Recently, I was perusing a section in a popular bookstore entirely dedicated to the empowerment of girls and women. As I did so, I saw a lot of “stuff” related to getting what you want in a “man’s world” and how to get it.
Some of what I saw seemed really plausible, even good. Some of it just sounded like junk. For those of us with daughters, it’s paramount that we can discern between the two.
There is a place in parenting for books, songs, and speakers that render quality information about empowering our girls. But we need to recognize the difference between what makes them spiritually strong and healthy women versus what teaches them empowerment largely centered around the ideology of self-promotion.
I wholeheartedly agree that it’s important to raise girls full of fight. I have three of my own, now all young adults, and self-advocacy is something we discuss often and in much detail. And, I daresay, all four of us have an insatiable love of books depicting the courage and historical impact of both nonfictional and fictional heroines.
But, God help us if, in the process of raising our girls to be strong, we fail to teach them compassion and generosity.
The future of America?
We live in a world that speaks out of both sides of its mouth.
On one hand, the world tells our girls to be tolerant of everything and everyone because, if they aren’t, then they must be hateful and ignorant. This message of tolerance resembles a message of compassion and generosity.
On the other hand, we are telling these same girls that getting what they want always trumps putting others ahead of themselves.
These two messages, of tolerance and unbridled narcissism, conflict.
Truly, women in this great country have had to work hard for many basic rights that we often now take for granted, e.g., voting, equal pay, and equal recognition, just to name a few.
A few years ago, my youngest daughter attended a high school leadership conference and was quite perturbed when the very first girl she met and spoke with had apparently never heard of either Harriet Tubman or Susan B. Anthony. (Who knows how this conversation even started?)
My daughter immediately sent four rapid-fire text messages to me, aghast and full of righteous indignation: “I can’t believe she doesn’t know who either of these women are. This is the future of America.”
Movers of people
I loved the spit and fire in my girl as I read her text messages. Clearly, I could see both her personal ambition and passion in those words.
But, the point in sharing that story is to tell you this: That same daughter, at that same conference, found herself neck-deep in the personal pain of one of her peers. She did not run and hide. She willingly stepped into someone else’s trial.
When she did, she channeled that same pluck and energy in another direction. She encouraged her friend with compassion and godly counsel. She helped move her friend from a place of despair to a place of hope.
That is what we want for our girls. We want them to be movers of people, moving them from places of despair to places of hope. They can’t do that if they’re held captive by selfishness. They can’t do it if they’re paying homage to the god of self-indulgence. No. They can only do it when they have been taught that the biblical teachings of love and compassion are necessary accompaniments to personal achievement and ambition.
We are a family of Jesus followers. As such, we believe the Bible is the inerrant and timeless Word of God. On the sacred pages of this book, I repeatedly find the need to instill unconditional love for others in my daughters.
No shrinking violets
I also find biblical teaching that leaves me without excuse when it comes to raising girls with tenacity, ambition, and passion. There is nothing in Scripture that I believe supports raising a shrinking violet. Rahab, Mary, Deborah, Phoebe,
Priscilla, Rachel, and the list goes on and on of women in the Bible who were both empowered and empowering.
But, these women were also spilling over the top with love for their people, their children, their mentors, their neighbors, and their God. They weren’t perfect by any standard. (Read and find out!) But they were mountains of inspiration to those around them, and they were an intricate part of God’s plan to bring hope to his people then, now, and forevermore.
A different kind of girl power
I’ve grown weary of our culture sending messages to our daughters that ‘they must self-promote first and foremost, in order to be successful. That love and compassion are okay, only as long as these two tenets do not interfere with their own campaign for self-fulfillment.’
That is reckless endangerment if I ever saw it.
This narcissistic model for teaching empowerment is hardly a worthy prototype for moving our girls toward a life full of healthy relationships and successful and joyful living. It is a model that brings to mind a line from one of my favorite movies, A Knight’s Tale: “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.”
But the powerful punch of this famous line was first delivered to a king named Belshazzar by a young Jewish boy named Daniel, who was fully devoted to God. Daniel boldly told his captor that his self-promotion and extreme lack of humility were not cutting the leadership mustard. His words were riveting: “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting” (Daniel 5:26–27 NIV).
I think it’s time we show the world a different model, a different kind of girl power.
One that is not found wanting.
One that is full of spunk and infectious adventure harnessed together with compassion for others, along with a generous, servant heart.
It’s time we teach our girls that these seemingly opposite character traits cannot only coexist, but that, indeed, girls were wired that way from the moment their beautiful, inquisitive, hopeful, and daring little selves entered this crazy world.