Paul Moore: The pro-life movement’s secret weapon . . . a loving attitude
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
A friend and I were sitting down to lunch at a restaurant. My friend saw someone he knew and waved him over. Seemed like a nice guy. Not exactly the retiring type, but I could sense a good heart, and my friend had known him a long time, and testified to the good he had done.
The guy was on his lunch break, so he ate quickly, then headed back to work. After he left, our server — whom I will call Jill — approached the table ostensibly to freshen our coffees.
“You know that guy?” she asked. My friend said he had, for a long time. She said, “Well, I just don’t know, I think you two are great, but that guy. . . .”
Turns out Jill was previously acquainted with him, both in an official capacity at his former job, and from a class they both attended. She didn’t mention anything particular — just what she perceived as his attitude. “He’s rude,” she said. I did notice he dropped his used food wrappings rather unceremoniously on the tray she held out, saying, “You can take this, too.” No acknowledgement or thank you. A tiny thing, yes, and no doubt servers put up with worse.
Apparently, he came into the restaurant occasionally, and something he said or didn’t say, the way he looked at servers or didn’t, conveyed to her that, “He thinks he’s better than us.” The guy struck me as having an assertive personality, but someone who could be a bit shy underneath, and in trying to cover up that shyness, maybe came across as brash.
I thought perhaps Jill hadn’t picked up on the shyness, though she still might have said, “That’s no excuse for being careless with another’s feelings.”
In that she would have agreed with my grandmother. I neglected to say hello to someone once, and my grandmother asked why, and I said that I was shy, as if that settled it. My grandmother said, “Being shy is not something to be proud of — shy people can’t put others at ease.”
AVOID SHOW OF MORAL SUPERIORITY
The crossed wires of human communication I witnessed in the restaurant struck me as a microcosm of how misunderstandings often stem from what others perceive as our attitude toward them. I see something similar play out in the way pro-choice people perceive how pro-lifers think of them. They think we (I’m presuming readers are pro-life, sorry if I’m wrong) look down on them and consider ourselves superior.
God help us — sometimes I think they’re right.
We must communicate by our attitudes as well as our actions that we care more about mother and child than being “right.”
I know a lot of pro-lifers get so upset about the injustice of abortion that it’s hard to focus on being loving toward those with whom we disagree, hard to be patient with a logic that human beings are not human persons. However, when we respond with anger we tend to reinforce a narrative that pro-lifers, and by extension Christians, are sanctimonious, frustrated, judgmental people who talk a better game than we play.
We must communicate by our attitudes as well as our actions that we care more about mother and child than being “right.” Any misguided whiff of moral superiority should be avoided like the plague. Few of us have the right to be smug about our track record for life.
Are we prepared to do everything necessary if many more children are carried to term post-Roe — to offer meaningful pre-and post-term support for mother and child, without question or judgment?
LOVING PEOPLE INTO TRUTH
Moreover, pro-lifers do not have monopoly on deep feelings. Author and essayist Elizabeth Stone had an abortion at age 19 before Roe v. Wade and believes strongly we should not return to that time. She’s also a mother and wrote these words, “Making the decision to have a child . . . is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
I’ve seldom heard a more evocative description of parenthood, the only difference being that Catholic pro-lifers believe every heart, once conceived, is already part of the Body of Christ.
Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director who had two abortions herself before resigning after watching an abortion on ultrasound (her personal story is told in the movie “Unplanned”) says, “Can you love people into truth? Absolutely.”
Whether eating in a restaurant or lobbying for life, our attitude is always the loudest voice in the room.
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic communicator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills, Illinois. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.