed to receive….humility, mercy, safety. If you are pregnant now, and scared, you can reach out to me and I will help you to think about what to do next. For so many, on both sides, what seems like a private choice can have long term consequences. I am for you and I will be here anytime.
There is always enough hope. There is always enough grace. You are always enough.
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