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

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote last year. I wanted to include it in this week’s Practices of Parenting Carnival over at Emerging Mummy. Sarah Bessey was kind enough to invite other bloggers to share what we do (or try to do) to help us enjoy parenting, and for me, pointing my kids to Christ is what makes mothering not easy and sometimes not enjoyable but definitely worth it. I hope this post proves that.

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.

EmergingMummy.com

Comments

  1. Colleen Martin says:

    Crying, yet again. Thank you Meghan.

  2. That is so profoundly deep. Such a great challenge to mother’s to truly trust Him in all things, especially those most precious to us. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Oh, man. Just when you had me laughing (over this: “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.”) you turn around and boom. Man. I don’t know that I have prayed anything remotely like that and now you’ve got me thinking. Loved this. There is freedom here. Beautifully written, too. xo

    • There is, indeed, freedom here. Thanks, Sarah, for hosting such a phenomenal event. And thank you so much for reading and commenting on my small contribution. XO back at ya.

  4. Deanna D. says:

    I read this yesterday and mulled over it for a bit. I hope you will allow me to share a different perspective that is just as biblical and perhaps more healthy in the long run.

    I think we look at Jesus’ sacrificial death as a model, sometimes, but He did not allow Himself to be mistreated His entire life. He openly corrected His parents, the pharisees, and the disciples. He was “among men but did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew their hearts.” He shared things with his 12 disciples, but only personal moments with 3 of that group. Throughout His life, we see healthy boundaries in place until Gethsemane, where He makes the decision to give His life up for humanity.

    In order for us to parent well, we can’t teach our children to be martyrs, but rather, how to have healthy relationships, strong boundaries, how to forgive, and when to reconcile.

    It would be better, in my opinion, to teach them the principles of Mt. 18, to go to those who have wronged us to give them a chance to make it right. If it isn’t better, bring others (parents, teachers) to see if things can be resolved through mediation. But in the end, if someone just wants to be a jerk, we can not have that person in our inner circle because they will continue to hurt us.

    • Yes, good thoughts here, Deanna. Your words lend a nice balance to what I wrote. And my daughter and I eventually got to this part of the process. But in the thick of those “hurt feelings,” I really just wanted my girl to trust Jesus with her pain. And I had to trust Him with mine as well.

      Thank you for sharing your sage perspective!

  5. As is so often the case when I am feeling lonely and empty and sad, I turn to Raineydays.org always to learn more about my self and my God. To night is no different. First I am greeted by my precious Oldfield grandchildren. Which right there is a humungous pick me up. But to night is especially touching as I read the prayer that I sooooo needed to pray. Thank you God and thank you Megan. And …… what the heck does culmniated mean. I love you dear daughter! Mommy (my mother) was very dear to me and set many good examples for me. She did an exceptional job of parenting with out Christ in her life. Fortunately I was able to introduce her to Jesus just prior to God calling her home. All that said to say this. You, my dear child are the only other person I would have liked to be my mommy. God bless you sweetheart. Mom

    • Your Daughter says:

      Calumniated means to be misunderstood. Hate being misunderstood! Thanks for your comments, Mom. I love you!

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