Undiscovered Gems: Betty Duffy

December 9, 2009 | 12 comments

All my brainpower is going to Christmas cards today, so here’s another blog I wanted to share as part of my Undiscovered Gems series:

Betty Duffy has become one of those blogs that makes me smile every time Google Reader tells me it’s been updated. You just never know what you’re going to get with her posts — she might write about anything from her experiences with depression to her weight loss history to the quirky aspects of her childhood to realizing that her spiritual struggles have one clear solution — but whatever she writes, you know it’s going to be thoughtful and have a strong take. Her combox is great too; the discussions that follower her posts frequently get all deep and make me feel like I should stay in the shallow end of the internet (like in this post about giving up nouns for Lent.)

She also has a great way of phrasing things that perfectly encapsulates a concept, like in this post about her teen years (which had me nodding and laughing out loud):

I wanted my parents to divorce and move us all into an apartment complex too so that I could have good reason to be depressed and bitter. My happy home life did not prevent me from writing many death poems, however, and wearing the black clothes — at least when I wasn’t in that cheerleading uniform.

And in this analysis of spiritual one-upsmanship:

[My husband] just would not agree to be as Holy as I was — didn’t matter how I poked, prodded, or complained. And, being the spiritual giant that I am, I threw tantrums, deciding that if he wouldn’t be Holy then neither would I…At nearly every retreat or spiritual talk I attended, I thought, “My husband really needs to hear this” rather than “How can I apply this to my life?”

She does occasionally have PG-13 content, like when she’s doing a no-holds-barred takedown of secular morality in modern films, or writing a wry post about natural family planning. But, as she said in a recent post about how we present ourselves in our writing:

I’m not sure, however, that I can “prayerfully consider” every word I put up here. I think it might make me scrupulous and defeat anything I write before I write it…I think that what’s missing from a lot of blogs, and a lot of Christian writing is a humble and deep acceptance of God’s unconditional love and mercy. He forgives us our sins. He uses our sins for his ends. So I think we can relax our fears a little concerning writing with honesty about our lives. If the future of Christian story-telling is in the blogosphere, and I think it might be, then I would be sad if our stories were lost because we were afraid to tell them.

I hope you enjoy her posts as much as I do.


  1. Anne

    Thanks for posting this Jennifer! I recently discovered Betty Duffy and I agree with you, her blog is wonderful! You are right, you never know what you will get when you go there. Who sits on a table for five hours because she doesn't want her husband to remove it from the house?

    She's a great writer and whether she likes it or not, a great inspiration!

  2. Janice Wilson

    I agree she is amusing, but she is also an example of a kind of blogger I see more and more of in the Catholic blogosphere: the anonymous/pseudonymous blogger who delights in taking down other Catholics (See "Bright, Shiny Catholic Stuff"), then cheerfully proclaims her own Bad Catholicness, but who, in the end, ends up proclaiming her own superiority to the Other Catholics she's taken down. Anonymously.

    You blogged anonymously for a while, but eventually have "come out," and for that I applaud you. There is just *a lot* of anonymous/pseudonymous triumphalism and sniping at other Catholics out there right now, and I don't like it.

    If Betty Duffy has a problem with this writer, she says he has a blog, which I presume means he has an email. If she feels that his internet persona is such a problem, she could probably very easily write to him and share her concerns with him, instead of constructing a self-serving blog post around it.

  3. Erika

    Oh, wow! That NFP post had me rolling on the kitchen floor laughing. I guess I should mop today, too.

    Thanks for this awesome gem!

  4. BettyDuffy

    Thank you so much for the links here!

    Regarding the above comment:

    You make a very good point about Catholics sniping at one another. It's not becoming, and I'm sorry.

    I am not anonymous, however. Aside from a nickname, Betty Duffy is my name. But if you would like to talk more about it, here is my email address:
    bettyduffy2 at yahoo dot com

  5. Samantha

    Jennifer- I agree. People need to see that we're human. We have fears. We have past hurts. We struggle. And that life isn't always beautiful.

    Our generation is craving leaders (and writers I will add) that are authentic about their weaknesses, but still trust in Christ to get them through. It doesn't just stop at our struggles because God is in the process of sanctifying us.

    I personally think that's what helps get readers back to certain blogs- because of vulnerabilities exposed and a heart that seeks after Truth.

    Good post. Thank you.

