Let's Build Each Other Up

A Letter from Olivia Spears

Photo by Ivana Cajina

Photo by Ivana Cajina

(Click on the letters to enlarge)

To my sister, to my friend:

She spotted the pink and white checkered notepad before I had an opportunity to hide it in my drawer. I watched her eyes dance across my desk and rest on my written to-do list. Her gaze hovered over the dark black ink, its contrast betraying the truth about my worth.

“I love your handwriting!” she said emphatically.
My face flushed and I laughed awkwardly, “Yeah, it’s the worst.”

She looked up, her face betraying her confusion. “No, I’m being sincere. Your handwriting is really pretty.”

Throughout my elementary and high school education, I was consistently teased about the quality of my handwriting. It was neat and legible; but it lacked finesse, the apparent unspoken requirement of all competent teenage girls. Those closest to me would scoff upon glimpsing an essay I penned or jokingly volunteer me for Pep Club banner design. During class, my friends doodled in their notebooks. They effortlessly created colorful hand-lettered and illustrated masterpieces around the names of their boyfriends. Meanwhile, I was simply forcing myself to write my “a’s” differently to appear more artistic. Where their handwriting was swirly and feminine, mine was straight and slightly boyish.

I realized even then that their jeers weren’t mean-spirited. But they nevertheless affected the way I viewed this small part of myself and I became ridiculously self-conscious about it. I wasted hours trying to “fix” my handwriting, which was never really broken, in order to fit seamlessly into the woven pattern of expectation.

So when I went away to college and met my first friend during freshmen orientation, and she caught sight of my scribbled to-do list on my desk, I prepared myself for a similar coloring in her eyes. (Page 2) I steadied myself to carry the same insecurity throughout my higher education.

That’s why I didn’t believe my new friend when she complimented my handwriting. I couldn’t fathom that someone could see the good in what others’ had readily condemned. And this honest affirmation continued to occur. While I acknowledge that my handwriting is nothing special, my new friends, unaware of this particular insecurity of mine, complemented its neatness and consistency. They rebuilt what had been slowly damaged.

There is a verse in the Book of Isaiah that frequently comforts me: “Your builders outstrip your destroyers” (Isaiah 49:17). Sisters, we thrive most when we are surrounded by builders. Community is best when it’s comprised of people who see beauty in our insecurities, who look for the redemption in the midst of our failure, and who strive to love who we truly are instead of who the world suggests we should be.

"Community is best when it’s comprised of people who see beauty in our insecurities, who look for the redemption in the midst of our failure, and who strive to love who we truly are instead of who the world suggests we should be."

As Catholic women, if we desire a culture that seeks to build one another up, we must first do that within our own selves and interpersonal relationships. We must be builders. We have the power to create a culture of affirmation instead of degradation. Ultimately, being builders of ourselves, our loved ones, and our community will grant permission for everyone else to emerge with their unique skills, talents, and experiences to sure up the walls of this weary world. We have the ability to love one another for the unique gifts we are, and we will miss out on so much if we neglect to do so.

Sweet sister, I pray that you find a community in which you can be yourself, fully and unapologetically. If the Church is our home, we must serve as the comfort of home for one another.

Loving you to the heights, Olivia

Get to know Olivia Spears


Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi hi hi! I’m Olivia and I’m 28 years old. I’m married to my high school best friend turned college sweetheart and we have two kiddos. I work from home full-time as a writer, editor, and social media manager. I’m an ISFJ melancholic-choleric so I’m a real ball of fun (wink). 

What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?

There is no one way to become a saint. A simple browse through the lives of the saints shows us that. I find it empowering and consoling that we become a saint through our realities, in our specific life circumstances and situations, and by striving to know, love, and serve the Lord exactly where He has placed us. The path to Heaven will look different for all of us, and that’s the beauty of God’s inexhaustible creativity and calling.

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