How to Pray When Kids (and Grown-Ups) are Mean

I have this prayer I like force myself to pray when my feelings have been hurt. A friend gave it to me a few years ago when I was deeply offended by someone I cared about, and on several occasions since then, especially when I’m terribly tempted to feel sorry for myself, I open my prayer journal, and turn to this page:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

(Litany of Humility, by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X)

Praying this litany is hard enough when I’m hurting, but praying it for my children when they are hurting, too, is almost unbearable. And I should know. I tried to this morning.

Without getting into the specifics, one of my daughters was recently wounded by a friend. She was feeling insulted and ignored, excluded and picked over, and she came to me for help. Truthfully, after hearing her story, my first instinct was to drive to the offender’s house, take her by the ankles and hurl her through the air like a discus. But the sensible, law-abiding, side of me stayed with my daughter, rubbing her back, listening.

Once she quieted down, with eyes red and swollen from crying, she searched my face for sage advice.

At this point, I knew I had a choice as a parent. I could counsel my daughter to be strong, to squash her sensitivities and seek revenge. I could tell her to ditch this friend and find a new one, someone who’d appreciate and admire her unique personality, her silly sense of humor. I could also offer to drive to the friend’s house, take her by the ankles and hurl her through the air like a discus.

But, instead, the words I chose to say were these:

“I know how hurt you must be, Sweetheart, and I’m so sorry that your friend did that to you. Have you considered taking your pain to Jesus? He’s the only one who can properly handle your heart.”

She hugged her pillow, took a choppy breath in, and shook her head.

“I know you want to protect yourself, to build up walls around your heart where you think you will be safe, but again, I’d ask you to consider taking your fear to Jesus. He’s the only one who really knows how to protect us.”

She still didn’t say anything. She usually doesn’t when she knows I might be right. So we prayed. We prayed for her heart and her pain, for Jesus to rush in and hold those pieces together that felt like they were breaking apart, and we asked that he’d help us trust him to keep our hearts safe. Then we prayed for her friend, for forgiveness and for the places in her heart where she may be wounded, too, because hurt people hurt people, and she could probably use a little healing herself.

After that, we talked a little longer, giggled a little louder, and snuggled long past the fireflies came out. But this morning when I woke up, with the situation still fresh on my mind and heavy on my heart, I turned to that old tattered page in my journal and prayed, but this time, a little differently.

“From the desire of my children being loved,
From the desire of my children being preferred,
From the desire of my children being approved, Deliver me, Jesus…

“From the fear of my children being despised,
From the fear of my children being forgotten,
From the fear of my children being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus…

“That others may be loved more than my children, that others may be chosen andmy children set aside, that others may be preferred to my children in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

And it was the worst thing I’ve ever prayed. It not only felt unnatural, it felt sickening, like I was laying down their lives on the slab of sacrifice, giving approval to their death.

But by praying this way for myself and my children, I realized God’s not asking me to invite insults and abuse into our lives; he’s asking me to live in total confidence of his love and protection for us when those injuries inevitably come. I’m not placing their hearts on that slab but in the security of God’s love which he so clearly demonstrated by giving up his own Son for us all.

And for the first and probably only time in my life, I understood a little bit what it’s like to be him.

Comments

  1. I liked this: mostly for myself: God grant me the daily bathing in these truths that I may someday impart them in my children. Somehow I always forget we must forego our rights (ever notice how the word ‘ego’ in embeded in ‘forego’ hmmm..Christ was the Son of God, & “the fullness of the Godhead body”(col 1:19) dwelled in Him. To be crucified with Christ, means we volunteer to forego all our personal rights.(Gal 2:20) Death is painful. I forget this often. But We must recall by faith the promises of Heb 13:5 & Rom 8:38-39. Though others & lifes circumstances may try to: We will never be seperated from God’s love & He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. What wonderful (& counter cultural may I add) news! Jesus willingly seperated himself from the father; He was forsaken so we will never be!

  2. Meg, That was an wonderful reminder for all of us. Jesus is the only thing that truly comforts.

  3. Dear Meg,

    You posted right after me at Ann’s today. I try to visit the blogs of those who post near mean each Monday and Wednesday. My how glad I was to visit here today! You addressed the two symptoms of pride that I struggle with: feeling offended and demanding my rights. This was VERY good, BUT THEN you used your litany with your child in mind! My what a hard concept! To pray another child gets chosen and my child passed by, etc, etc. Is this the kingdom? Certainly Jesus told us children would “get it” when adults don’t. I have to live with this a bit more. It was a shock from which I have not recovered.

    Thank you, Katie, for your comment. It filled in some gaps for me.

    God bless you,
    Dawn

    • Hi Dawn! Thanks for visiting, and commenting! I think you’re right about children and the kingdom. Probably explains why she’s gotten over the insult so quickly, and I’m still limping along…

  4. Enjoyed this very much, it is so full of the gospel. Keep doing your work here, you wisdom-blessing you! And vacation in SD soon…

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