Imagine that you belong to the Church of Sportsball. Every month, you are constantly told how good at basketball you are - that EVERYONE is. "We were born with a natural ability to dribble and bounce pass," says one. "Since you have within your divine nature the inherent talent to play basketball, you should aspire to being the best basketball player you can be," says another. "I never fail to be struck by the way that our members, old, young, and even children seem to have an instinctive interest and ability in basketball."
But you take a look at yourself and think,
How would you feel if every week you heard that all Sportsball members are naturally good at basketball? Would you still feel like you belong there? If you were absolutely convinced you were supposed to be in the Church of Sportsball, what would you think about yourself?
This might seem a little incongruous coming from a stay-at-home mom, but mothering is hard for me. Nurturing is hard for me. It does not come naturally at all. I have gotten better over the last 9+ years, and I do absolutely adore my children, but it is a struggle each and every day. I know some people will say "well that's just motherhood" and it is, but there are people who take to it more easily than others.
|OK, I'm not quite this bad.|
The thing is, the LDS Church is constantly saying that women have specific innate qualities. Replace "members" with "women" and "basketball" with "mothering" and the above quotes are actual quotes made at General Conference about women. All women have the talent to mother. All women are naturally nurturing. Women have these natural abilities, and that's just the way it is.
That's not how it works, though, and in reality I was just sending myself into a depression. Once I finally realized that there was nothing wrong with me, but instead there was something wrong with the blanket statement of the Church, I made peace with myself.
|Lack of stature? He worked around it.|
We all know how harmful stereotypes hurt people, but we don't think about how positive stereotypes can be harmful too. Instead of saying "All women are natural mothers," can we start saying "Some women are natural mothers, and some have to struggle at it"? Instead of saying "Women are inherently nurturing" can we start saying "Some people" (because my husband's a killer dad and nurtures the heck out of our kids) "are inherently nurturing and for some it's a goal to achieve"? By recognizing people as having individual strengths and weaknesses instead of painting groups with a large brush, we can avoid inadvertently making someone feel that they do not belong.
The one thing we all inherently are? We are all inherently loved by God. Let's make that the only inherent thing we preach.