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Who Do You See in the mirror?

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“Mom, I love you. You know what I love about you? I love that your arm is so squishy and soft to lay on.”

So spoke my six-year-old daughter as she snuggled up next to me in bed. The pattern of my thoughts at her words went something like this: “Ugh. Squishy. I really need to lose weight. I can’t stand how I look. Even my kids notice I’ve gained weight.” But here is what went through her mind: “My mom is the most wonderful person in the world. My favorite place to be is in her arms, which are so comfortable and soft. They’re perfect.”

October is Respect Life Month and in Catholic Social Teaching “respect life” includes the dignity of every single person, including me… including you. For how can we truly respect the lives of others if we don’t first have an understanding of what it is to respect ourselves? After all, God created man and woman in His image. (Gen. 1:26).

While I think about being made in the image and likeness of God often (and give myself a pep talk on the topic regularly), it really comes into play when my children hear me speak about myself. How they hear their parents speak not only informs how they will speak about themselves and form their own self-esteem and personal values, but it will translate into
y how they think of others.

When they look in the mirror, their estimation of themselves will form based on what they have heard others say is valuable. Will they say “I’m too big. I’m not pretty. I don’t like my nose?” Or will they say, with humility, “Wow, God is amazing. He made me!” When they look at the child sitting alone at recess because they look or think a bit differently, will they say, “That person is made by God, and is worth my love, too,” or will they shy away? When faced with an unplanned pregnancy or making end of life decisions for their loved ones, will they determine that person has no value based on

their size, their stature, their perceived value – or will they rely on what they learned from mom and dad (and hopefully others) over the years: That person is made in the image and likeness of God and they, too, have value and dignity.

The next time you gaze in the mirror and you fixate on the dark circles, the wrinkles, the extra weight, I urge you to think of the wonder you are. And if, like me, you have little sets of (sometimes overly honest) eyes watching your every move, I encourage you to say something positive out loud, or respond to their discerning comments with joy.

“Mom, your tummy squishes.”

“Isn’t that amazing that my body carried all four of you in there – and two of you at the same time!”

We teach our children respect for life early with how we speak about ourselves and others in their presence. They listen. They internalize. They use what they hear to decipher the world around them from the unborn baby to the isolated classmate to themselves. We can start early and teach them the truth of human dignity.

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