The Holy Imperfect Woman

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If you’re a woman, I’m willing to bet that you have struggled with trying to be some definition of “perfect” at one point or another.  In secular society, it’s easy to see how rampant female perfectionism is. So many of us strive to attain the perfect body, find the perfect job, or be the perfect wife/mother/sister/friend. This thinking can also exist within the Church. As Christian women, there are sometimes subtle expectations placed on us. There is quiet pressure to be perky and helpful at every moment, to never disagree or rock the boat, and to have a burning love for Jane Austen (I’m kidding on that last one…kind of).

Maybe not every lady in the pew feels this way, though. I could very well be seeing this through the lens of my own scarred experience. All I know is that for many years, I felt a bit out of place in the “Catholic Woman Crowd” because of my gregarious personality, offbeat sense of humor, and proclivity to smoke an occasional cigarette.

But I’m slowly learning that there is no “one-size-fits-all” image of Christian femininity. And we will all constantly struggle with sin, faults, and the feeling of never being perfect. In all actuality, it’s one of the most beautiful things about being a Christian. We are not reliant on our own actions to grow us in virtue. Sure, we have to put in the effort. We must take practical steps every day to eradicate our sin and vice. But in the end, we are free of the immense, unshoulderable burden of trying to save ourselves.

The Catechism offers us this reminder:

“All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness.” – CCC 827

We see here that Christ has already won the battle of salvation. We just need to keep running to Him again and again when we inevitably succumb to our weaknesses. We can trust that the Farmer knows what He’s doing when He prunes and tills our hearts.

We can also look to the Blessed Virgin, the most beautiful example of pure, holy womanhood in all of history. Mary exuded the most authentic femininity that we as women should try to emulate. Of course, to the perfectionist, Mary might be intimidating. I had a bitter relationship with her for most of my life because I knew I could never measure up to her. She was competition. But over time, I learned to see her as my Mother in heaven who loved me very much and wanted me to attain holiness even more than I did.

In our pursuit of holiness as Catholic women, let’s stop trying to be perfect. Let’s stop trying to fit ourselves into stereotypical molds of what we think Christian womanhood is, because really, they don’t exist. What has been more beneficial to me in my personal and spiritual growth has been to ask myself the question, “Who is the woman that God made me to be?” Most of the time, the answer is not some cookie-cutter trophy woman I wish I was. It’s following the “greatest path of love”, as Bishop Robert Barron coined, using the traits, quirks, strengths, and imperfections that God gave to me to do so.

That’s all He asks of us, really. And that’s good enough.

{Photo Credit: Favim}

Amy Atkinson

Amy Atkinson

Amy Atkinson is a lifelong member of the Diocese of Arlington located in Northern Virginia. She is active in several of the diocese's young adult programs and has worked with many Catholic organizations throughout the DC/Metro area including Endow and Birthright, focusing primarily on ministry for young women.

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