Category : Human Dignity

Kid Triathlon Finish Banner
Action, Grace, Hope, Human Dignity, Humility, Joy, Leadership, Life, Love
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Going the Distance: On Heartbreak, Hope, and Love

My kids, ages 8 and 9 1/2, were registered to do their third Kids-Triathlon.

Kids Tri 2014

First Tri in 2014

Kids Tri 2015

Second Tri in 2015

And then three weeks before the race this year, my youngest, Max, broke his arm (for the second time in 8 months–this time while playing the-floor-is-lava).

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He was disappointed that he couldn’t do the tri, but understood.  There were tears, but Max has a positive, fun, jovial disposition.  While others might sulk, he had a moment of sad, then moved on to joking and cheering… until the night before the race, when he started to cry.  Overcome with disappointment, he cried, “I weally wanted to do this twiathlon…”
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I had a choice: I could tell him to simply chin-up and deal with the consequences of his broken arm, I could join him in his devastation and call off his brother’s tri, or I could meet him with compassion and find a way to help him work through it.

It was heart-breaking.  But Max embraced his role, cheering his brother and their friends on.  We prayed.  Others prayed, and he cheered his friends on.  You never would have known Max was the least bit upset.

Kid Triathlon 2016-5

Alex, my oldest, started his race as expected: confident, nervous, excited.

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His 100 yard breast stroke was steady through the cold waters of the freshly drawn pool.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-9

He ran through transition with a double dimpled smile, blowing a kiss as he ran by.

He sped out of transition on his bike with confidence.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-11

And we eagerly waited his return…

After a while I knew something was wrong; it was taking too long.

Finally Max spotted him off in the distance.

As Alex got closer, he was going too slow.  My Mom-Spidey-Senses were going off and I ran towards him.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-15

Tears streaming, Alex wailed that his chain had been broken for the whole, entire 3 mile bike.  It had fallen off three times; a volunteer helped fix it the first two, but not the third time.  So he had to walk/scoot it in, incredibly frustrating and costing him buckets of time.

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Crying, he ran his bike through the end of the course, into transition.

Disappointed, Alex started his run strong… but the frustration overcame him and he began to just walk, crying.

Kid Triathlon 2016-24

Tingling Spidey-Mom-Senses, I see my son.  He hasn’t given up.  He’s discouraged, but he hasn’t given up.

Kid Triathlon 2016-26

All he can see is the failure.  The failure to accomplish the bike as he knew he could.

Kid Triathlon 2016-18

He couldn’t see the tenacity.  He couldn’t see the determination.  He couldn’t see the strength.

Kid Triathlon 2016-19

He could only feel the pain and disappointment, which were real… which were huge.

Kid Triathlon 2016-20

I saw my son cross the finish line against all odds.  But I couldn’t cry with pride, because he was simply devastated.

Kid Triathlon 2016-21

So I took him by the hand and walked him over to his coach.  A multiple Ironman, multiple ultra-marathon (100 mile) finisher, who coached kids at the YMCA for free, just to share his love of the sport.  A grandfather, who loves kids as much as he loves the sport… who is one of the best examples of coaching that this professional educator has ever witnessed in her life.

Kid Triathlon 2016-22

And this Ironman Coach Grandpa explains to Alex that his determination to finish–that he didn’t just give up–was one of the most inspirational things he had ever seen.

Still, Alex couldn’t understand.  Still, Alex couldn’t comprehend.  So Coach Grandpa asked if he could take a picture and post his story on Facebook.  Because he was certain that there were other Triathletes that would find inspiration from this 9 year old.
Kid Triathlon 2016-23

We packed up and headed home.  And I insisted that Alex read the comments on Coach Grandpa and my own Facebook posts.  For some reason, when he started to read the comments of strangers who were moved by the fact that he still finished the race, things started to shift for him.  “Wow.”

Why is it that we doubt the words of those who love us, but accept the words of those we don’t know?

