Bristol Palin proves perfection is not a prerequisite for a beautiful life

‘Wouldn’t the world be a better place if people would be happy upon hearing other people’s good news instead of criticizing it?’

Bristol Palin, oldest daughter of former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, at a book signing in Phoenix, Arizona. Gage Skidmore | Flickr

When it comes to receiving criticism for her mistakes, Bristol Palin is no stranger to the sting. She initially caught the media’s attention in 2008 as a 17-year-old when her mother, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, announced Bristol’s pregnancy. “Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child,” Sarah Palin said in a statement. As it turned out, Bristol and the baby’s father did not get married, instead enduring a rocky relationship consisting of two broken engagements and an ultimate end in 2010.

Admirably, however, she used her experience as a single mother to become an advocate for teen pregnancy prevention, promoting abstinence. The Candie’s Foundation named her a teen pregnancy prevention ambassador in 2009. Voicing her own commitment to abstinence in a 2010 Today interview, she said, “I’m not going to [have sex again] until I’m married.”

However, to everyone’s surprise in mid 2015, Bristol announced that she was once again pregnant outside marriage. She confessed in a blog post that the pregnancy had been a difficult pill to swallow, writing, “Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.” She did, however, maintain the strength that she attributes to her faith, saying, “At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me.”

Fast-forward to present day and the 26-year-old is happily married to her second child’s father and thrilled to now be expecting her third. She praised God for the joyful life she’s leading in a blog post announcing her pregnancy. “Looking back many months ago, I would never have dreamed this is where I would be. Is this not proof God is full of good surprises, when you put your life in His hands?”

As Bristol’s life proves, putting one’s life in God’s hands does not mean never making mistakes. We’re human and inevitably, we’re going to slip up from time to time. What’s important is not our ratio of virtuous to immoral actions. It’s how we proceed after the blunders that counts the most. Do we refuse to accept responsibility, instead blaming other people or our circumstances? Or do we acknowledge that we’ve messed up, and seek forgiveness and guidance as we face the consequences?

“Life moves on no matter what. So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up,” Bristol wrote while facing her second pregnancy. Those are wise words, especially when the going gets tough, or we make mistakes (because we’re human and those do happen). The natural inclination when we’re regretful is often to cower in shame. However, as Bristol indicated, the strongest move we can make is to boldly face life after our mistakes, trusting that God will gracefully guide us back to peace. That’s wisdom beyond her years.

But there’s one more lesson that Bristol’s young motherhood has taught me: one of compassion for others. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult lessons to comprehend because criticism comes so easily to us. We’re quick to judge others and shed light on their faults, whether they are celebrities we don’t know, or the neighbors we do. But we all need to help hold each other up, not tear each other down.

And that same forgiveness needs to extend to ourselves as well: it can be extremely difficult for us to fathom the boundless mercy of God when we feel like we’ve messed up yet again. We need to be compassionate with ourselves so that we can learn from our mistakes and maybe even empathize better with others as a result. Because forgiveness must start from within. Only then can we begin to more readily extend mercy to others, and perhaps gain a glimpse of the eagerness with which God extends it to us.

As Bristol wrote in anticipation of the public’s reaction to her latest pregnancy, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if people would be happy upon hearing other people’s good news instead of criticizing it? Or bringing them down?” And, again, I agree with her sentiment. Because ultimately, Bristol’s bumpy road to the beautiful life with three beautiful children can be summarized in a statement she made in the blog post announcing her pregnancy: “[My son], this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.” That’s faith at it’s most real.

 

Elizabeth Pardi
Elizabeth Pardi
Elizabeth Pardi is a New York-born, Virginia-raised, Ohio-dwelling freelancer. She spends her days laughing, learning and running her way through life with her superstar spouse and their charmingly passionate one-year-old.

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