Joy Forney's darling twin boys
You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the time.
(My own paraphrase of Abraham Lincoln's quote!)
No matter how hard you try or how nice you are, you will not ever be able to please everyone all of the time.
I seem to alternate between these two boy's faces. I am pleasing to some and very offensive or displeasing to others' sensibilities.
Motherhood is no different.
Motherhood is an never-ending sacrifice of your time, your effort, your faith, your body, yourself. And yet, we are working uphill against sinful little creatures who insist on making messes every day and who are not always pleased with the broccoli we serve them (for their own good, I must remind you!) And these little ones (and the big ones, too) do not always like it when you push against their little selfish wills and so they have various ways of pushing back.
During the toddler years, they fall on the floor and throw a fit because you didn't let them eat that candy they wanted. Or they whine or complain.
In the teen years, they question your wisdom and integrity and know just where to put in the knife. (After all, none of us have been perfect and we all have flaws ... and our children tend to discover them during the teen years.)
If you listen too much to these voices, you will become discouraged and want to give up.
The secret to not falling under the weight of the critics is to not give them power over you.
I have always told my children, "Don't believe your good press, and don't believe your bad press."
If I had allowed myself to be discouraged at my failures or vulnerability, I would have given up a long time ago.
What do I mean by that? If you are performing for someone other than God, you are bound to be disappoint them eventually--and they will eventually disappoint you.
There are always Job's friends in the crowd--those people who are quite sure they know why your life is not going well and what you have done wrong to make your life such a mess.
Job's friends were quite wrong! Job was being persecuted by Satan because Satan didn't believe someone could be loyal to God and believe in His goodness if he was persecuted.
And so God had actually chosen Job as a model of integrity and faith, because he was so righteous. Job's friends could not have been more wrong in their statements about his demise.
Learning the Hard Way
After my first sizeable Mom's conference, where we hosted 650 women, we took surveys of how people liked the conference and got over 600 positive responses and wonderful comments telling us how many women were greatly encouraged.
However, one woman left this comment: "I think you could improve on the luncheon. The rice was too spicy."
So, I did not remember the many wonderful comments. Instead, I remembered the "spicy rice" comment and felt as though somehow we had failed to do a good job on the conference. There are always those who say to my face, "I always heard your conferences (books, blog) were so wonderful, but this didn't seem like anything special to me. I have heard it all before."
Those remarks stick with me a long time and yes, every year I am tempted to quit.
Not just because of their statements, but because in my heart, I know I am flawed.
Eventually, my sweet husband, Clay, said, "If we keep giving surveys to people, Sally will just quit this ministry all together, because it just takes one negative comment to convince her we should stop hosting conferences.'
How wise he was. We are a mom and pop ministry. We can't afford a large staff or spend a lot of money on decorations or expensive equipment or have lots of amenities at our conferences. We make mistakes all the time. Sometimes, when they were young, our children misbehaved in front of people! We depend on volunteers to help us. Invariably, something will go wrong. Sometimes I blow it when I speak, the food is occasionally more like a Weight Watcher meal than the wonderful $30 meal we expected, registration will take longer than we'd like.
No matter how much effort we put into the conferences, we could always improve. This year, after Colorado, I realized that the hotel had never put the decorations on the table and I let it really bug me and make me feel bad.
And then there is this blog. I really need to do more with it. I want to take cool photos and download amazing images that are more contemporary. But then, it is usually midnight when I write and I just am not willing to do what it takes to find a great photo at this late hour.
We are none of us as good as we would like to be, but blessed, happy, is the person who is content with herself, faults and all.
Focussing on our critics' accusations is really a silly waste of time.
We do still have lots of "rice is too spicy people" and I know that I cannot please everyone--I am just a normal mom, trying my best to do something that matters and work that will encourage some to seek to raise godly children. But I am not perfect and I am not God and I cannot fit everyone's expectations.
And so, I keep my mind and thoughts focussed on Him, and bring them back to that place of peace again and again. He loves me. He knows my limitations (He is mindful that I am but dust! Psalm 103) and like a good Father, still He loves me. (Even as a Father has compassion on his children ... also Psalm 103.)
If I am seeking to please Him the best I know how, by loving, giving, serving and following, that is a task I can accomplish. He is a generous and sympathetic Father and all He wants is my heart and to show me that His love is not dependent on my behavior.
Making it through all the seasons
Now after four children, I have lived through all of their moods, accusations, critiques, and fits. We are pretty much left with kids who still love us, and even respect us, and love to be together as a family.
Somehow, in spite of all the "attitudes" and seasons of childhood, we made it to a place of making peace with all the ups and downs, as they all have now made it into adulthood.
We still have our critics outside of the walls of our home, and on internet, and in the world.
But, I am the happiest with my children, Clay, and our closest friends, who know us and still love us. I also love being in my home, away from peering eyes, with my children who are my best friends, who have come to a point of knowing that even though none of us is perfect and never will be, we are all pretty great, because we belong to this circle of Clarksons.
So, don't pay too much attention to the critics. They will eventually go away and they are not totally objective. Their voices (and faces) though sometimes strong in your own face and ears, are just a part of journeying through this pathway of parenting and life.
But let us seek to just accept our limitations, create joy in our moments to refuel to keep going, get perspective, and seek to please the one who is always going to be on our team--our heavenly Father, whose voice is always there to encourage.
Just don't let the "rice is too spicy" people get you down!