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Excerpted from No Less Than Greatness by Mary Manin Morrissey. Copyright © 2001 by Mary Manin Morrissey. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"When we dance around others or put on masks and costumes, we cannot achieve the clear and honest relationships that open the way to love."

  Mary Manin Morrissey
No Less Than Greatness
, Part 1

A Case of Mistaken Identity

At first, I was reluctant to show Michael my engagement ring. This eleven-year-old kid with a snarl on his face where a smile should have been, my future husbandís son, didnít care for me particularly. Ed had called Michael after dinner on Valentineís Day, right after he asked me to marry him, and Michael had responded to our news with uncharacteristic calm: "Congratulations. Thatís fine."

Then he added, "Just donít expect me to come to the wedding."

Ed replied that he really wanted Michael with us on such an important day and would be very sad without him, but the boy had to make his own choices. Soon, the polite tones gave way to pleading and tirades and yelling and name-calling and after about two hours, father and son hung up, hoarse and exhausted. Then Ed cried, I cried, and, as I found out later, Michael cried.

Not a particularly auspicious beginning to this new chapter of my life, especially when I had some doubts of my own. I was forty-four years old, divorced after twenty-six years of marriage and with a burgeoning international ministry to run. I was uncertain about taking on a new role as a stepmother, having almost finished raising four children of my own. My youngest was sixteen. Ed had a second son, Matthew, who was, thankfully, easy to please, but he was only six years old. God, I asked, do you really intend to send me backward ten years? My identity, or so I believed, was as a minister and the mother of grown children, not as a car-pool captain worried about the high cost of orthodontics. Besides, Iíd been so sweet to this difficult child, even holding my tongue when he swore at the dinner table, something Iíd never have tolerated from my own children. I smiled all the time. I smiled so much my face hurt.

My face hurt because a phony smile contorts our identity, and being untrue to ourselves causes pain. Often we lose our identity trying to please or placate others. We lose sight of who we are while trying to mesh our lives with those around us. We compromise our values and beliefs to make others happy or simply to avoid conflict. But when we dance around others or put on masks and costumes, we cannot achieve the clear and honest relationships that open the way to love.

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