We’ve all seen those blog posts listing all the hilarious, snarky retorts we can have at our disposal when well-intentioned people make comments about our pregnancy, parenting, or birth choices. There is definitely a place for a well-placed one-liner, but not everyone will see the joke. Those remarks are most often only appreciated in theory, not in practice. Of course, it often helps us to alleviate the stress of constant, unhelpful remarks. Who doesn’t need a good laugh after several “Haven’t had that baby yet” moments?
Granted, most of us just politely smile, nod, and walk the other way, keeping our irritated sarcasm to ourselves. We think sarcastic thoughts, or post them on Twitter, but we choose manners when we are in the moment. We none of us really want to be rude, even if we feel like it. We know that answering rudeness with rudeness often just escalates the situation.
Some people, of course, are just rude. It’s best to just walk away in that case. But, what can we do when we feel a strong need to respond in some way? Are sarcasm and snark the best approach? Sometimes, probably. Some people need the wake-up call. However, most people don’t realize that they’re being rude — however well-intentioned they may be — and grace goes a long way. You never know. You might be the one who helps someone treat the next pregnant lady a little better. Isn’t that worth biting back a stinging remark, then going one step beyond and extending grace?
So, what does responding in grace look like?
“You’re having a home birth? Aren’t you afraid of –insert random, rare emergency here–?”
Snark says: “You had hospital births? Weren’t you afraid of –insert random, common intervention here–?”
This kind of response is designed to shut down conversation, and while the person may deserve snark, isn’t a little kindness more powerful?
Grace says: “I appreciate your concern, but no, I am not afraid.”
There is no need to explain your decisions to anyone since you are the one who walks it out, but this kind of response may invite questions and conversation that could benefit the hearer in long run.
“Wow! You are getting sooooo HUGE!”
Snark says: “Thanks! So are you!”
While hilarious in theory, (I’ll admit, I chuckled) two wrongs don’t make a right. People really don’t know what to say, and aren’t necessarily comfortable with just a friendly silence.
Grace says: “Thanks! I’m so excited to be able to grow such a healthy baby!”
This can encourage people to view the full-term pregnant body as something beautiful, normal, and healthy, instead of just weight gain. They won’t expect the kindness.
“Let me tell you ALL THE HORROR STORIES surrounding my births!”
Snark says: “Well, at least you have a healthy baby, right?!”
This can add another layer of sorrow or regret to the woman who opened up to you, and can be just as hurtful to hear as her horror story was to you. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Grace says: “Wow – what a rough ride. If you could go back and change anything about your births, what would it be?”
Women learn in community. It’s why we write and read blogs, attend La Leche League and MOPS groups. Such things have replaced the old quilting bees. It’s also why we are compelled to share our birth stories, positive and negative. Perhaps, this woman has only ever been told she should be grateful, because her baby is healthy. Maybe no one has acknowledged her experience, or made space for her to process it. Maybe you have just been given the chance to help a fellow human being take one more step toward healing by your validation of her experience. Plus, you might learn something.
Kindness goes so very far when we see others as humans who make mistakes. Really, haven’t we all said insensitive things without meaning to, only to learn our mistake later? Can’t we all recall that one time we really blew it by putting our collective feet in our collective mouths? We all cringe at such memories, right? How beautiful was it, in those moments, when someone extended grace to us?
Well, why not make those moments a little less cringe-worthy in your turn by extending grace to our sometimes clueless fellow human beings? Maybe they don’t deserve it, but we all have undeserving moments. That’s the whole point of grace– it’s unmerited favor.
Remember: In the end, it is love that wins the day, not wit or cleverness.
What would you add? When have you responded with grace instead of sarcasm? What other comments can be hurtful, and what might you say or do instead?
Grace & Peace,