“Girls are mean.”
“I just don’t get along with other women.”
“I don’t really have a lot of girl friends. Too much drama.”
I’ve heard it all, and likely so have you.
Something stirring heavy in my heart has been the hearts of women today. We are living in a really strange time right now…caught in the tension between a push for “girl power” (and the various things that could mean), and this need to feel beautiful, seen, accepted, cherished for nothing other than exactly who we are.
Social media sucks for women right now in a lot of ways (in some ways it can be really good and unifying, it’s just a matter of the heart). It’s always been easy for women to make comparisons between themselves and their peers. But now we have these portable, filtered, zoom-able windows into everyone’s “life”, a window that tells us who else has seen and reacted to whoever’s picture or story or update. We can imitate praise and support with the simple click of the thumbs-up but deep inside we’re still comparing, seeing what we don’t have, what we think would make us happy, what we think takes away from our own beauty, likability, and worth.
What’s been fascinating as I’ve gotten a little bit older is realizing how difficult it is for women to celebrate each other. My sisters and I (Megan, Jenna, feel free to chime in in the comments!) spent most of our lives trying to out-do one another, especially in the high school/college years. We wanted to be as pretty or well dressed as the others, tried to get the same good grades or better, and aimed to be involved in cool things where we got to show off our talent. We each wanted our own turf, something the other two didn’t have, something not shareable. Encroach on that and fights broke out. But whenever one of us had success, something worth celebrating, or even just picked a particularly nice outfit that day, words of affirmation have been slow to fall from our mouths. Everything felt like a competition. We had convinced ourselves that to give a compliment would somehow take away from our own glory. And I’m pretty sad about that. I love my sisters after all. Why was it so difficult to genuinely praise one another?
I know now that this is a lie: that I can’t be happy for someone until what I have matches or surpasses them. But sometimes, as long as we believe that we’re not stacking up to or exceeding the competition, we’re not inclined to compliment or celebrate them with edifying words…there’s a fear that they will continue to best us and we will continue to be less, mediocre, not as praise-worthy. I cringe as I write this because of how simultaneously ugly and real this feeling is.
It’s not just sibling rivalry where I’ve seen it. Even among women who are brought together because of a common pursuit of Jesus, the enemy plants these lies and they fester. Not good enough compared to _____, not as pretty as _____, not as skinny as _____, not as wise as _____….I bet a lot of you women out there can relate to these thoughts and fill in those blanks pretty quickly. I know I can. I’ve been in groups where I thought these things would be fought against more but they somehow increased. Instead of welcomed and accepted I tended to feel marginalized and judged…not enough. And really broken-hearted because of it.
I keep thinking, what would happen if we as women started intentionally praising and celebrating one another, and started practicing active gratitude towards ourselves?
Building Each Other Up
Our theme verse at our wedding came from Romans 12, the section on “Love in Action.” The charges in this passage go far beyond marriage, but into community as a whole. A few of these words you may have heard before… “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:15-18).
Speaking from experience, I don’t think I would be the person I am today without a community of encouraging women in my life, speaking truth in love and always aiming to build each other up, not tear one another down. Such a community is a gift because of all the things I mentioned before. It’s a light in the darkness of a culture that tells us it’s okay to be a little mean if it puts you on top or makes you feel better about yourself. God puts us in the lives of other women to remind them of how God sees them, to reflect on them the ways in which God wants us to be loved and known by Him. It turns out, women are really good at this when it happens! And the result, I’ve found, is closer relationships, trust built, and most importantly, a more accurate view of God and ourselves in His sight.
The issue is pride. To rejoice with those who are rejoicing requires us to lay aside for a minute the things we are weeping over. To weep with those who weep requires us to step away from our own spotlight and be with someone walking through darkness. It requires us to die to ourselves and be in people’s lives for them, to build them up, to serve them in love, to have them walk away from a conversation “feeling better about themselves, not better about you.”
I think women have a special responsibility towards each other in this way. We NEED each other, ladies. We need to remind each other of the truth of who and what we are. We need to stand up for one another when someone is being torn down. We need to point out the lies we tell ourselves about our appearance and self-worth and battle them with truth. We need to wrestle with hard questions together and walk through pain together and be reminded that we are not alone in our struggle. And when things are going great, we need to intentionally speak life-giving words of praise from hearts that are resting in God and pouring out in gratitude for all he is doing.
How can we intentionally start to become that woman in someone else’s life?
It Starts With Your Heart
If we aren’t content and grateful for how God sees us and His work in our own lives, it becomes difficult to reflect that on others. If we’re still caught up in doubting our beauty, our likeability, etc, how can we possibly love and serve one another from a place of rest and gratitude? We need to remember and live out of truth:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying downand are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue,behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;it is high; I cannot attain it.
…If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you;the night is bright as the day,for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!How vast is the sum of them!“
Psalm 139:1-6, 11-17
What does this say about God and about us? That we are already fully known in the ways we long to be known. That God knows each move we make and the path set before us. He orchestrates every moment perfectly in ways we can never understand. Though things seem dark and uncertain to us, they are clear as day to Him and we can trust Him. That we are indeed beautiful because he crafted us to perfection for His glory, not ours. That we are never truly alone because He was, is, and will always be with us. And that we are never forgotten by Him.
Imagine what would happen, ladies, how we would live if we practiced the cycle of remembering this truth and being grateful for it. No longer would we be so consumed by protecting and edifying our own images but we would be free to pour out this truth and love onto others, knowing that our image is defined by Him who made us! It becomes a cycle: we need hearts resting in God to resource how we love the women in our life, and we also need faithful women to remind us that our hearts can and should be resting in God. Because when we do, we then have the power and resources to live out Romans 12…those charges are no longer a burden, but an outpouring of the grace we know we’ve already been given. It’s no longer a to-do list, but a way of simply living, from a heart that knows it is loved. It’s not bondage to a set of rules, it’s freedom from the need to attain perfection (Romans 7:4-6, Romans 8). It’s not being fake or putting on a mask, it’s becoming more like our true selves, as God intended.
If Nothing Else…
I say this knowing how hard it is to live in this balance. We are not immune to the pulls of this world and all the ways it tries to tell us we are not enough. But hear this, dear sister of mine: you don’t have to be enough. For anyone. HE is enough for YOU. He sees and hears and knows AND loves. Let this be what defines you today. You are free to live in this truth.
Remember this, and remind another woman in your life of this too. Or, go and tell someone who doesn’t know it for herself yet. You never know who needs to hear or be reminded of the truth of God’s love today. Don’t hold back…He’s got you and will give you the boldness only the Spirit can to do it.
Women, let’s live uplifting one another, walking alongside each other, weeping with each other, and maybe most of all, CELEBRATING one another, in Jesus’ name.
For God’s glory,
Ways to Follow
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