Monday, December 17, 2012

Changes of Heart

Last year I wrote an article for an online Catholic magazine entitled I'm Not Wearing Pants. It was a fun article to write, but the response to it was even more fun. It garnered a lot of attention (for me!) and was even given a tip of the hat by the book author who I referenced in the essay. Here's the kicker: I take it (well, most of it) back.

It has become very obvious to me lately that one's outward appearance has almost nothing to do with the inward state of one's soul. Everyone is on his or her own journey toward God and the costume that we put on the outside is representative only of how we want others to perceive us.

These thoughts have been percolating around in my head for a few months now. They have come to a full boil recently as I have watched some of the most perfect looking people be exposed as duplicitous - while nearly simultaneously realizing that some of the most unassuming, quiet, under-dressed, plain people I knew were such deep well-springs of holiness that had I not been seeking, I would have missed out on their intrinsic wealth completely.

Deep Breath.

All of this was forming into conscious thought in my head when this came about. One of my favorite bloggers C Jane Kendrick has recently written a series of essays where she has realized that she is indeed a feminist. A practicing member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), Kendrick is on the cutting edge of Mormon bloggers who traditionally display an almost unanimously united front when it comes to motherhood: Traditional is Best. Kendrick's latest essays have underscored a level of restlessness with the availability of opportunities for women in the Mormon church, outside of young marriage and motherhood. And apparently she is not alone.

In order to demonstrate their discontent, a band of likeminded LDS feminists staged a "Pants In" of sorts. In breaking with societal norm, but not necessarily church teaching, many women came to church on Sunday wearing...

Feminism. Hmm. It sure took them long enough.

You see, feminism and Catholicism have a long, ugly history together and part of my Pants piece was in revolt to what feminism has done to Catholic motherhood. It takes that flame of discontent that is part of the human condition, and it fans it with, "You are better than this! You are smarter and more capable than this dirty work of raising kids" and the fires of inequality rage. But here is what I know now to be true: Life will never be equal nor fair. There is no fairness when it comes to infidelity. There is no fairness when it comes to infertility. There is no fairness when it comes to the early onset of a terminal disease, to discontent, to depression. We are all on our own road. We are all called to our own level of holiness - and nobody else's. One's decision on how to dress should be a matter of holiness rather than defiance. Because defiance will take you down a bitter and ugly road.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and it's righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. 
There is inherent beauty in being a woman, that I will never recant. I do believe that women are called to accept their femininity with grace and ownership - but there are so many ways to do that. Some of them may not look on the surface like I might expect them to look, and who am I to decide what is feminine or not? There is only one thing I do know for sure - a woman is at her worst when she is trying to be a man.


Becky said...

Beautifully said Sharon. It is so necessary to look past the externals to see the person. So many of us have taken this same journey. It is a beautiful thing to truly experience that beauty is in the soul not off the rack. Thank you for your honesty.

Petrus said...

I liked your original article. And I wear pants. So, don't take it all back, just the pants part. LOL. I do appreciate this one a lot too. I see so much angst in women who ae just trying so.dang.hard. to acquire some feminist nirvana. I wish someone would tell them to stoo being a feminist and just be a woman.

Sharon Kieffer Steele said...

Stop being a feminist and just be a woman.

@petrus, I am going to use that. A lot.

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