  6. Enbrethiliel


    Hi, Janice. If you think Betty Duffy is bad, then I'd like to invite you to read my 'blog. I've been delighting in taking certain other Catholics down a few pegs lately; and as you can see from my Blogger name, I've been doing it all anonymously!

    I'd love to visit your 'blog, too, but when I clicked on your name, I ended up at the Catholic Answers Web site. So if Betty Duffy is the blogging pot, I guess that makes you the commenting kettle?

  7. Betty Beguiles

    Great pick, Jen! I've always loved her honesty, her sass and the fearlessness of her writing.

    Oh! And poor Betty D. So many of us have chosen the pseudonym "Betty" that no one believes it's her real name anymore! 😉

  8. Janice Wilson


    This commenting software asks for a website, and I don't have one, nor do I have a blogger or Google account.

    Why would you delight in taking other Catholics down a few pegs? (Because you do seem to delight in it – even here your tone is giggly and fun!) And anonymously? How is that in the penetential spirit of Advent?

    If you printed out your blogs and took them to your confessor, what would he say?

    Jen, is that the kind of blogging you condone by encouraging Enbrethiliel to use your comments box to direct traffic to her blogs in which others are disparaged and gossiped about? You never struck me as that kind of blogger, at all. You are a kind and generous soul.

    And Betty, I apologize for assuming you're writing under a pseudonym! Betty Beguiles is right!

  9. This Heavenly Life

    Oh, I really enjoy Betty Duffy too! Though I rarely feel qualified to comment — she seems far too intelligent and well spoken for the likes of me — I love her writing. I come away feeling like my time on the internet has been purposeful as a bonus to being entertaining.

    I appreciate that she's in the middle of living a real, non-perfect life, and she's not pretending to be a saint. She's just a regular believer, with feelings and frustrations like all of us. Only, she writes about it so much better than most 🙂

  10. Meredith

    I admire Betty Duffy's storytelling and recognize so much truth in her writing. So glad you spotlighted what has become one of my very favorite blogs.

  11. Enbrethiliel



    Fair enough about not having a Web site.

    You're right that this is not in the spirit of Advent. I should have waited until Ordinary Time. (This is a joke, by the way.)

    When I said I was "delighting" in "taking down other Catholics," I was borrowing your terms so that I could be ironic. I doubt anyone would say that is what I'm doing when I write about other Catholics I happen to disagree with greatly, much less what Betty was doing in that single post of hers you cite. Perhaps I should have been more direct . . .

    The point I really wanted to make is that there is a difference between gleefully taking potshots at other people and sharing heartfelt, albeit negative impressions about them. More often than not, the former involves naming names (all the better for public pillorying) and the latter shows great discretion by not naming anyone.

    I think you completely missed that about Betty Duffy's writing in your haste to throw her to the wolves.



    First of all, thank you for "condoning" my blogging! =) I love your own work here on Conversion Diary.

    Secondly, please don't worry that this comments thread will turn into anything other than Betty Duffy "fangirling"! I've said my "two cents" (one cent for each comment!). =)

  12. Sally Thomas

    I think Betty's far more than "amusing," which is a skin-deep kind of thing — what she writes is honest and more often self-deprecating than deprecating of anyone else. And she is, quite simply, a really good writer. She's one of those people who could write entries for the white pages and make them good to read.

    Sometimes difficult stories are difficult stories, and sometimes they involve critique of people and things besides ourselves. Sometimes we ourselves are thorny and difficult. "Write what you know," the adage goes, and, well . . . here you have the self. If you didn't write what was true about it, how could you be relied on to tell the truth about anything else?

    I know the kind of "triumphalism" Janice means, though I think of it more as just "in-your-faceness." Betty doesn't do that. She is who she is, but if you read her regularly, you see as much of her attempts and struggles and strivings after holiness as you do her admissions of failure, which any of us, any day of the week, could make, if we were being honest with ourselves. She doesn't say anything about anyone else that she wouldn't say about herself. And as others have pointed out, it's that vulnerability in her writing which makes it so engaging.

    (and I will say right now that if someone had written a comment in that vein about me, I would have been WAY defensive, and probably written two or three long posts justifying myself before getting to the point of saying "I'm sorry." I mean, if we're talking character here . . . )


  1. Style, Sex & Substance: It’s a launch week scramble (and giveaway)! : Conversion Diary - [...] Duffy: Columnist for Patheos; writer of deep thoughts; blogs at [...]

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