Regardless, those words were heard.  The affirmations of strangers were heard.  The encouragement of his Coach was heard.  And Alex started to look at his Triathlon in a new light.

Where he once saw failure, he started to see determination.

Where he once saw frustration, he started to see success.

And I finally let myself cry, but not for hurt, or pain, or disappointment.  Rather for pride.

What may have been my son’s worst experience ever may have been the proudest Mom-moment of my life.

Because he finished.

Not because he won, but because he didn’t give up.  He finished.

My son faced adversity, felt the full brunt of it, and said to himself, “I could quit, but it’s only another 1/2 mile.  I can make it.”

And he did.  He finished.

There are so many lessons I take from this experience.

  • From Max who at 8 years old allowed himself to feel intense disappointment, yet didn’t let it consume him… rather, he chose to cheer on his friends.
  • From Alex, my tenacious 9 1/2 year old, who didn’t give up.
  • From perfect strangers who not only found inspiration from Alex’s story, but who took the time to applaud his tenacity.
  • From a man who volunteers his time, talent, and treasure to help kids find success with and develop a love of his sport.
  • From my husband who sees the moments of real, in-the-trenches-mothering, applauds them, and captures them on film.

When Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you… this is what he meant.  Yes, my kid did a great job at overcoming adversity, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without you and me. When Jesus said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me,” this is part of that.

As a Mom, when I love my kid in his time of need, I’m being Christ to him.  As a community, when you reach out to someone with encouragement and love, you’re being Christ to him.  You are loving one another as Christ loved us.

This is it.  Right here, right now.  And we did it.  He finished.  And he’s proud because of you.  So thank you.

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Playground
Article, Human Dignity, Justice
0

They’re Children, Not Chickens

Two Moms go to a playground with their kids, ages 2 – 4.  One child asks his mom to help him use the fire pole, so she holds him the whole way down.  The second child asks the second mom for help.  She says, “I’d be happy to teach you how to do it, but I’m not going to do it for you.  Do you want to learn?”  Second-Child hesitates before agreeing.  Second-Mom explains how to reach out, hold the pole nice and high, then step out while holding on, wrap feet and legs around the pole, and gently loosen the hold to slide down.  She guides her son’s grip, holds her hands out to catch him in case he needs it, but tries not to actually do the work for him.  By the third try, he’s doing it with enough confidence that she can sit back and watch.

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Morality_relationships
Human Dignity, Love, Morality
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Morality Part 1: It’s About Relationship

The other day at dinner, I tell my boys that I am looking forward to teaching a class that evening on Morality–a favorite topic, which I hadn’t taught in a while.  My 6 year old asks:

“Mommy what is mowality?”
Friends on a hammock

I pause, since I usually begin by acknowledging that most of us presume morality is about following a set of rules, and it’s not… it’s about relationship. But in that moment I was challenged to accurately and succinctly describe it in a way that my 6 and 7 1/2 year old would understand.




“Morality is about what’s right and wrong, and why.”

Without missing a beat, he tells me:
“Oh, Mommy!  But you teach me and my brudder about that evewy day!”

I want my kids to be good people, so yes, every day I am concerned with the decisions they make and developing their character–whether they’re playing with friends, following through on responsibilities around the house, working at school, or paying attention to the needs of the world around them. Morality is concerned with what’s right and wrong, and why, but it’s not about rules; it’s about relationship.

Relationship

The reason Why something is right or wrong has everything to do with relationship.

  • Think about three of your closest friends.  What are some of the “unspoken rules” that close friends follow to maintain a healthy relationship?  List these relationship-guiding rules out: trust, honesty, care and concern for one another’s well-being… what else would you add?


Who: From the perspective of Christian Morality, we are talking about living a good life in relationship with God.  What makes something moral or immoral is whether it strengthens or damages our relationship with God.  When we say something is a “sin” it’s because it damages our relationship with God; not because it is “breaking the rules.”

How: So how do we strengthen our relationship with God?  By loving, honoring, and respecting God and all of God’s Creation.

