respect, day 16


my name is jeanne, and i have authority issues . . .

i have long despised the words i heard far too often as a child, “with every head bowed and every eye closed,” words that preceded some man standing in the pulpit elevated above us and pontificating under the name of prayer. even as a youth, i did not want or need men speaking for me. even as a youth, i knew that prayer is something that can be done silently, by each person in his or her own way. even as a youth, i knew that some of these men used prayer as a spotlight, a greeting card, absolution, subterfuge.

so every time we gathered for dinner, one of the things i dreaded most was mother beckoning us to the kitchen, instructing us to hold hands, then asking the youngest child in attendance to say the blessing while the rest of us were to bow our head and close our eyes just like in days gone by.

eventually came the day when i could no longer go along quietly, my silence an implied endorsement.

“mother,” i said to her before one family gathering, “if you want to pray, that’s fine. i respect that. i do, however, ask that you not expect me to or demand that i join in. i ask that you respect me and my belief system and allow me to pray as i will. or will not.”

i went on to explain my belief that prayer is something that can be done in any variety of ways by individuals in ways they see fit. “the beauty of prayer,” i told her, “is that it’s no less effective if those around you don’t even know that you’re praying.”

“when others subject me to their prayers, i feel like they are forcing their religion on me without regard to my belief system. perhaps you could simply say,” i suggested, “‘join me as you will.’ that allows us to opt in or out. that is respectful of everyone in attendance.”

now she didn’t have to do this, of course, she’s my mother. according to the way i was brought up, i am to respect her without comment.

but she did. she dropped the required praying before a meal, allowing us to express our gratitude and seek grace in our own individual ways.

and i love her for that.


  1. Ewhitlock

    Nice. Very nice.

  2. Mrsmediocrity

    good for you. and for her. my mother and i had countless arguments about religion when i was younger. she’s given up on me now, well, not on me, but on that topic. you were brave and honest and true to yourself. that’s what i love about you.

    • whollyjeanne

      i think mother has just kinda’ given up on the topic, too. i’m more than pretty sure that she totally does not understand or agree with my position on religion. she would still love nothing better than for me to go to church regularly instead of on the occasional christmas eve. (i’m a sucker for singing silent night by candlelight.)

  3. Artemis Retreats

    I love her for that too! And you, many don’t have the courage to ask for what they need.

  4. Julie Daley


  5. Anonymous

    I LOVE both that you asked and that your mother listened – beautiful!

  6. Chrisrkelly2003

    I think it is great you and your mom have that kind of relationship. Mine would have said, “you will do as I say out of respect.” My opinion, not that you want it, is that you have always had the opt to opt out. You are a very strong willed person I am finding out. It is just now a little easier for all. Proud of you both!!!!

  7. angela

    I love to see the respect flowing both ways: a prayer in itself. xo

  8. Sally G.

    It’s actually very difficult to structure life around ‘the optics’. Having to phrase your ideas around “How would it look if …” or “What will they think when …” ~ imagine how small you would have to make your Self to get stuffed into those limiting boundaries.

    I suspect your Mom appreciated the respect you showed her for her faith and ideas as you shared yours with her. How might her life have been different if she’d have had the courage to honour her own beliefs and express her own voice regardless of ‘the optics’?

    You’re showing her, every day, how things could be. With love and respect. Keep it up!

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