Intention and Compassion and Community

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Community. It's one of the reasons I love blogging. The support and love we can share with each other, the things we can learn from each other. But there is also a risk associated with being part of a community.

Each time I put myself out there and offer something of my heart and soul to the world I worry a little bit. Will today be the day that someone finally lets me know how lame they think my mom stories are? Is this post going to be the one that offends someone even though I spent hours trying to find the perfect words to express my point of view with love and humility? Will this be the day when someone tells me that my new Etsy product is just downright ugly?

Honestly, with topics such as gender roles and same sex marriage on my blog I was expecting to get some negative feedback. I was expecting a bump in the road, or a road block or two.

I wasn't expecting to be thrown off a cliff. And certainly not by lovey moms like me.

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I was watching this documentary the other day about girls in India and the clash between traditional cultural values and the more modern culture that is growing in their country. It started out with an interesting overlap of stories, both following girls of similar age. One was attending a camp designed to strengthen her Hindu cultural traditions and one more modern gal was participating in a pageant to be Miss India.

The story began to develop as each of the girls shared more of their philosophical beliefs and their reasons for participating in the events. The traditional gals were trying to keep the moral strength that their religion and historic culture gave them and their country. The modern gals were looking for a platform that would give them a voice and opportunities in a country that consistently overlooked them and set limits on their choices. It was easy to see how both sides were seeking for the best for them and their fellow country women, but each in different ways.

The real complexity came when the film explored where these good intentions led the girls. The camp the traditional gal attended strengthened the girls views that her only valuable contribution to society was to marry and bear children, that her only worth was that given to her my her husband. Their classes included instruction on how to handle and shoot a rifle so that they can protect their religious and cultural values by killing those who opposed them. The film followed the pageant participants as they underwent the beauty regime demanded by the pageant, including botox, and challenges that judged them solely on their legs or bikini bodies, all for the chance to have a career and be judged one day my their own ideas and abilities instead of being told what to do all their lives.

It was a great film, very thought provoking, but I didn't immediately see the parallels these two extreme examples in a country half way across the world had to my life.

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I'll not go into the details of what happened this week. In my interactions with a community I had thought myself to be a part of, I had done what I believed to be a good job and offered something I believed of value to the community. However it did not meet their expectations. I had done research before offering my little piece of myself to the community, but I hadn't done enough to equal all that that their collective experience had given them. When the first few people came to me with concerns, I was a little hurt, but tried to step back and review their criticisms to find if their concerns were valid and how I could make a better offering to the community. 

But it quickly turned from a few concerns into a torrent of negative words and judgement. I was accused of a lengthy list of horrible things. Multiple people believed they knew the intentions behind my actions and that they were neglectful and malicious. Every detail of my offering and my online presence was scrutinized, every detail of my life that could be gathered was used to prove their theories. They posted notices of every action I took, every message I sent in response to their concerns. They shared links to my etsy shop, my listings, my blogs, and specific blog posts that they used to try to prove their point. Little things that I enjoyed in my creative process where used to show that my intention was just to get gain for myself. My admission here on my blog that I am a new mom and didn't know everything was used to show that I couldn't have possibly had the ability to offer something of value to this community with such vast knowledge and expertise in the field.

I read all of this with hurt feelings so I saw much of what transpired through that perspective. I have since tried to ruminate and let my thoughts and feelings simmer a little. Now that they have distilled down to a few different points, I can see this experience a little clearer than I could while I was in the midst of it.

All these ladies were just a bunch of momma bears that loved their little ones. Their intention was to ensure that their kiddos and all the kiddos of the world got the best of the best and everything they needed to be safe and happy. It is easy in that mind set, with those great intentions, to begin to see the world in black and white, good and bad. If something is less than we expect it, if someone's view is other than our own, it becomes easy to cast ourselves as good and everyone else as bad. I was just caught on the wrong side of those good intentions.

They couldn't know my intentions, my reasons for doing what I do, the kind of person I am or want to be. Only I can know those things, and of course Heavenly Father. I can weigh their criticisms, their concerns, and their advice carefully. I can sift through all that was leveled at me, searching for things that can be constructive, to help me improve myself and what I offer to the world, and leave all the rest. I don't have to be burdened by carrying around all of their accusations and negativity around with me. And most importantly I don't have to believe in their judgements.

The only people whose judgements I need to have faith in are those that know me perfectly, my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They know me better than I know myself. They can tell me about my intentions and let me know where they need improvement or further mastery, or encourage me where those intentions are found to be noble and good.

I also found that I can only prove faithful to my intentions as far as my knowledge and abilities can allow me. We can only do the best with what we have at the time. The knowledge I had at the time of my offering was good, and I did the best I had with it. But through this experience I found more information that led me to make a different choice. I am proud of the offering I made and still believe in it, but won't put it back out there until I know it will meet every one of my revised expectations.

I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be. I kept hearing myself say things like "I am not going to be that person that quits because someone else doesn't approve of them" and "I have always believed in being honest, professional, and kind. I'm not going to let negativity take that away from me." I learned that I didn't just really like this offering I sent out into the world, but that I was really passionate about the needs and people it would serve. I reiterated and stood by my commitment to send out the best product I can and make sure my customers are 100% happy. I learned that the only people whose opinions I truly cared about were those people that are close to me. My family and friends rallied around me and supported me without trying to justify my mistakes. They honored me for my intentions without having to believe me to be perfect.

But perhaps the most powerful thing I learned this week is how I want to relate and communicate with other people. I hated that people immediately judged me to be a good or bad person based on one offering I sent out to the world, so I will refuse to judge them to be good or bad people based on one online interaction. I saw that good intentions don't justify tearing someone down, so I want to learn to build people up, even when I offer criticisms or concerns. I found it hard to meet the expectations of people that had different stores of knowledge and experience that I did, so I will try to consider the varying experiences of those I meet in my interactions with them. I found it easy for people to say harmful things when they didn't know I would be reading them, so I will strive to always speak as if the people concerned are next to me. 

It may sound trite to say, but I am profoundly grateful for this experience. I am more devoted than ever to being an intentionally compassionate person that believes in the best of those I meet. I am more committed to the causes that I strive to serve in my offerings to the communities of which I am a part. I am stronger and more resilient as an individual. And, as it happens with almost all trials, I have a stronger foundation in my relationship with my Father in Heaven.

If nothing else comes from my offering to the community but that, my relationship with Heavenly Father is reason enough to put forth a little piece of my heart and soul. I hope to do so with compassion every day.

Lots of Love,
Monica Lynn

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  1. It is always hard to hear false judgements about ourselves. I appreciate all your words and am glad you had family and friend supporting you during the difficult time.


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