Today as Catholics we mark the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist, Jesus’ beloved cousin and a man who encapsulates encouragement over insecurity. Ladies! Remember how he pointed the way to Jesus, over and over telling people he wasn’t the Messiah, but . . . wait for it . . . they should go to his cousin instead.
Today we’re talking about facing our insecurities as women, and examining the incredible impediment they produce to sisterhood in Christ. The flip coin of insecurity is encouragement. A choice we’d all like to make more and more often.
When she asks how I am, I hold back from sharing all that I’m really going through. I’ll just sound like a whiner or negative or a black hole of need. It’s better to just say things are fine, or say it’s a little tough right now but getting better every day! Always end on an upswing, right? I want to sound more confident and important than I am. So I’ll hide those parts of me that aren’t appealing.
But what if we actually share when we’re floundering? We give our sisters a chance to encourage us.
Encouragement comes from the virtue of courage or fortitude. Saint Thomas Aquinas dedicates a lot of words to fortitude and you can read more of them over here.
But I love this part: “Wherefore, since confidence denotes a certain strength of hope arising from some observation which gives one a strong opinion that one will obtain a certain good” (Second part of the second part, 129.6, emphasis added)–relating confidence to magnanimity and, thereafter, to fortitude.
Who gives us that strength of hope?
Our loving God, first and foremost. And then, by His grace, our kind sisters in Christ.
And when we reach out to encourage those around us? This doesn’t come from an infinite well of confidence and fabulousness. It comes from knowing that she might share my same struggles with her role, her identity, her body’s limitations.
So that we might reach beyond our insecurity, the insecurity that holds us back from encouraging others.
First step: examine your insecurities in the cleansing light of an examination of conscience (here’s a great one from Blessed is She).
Second step: identify who in your life could use some encouragement, some strength of hope.
Third step: don’t wait to encourage her until you’ve overcome your insecurities; just shuffle into it.
Fourth step: accept encouragement by being open to those in your life in a healthy way with good boundaries.
Fifth step: take after Saint John the Baptism by being comfortable pointing to others and giving them praise.
Sixth step: love more freely, fling open your heart to your sisters around you.
Let’s pray the Memorare over the weekend, asking for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s encouragement and strength of hope on our behalf. Sisters, let’s pray for each other to no longer be hamstrung by our insecurities but, rather, freed up to encourage those around us, and accept their encouragement in return.