The number one overarching principle that guides our approach to being in right relationship is a respect for the value, worth, and special dignity within each person as a child of God, created in the image and likeness of God.  Catholic Social Teaching refers to this as respect for human dignity, which finds its Scriptural roots in Genesis.

God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I love how Richard Rohr explains the depth of what human dignity means:
“You are a son or daughter of the Good and Loving God. The Divine Image is planted inherently and intrinsically within you. You cannot create it, you cannot manufacture it, you cannot earn it, you cannot achieve it, you cannot attain it, you cannot cumulatively work up to it. Do you know why? Because you already have it! That is the core of the Gospel” (Adapted from Dying: We Need It for Life)

As Christians, we are called to respect human dignity with the care and concern of divine, agape love.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.(John 15:12)  

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When we put together the Who and the How of morality, we can see that living a good life in relationship with God has three dimensions:

  1. Interpersonal– respecting the human dignity of others, which is demonstrated by how we treat one another.
  2. Personal – respecting one’s own human dignity, which is demonstrated by how we develop our internal quality of character
  3. Transcendent – respecting God, which is demonstrated by practicing the virtue of faith.

The Commandments, Beatitudes, and Virtues help flesh out the What of Catholic moral teaching with more specifics, but if we don’t begin with that understanding of being in right relationship with oneself, others, and the God who created us and loves us, then our approach to morality will be limited to simply “following the rules.”

In the next post, I’ll discuss the role of conscience and moral responsibility.  For now, consider how you think about morality:

  • What attitudes or assumptions do you bring to a discussion of morality?  Are they helpful or limiting?
  • Think about your relationship with yourself, with others, and with God.  In what ways do you see love and respect for human dignity guiding your behavior in those relationships?  Where do you succeed in practicing this “respect”?  Where do you struggle?  Is there one area that you feel called to work on improving?


“Social media network © Depositphotos.com/Maridav”

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Dance!
Human Dignity, Joy
3

Daring to Try

I am amazed at the things I will do for my kids.

And I’m not talking about the maternal-instinct so-they-will-survive stuff (like sleep deprivation and all those things I blocked out of selective memory).

I’m talking about Daring to Try.

For my son’s 5th birthday, we had a dance party for 17 kids ages 3-8.  Two months prior to Max’s birthday, we attended a cousin’s wedding, which is where we introduced my kids to the dance floor.

Dancing at a Wedding

This would probably be a good time to mention that I really can’t dance.  I try.  I have fun.  But to be honest, I’m not very good at it.  I’m a big ball of uncoordinated, awkward self-consciousness.

But what I’ve come to understand about my kids is:  They. Don’t. Care.  They just want me.  Having fun.  With them.

I see the way my kids look at me with awe and love.  It’s like they take my own awe and love of them, multiply it and thrust it back upon me.

My kids see me with God’s eyes.  With God’s love.  And with all my humanness, imperfections, and limitations, they still see awesomeness.

I have two choices here:

  1. I can correct them: tell them why I’m not-quite-good-enough and effectively model self-doubt
  2. Or I can make an effort.  I can try.  I can model humility and try, and try, and try again…

It’s not all that easy to try…  In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains how putting yourself out there requires quite a bit of vulnerability and courage.  It doesn’t come naturally.  It’s a choice.  A choice I want my kids to make.  So I force myself to model it.

Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

So for Max’s 5th birthday, I gathered 2 hours of kid-friendly dance music, including lots of line dancing stuff apropos for weddings, and burned the playlist to a 2-cd set as the party favor.  Then we cleared the furniture out of the living room, set up some dance lights, and effectively turned the living room into a dance floor.

Max's 5th Birthday Dance Party.

That was the easy stuff.   At a certain point, it became necessary to actually lead the line dances.  In case I wasn’t clear on this, let me lay it out: I would rather have crawled under a rock and died than get up in front of people and lead the Electric Slide.

Except that’s not true.  Not when I look into the eyes of my kids and see their joyful desire.

