In women circles, online and in real life, there is an interesting tendency for women to pat each other on the back and encourage mediocrity.
Now I understand the need for judgment-free zones. I am an imperfect woman and I don’t like to be reminded of my imperfections all the time! My appearance, my sins, my health, my interactions…I have plenty to improve upon that I am perfectly aware of (and probably a bunch more that I have yet to discover).
Sometimes we need to aim for average
The reality is, sometimes average is what we need to aim for. Sometimes we have let ourselves go for so long, we have missed the mark so badly that average is what we need to push towards. It’s the first, most painful step towards perfection.
However it is still important to conscientiously encourage our sisters to grow, to want more from themselves, to never be perfectly comfortable with our imperfections. Someone who has missed the mark needs love and compassion but they also need a nudge in the right direction. Someone who has made it to average, whether that is abstaining from mortal sin or maintaining a healthy routine after months of depression, needs to be congratulated and shown how much more they can do. Someone who is moving above and beyond always has something more to learn in the journey to perfection.
I must emphasize that achievement should be rewarded and not made less of. After I had been suffering from a particularly bad episode of depression, achieving my “average” was an amazing feat. Being free from habitual mortal sin is an incredible work of God.
Called to be More
However I think it is worth noting that we are not just called to not do certain things but rather we are called to be something: holy children of God.
Judgemental attitudes and legalistic snobbery are the fruit of spiritual pride and tend to do more harm than good but carelessly telling someone to stay exactly where they are can be equally damaging.
Telling someone you don’t have to do something to be a good Catholic, like pray the rosary, may be technically true but what is the point? Perhaps you are simply adding further excuses to someone who has become lukewarm. There are a lot of things you don’t necessarily need to do in order to be a good Catholic. But just because you do not need to do them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Likewise, I have seen people brush off occasions of sin, like interfaith marriage, because “technically” it is allowed. The Church in her wisdom, gives us a great deal of freedom “but take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumbling block to the weak” ( 1 Corinthians 8:9). We must be prudent; acknowledging the diverse circumstances our sisters find themselves in while still holding on to the reality that we are in the world but not of the world.
“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””1 Peter 1:15-16
Doing our best
I think most people have some sense of what is their “average” and how much more they can do. All of us would benefit from having a spiritual advisor to consult on religious matters and an experienced, loving friend ( think: Titus 2 woman) to consult in others. Above all we need to pray “come Holy Spirit!” and ask for God to guide us, and enlighten our conscience.
We are not called to overwhelm ourselves with an abundance of grandiose disciplines but we are supposed to do our best in whatever state of life we have been called to and whatever season we are in.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”Hebrews 12:1-2