On This International Women's Day Let's Not Tell Our Daughters That They Can Be Whatever They Want To Be
Raising daughters in 2017 is complicated. I’ve got four of them and I’ve been at it now for almost 14 years. I find that varied voices in our culture and varied voices in my head require me to consider my inner thoughts carefully before verbalizing them to my girls.
I am myself the product of a feminist upbringing—by the time I was playing sports, we were told that anything the boys could do, we could do better. Fiercely independent, I vowed to delay marriage, loving a quote popularized by feminist Gloria Steinem, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Girl-power voices remain loud and proud in society and sometimes run amuck in my head too.
Too loving to leave me to my own vices and strength, God Himself crippled me in my pride when I was 18. It was then that I began to listen to the voices of women who would show me what it means to follow Jesus. My definition of a strong woman was recreated. The Lord burrowed into my heart, telling me, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
And now I want to raise girls who know they are not their own! For their good and God’s glory, they belong to Him. Though television shows, novels, ad campaigns, and billboards scream to them, “Be your own woman!” I want to rehearse to them daily that “the Lord, he is God! It is He who made us, and we are His” (Psalm 100:3).
When we fail to communicate this very truth to our daughters, we place a heavy weight on our their shoulders. When we tell them they can be whatever they want to be, they—consciously or not—bear the weight of self-actualization. We unintentionally equate worldly success with their intrinsic value. We unknowingly say to them that we expect them to do big things, by their own strength and power, and if they don’t, we’ll be disappointed. We turn Ephesians 3:9 on its head and reveal that deep down we believe that we are the result of our own works, our own doing, so that we can boast. Even secular research says that when we repeat these mantras without thinking we hinge our acceptance of our kids on their performance in life.
As moms who love the Word of God, let’s make sure that our words align with His. Let’s check our popular expressions, our easily-caught colloquialisms, which may be wreaking havoc in the hearts of our daughters, and replace them with what is true:
- When the world tells them that their happiness is dependent on their own hard work and good results, let’s remind them that abundant life is found in Jesus alone (John 10:10).
- When the world tells them to find their own peace and power within themselves, let’s be ready to say, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
- When the world pressures them to be self-made women, let’s return to Romans 11:36, which says “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, Amen.”
- When we’re tempted to focus with great pride on their hard work, let’s remind ourselves and our girls that it’s the Lord who gives us “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25) and that while we do indeed toil, it is “with all His energy that He powerfully works within [us]” (Colossians 1:29).
As the world seeks to crush our daughters with the weight of expectations and requirements for acceptance, let’s be free and impart freedom. On this International Women’s Day, let’s not rehearse empty phrases, let’s renew our minds and build our daughters up. Let’s proclaim to them and to ourselves, “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). He alone can bear the weight of their worth, their value, their future. He alone is sovereign and He alone can strengthen us with all power, according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11)!