So I threw caution to the wind and I Dared to Try. And the kids Loved. It.  Everyone had a blast.  Including me.

There’s a post I found through Pinterest called “Waking Up Full of Awesome.”  The author, Melissa, posts an appropriately absolutely awesome picture of her 5 year old and reflects on the phenomenon of how we once – when we were 5 – “woke up  full of awesome.”  And at some point most of us lose that.

I don’t want that for my boys.  And I don’t want that for me.  And neither does God.

I want them to see their awesomeness as clearly as I do.  And I want to see my own awesomeness as clearly as they do.

Because that–with all that awesomeness–is how God sees me.  So that’s where I’d like to be.  For now, my next step is focusing on Daring to Try.


Dance! by Scott Robinson licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Small green seedling in the ground
Conversion, Human Dignity, Love, Metanoia, Transformation
0

Perfect

If there was one thing you could (magically, effortlessly) change about yourself, what would it be?

Play along: come up with one thing.  Perhaps it’s…

  • developing virtuous habits (and eliminating unhealthy ones)
  • addressing some physical characteristic (in the realm of body image or ability)
  • acquiring a desired talent

Sit with your answer.  What does it tell you about yourself?

  • Is it just for fun?
  • Does it have to do with something you struggle with?
  • How does it relate to your personal goals?  Hopes?  Dreams?

  • What does it tell you about where you are on the spectrum between self-love and self-loathing?

In the lifelong journey of growth and change, there is usually some thing or another that we are working on improving.  This is good.  However, there is a legitimate concern for our spiritual well-being insomuch as how we treat ourselves in the process.

You are a child of God, created in God’s image and likeness.

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.  God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

  • When it comes to the things about yourself that you want to change, do you honor the image of God within?  Do you treat yourself with the love and respect that the image of God deserves?  

Healthy self-love appreciates the goodness that is.  It is from a place of love, not hate, that we are called to conversion – or metanoia.

In the reflection “Just Paint Over It,” I referenced the Greek word metanoia while discussing the transforming process of forgiveness.  Metanoia [pronounced meta-noy-ah] translates as “a change of heart.” Meaning a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Too often, however, we can be overly critical of ourselves in a way which is neither helpful nor loving.  There is a fine line between goals that motivate and the expectation of nothing less than perfection that can shut a person down.

The need for perfection.

There are two times that the word “perfect” appears in the gospels, both in the Gospel According to Matthew.  The first is in Matthew 5:48, which is the part of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus discusses Love of Enemies.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

The Mount of Beatitudes and The Sea of Galilee

The second appears in Matthew 19:21 within the story of The Rich Young Man.

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)

If you wish to be perfect…

In reality, there is always room for improvement.   If we think we are all done with the personal/spiritual growth thing (as if to say: “I have arrived”), we are reminded that our work is never complete.It is then, that Jesus will say to us:

If you wish to be perfect…

It’s the all-or-nothing extremes that are useless.  Unhelpful.  Paralyzing.  In no way does Jesus insinuate that this rigid interpretation of perfection is what we are to aim for.

Growth—change—is a process.  Metanoia is a “turning” away from something (sinful) and towards God (who is wholeness, life, and truth).

Think about the self-improvement / growth things that you are working on in your life.  Do you treat yourself with love in the process of turning?  Or do you become overly critical and hateful about perceived failures?  Because that “hateful” thing is not what Jesus would do.

To move beyond my own struggle with perfectionism, I found it helpful to redefine “perfect” as functioning at my best, right now.  For me that implies being my best and doing my best in the present moment, while looking to take the next step to become better.

The “next step” is an important concept in overcoming paralyzing perfectionism, because it recognizes the space between the “reality of now” and the “ideal” or “goal.”  And in order for it to function, the “next step” should be realistic.  Small.  Doable.

And then celebrate the success.  And build upon it.  Because that is perfect.

You are not now what you were… You are not now what you will be when God has perfected you.                  – St. Vincent de Paul


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