Today is International Women’s Day. I don’t think there’s been a time in my personal history, nevermind the current global state of affairs, where this fact has meant as much to me as it does now. I remember standing in a sea of thousands of men and women in Grant Park on January 21, 2017, feeling the magnitude of what was happening and thinking, This is what revolution feels like. The energy was palpable. The was something holy about seeing so many people organized around a foundational rally cry for ENOUGH. And yet, what we really wanted was more. More understanding, less confusion. More equality, less oppression. More connection, less ‘us vs them’.
Its hard to be a human in today’s day and age, and social media makes this an especially tricky business. This comes with the territory, I’m afraid. We open ourselves up to one another, give them access to our daily lives and leave a space for commentary. And to some, this is an invitation for judgment. And judge, they do. I’ve been accused of many things over the years. To some, I’m just ‘one of those liberals’ and to others, I’m an out of touch suburban housewife just playing it safe. I lament about school shootings and am accused of being an idiot for challenging current gun laws. I mention church and I’m written off as some crazy Evangelical. Sometimes I’m saying too much and others I’m not saying enough.
Once I posted my disgust about the president bragging about sexual assault. What am I supposed to tell my children? is what I said. But, I also used his words (yes, including the p-word) and was utterly ripped apart for it. How dare I? they said. I should respect the president, they said. You should be ashamed of yourself.
So many times as I put what I believe out into the atmosphere, its met with the shame of should.
Once, my husband posted a photo of my daughter and I on vacation and I happened to be wearing an off-the-shoulder dress (we were at the beach) and a woman commented that I should be ashamed of myself. This was not how a pastor’s wife should dress, after all – what kind of example was I setting for my daughter?
Should generates shame and shame keeps us very, very small. It breeds insecurity and creates a competitive culture for women. When your view of yourself is insecure, you tend to look at other women as threats. If we see them thriving, we automatically go into defense mode. We believe the lie that if she has it, then I can’t have it. This pitting against of one another is a culture-derived phenomenon that has become so normal we mostly assume its just how women are. Women are so catty.
I have been pushing against this for years and years, doing my own personal inner work of trying to live beyond shame. But I just couldn’t shake this one. She seemed so angry, this woman who threw those words at me. A woman. Aren’t we on the same team? Her message was meant to make me small, to cut me down to size, and put me in my place. It seems a woman who lives in her own bones, who tries to sink into her own God-given body with joy rather than contempt, was something to be reprimanded.
What her words say, and what commercial culture and magazines and billboards and movies and yes, even the Church over the years – what they are all saying is that there is a right way and a wrong way to be a woman.
This message terrifies me because it is so damaging. It speaks directly to our Garden of Eden wound – that living into our own bodies will be met with sorrow and separation from God. That forever moving forward, women would struggle with their bodies, with connection, with wholeness. That where we once were grounded in our innate sense of security in being loved, we now are split into pieces, spending our lives trying to bind us all back together again.
Sisters, listen up. Should is a total bitch. Should is the lie that reigns supreme over women. She sits in her high tower, judging everything we do, everything we make, every carb we ingest. Should you say that? Should you eat that? Should you even try? Since the beginning of time, Should has been used to shut us down, make us doubt, curb our power, stop us from dreaming. Should keeps us separate, she causes us to look at one another as the enemy, as competition rather than sisters. Should keeps us in pieces.
So, on this very special day, I’d like to propose that we kick Should out of power. I think its time to rally against this shame-based way of living. Women are not divisive. Our truest nature is wholeness. Women are made to be binders of humanity, always reaching for more connection.
Women are strong.
Women are beautiful.
Women are generous.
Women are wise.
Women are capable.
Women are revolutionary.
Women rise up.
First, let these words rain over your thirsty soul. Let them soak deep into every crevice, saturating every wound hiding underneath the make-up and perfection. Let yourself dare to hope that this can be true for you – that you are loved and you have what it takes and you don’t have to do it alone. That you are a mender of humanity, and there is holy work to be done. Then, find a woman or twenty and send these words to her. Let’s build each other up, today and every day. Let’s make wholeness, not shame, our life’s work.