Gratitude Project / Life with Jesus / Social Justice

On Letting Others Write Our Stories

(I know that this is supposed to be a not serious blog (as part of my joy as resistance efforts) and so I’m putting this in the uplifting category. I promise not to get too ranty (but if I do, then you can just give me a break cause I’m still practicing.))

My first non-profit job was with Girl Scouts in Dallas. A small group of us were tasked with executing a 6-week self-esteem program in Dallas ISD middle schools. I have so many sad and funny stories from that year but that is for a different blog. I remember explaining my new job to Paul, a white, male Christian friend whose response to my excitement was, “Oh, I don’t know about teaching girls self-esteem. I think it’s dangerous. We should be learning to get our self-esteem from God.”

As you can imagine, my resulting glare reduced him to a mere pile of ashes and I cackled as the wind gently carried them away into the sewer.

Just kidding. No, I patiently (ahem) explained to him that women and girls live in a world that heaps garbage and feces on our heads and then tells us that we’re equals. We live in a world that says, “Oh, you’re a gifted Bible teacher! Now, run along and teach the women because surely there’s nothing you could teach us men.” We live in a world that tells us that we can do whatever we want, but we also have to take care of the children and clean the house. We live in a world where we are blamed for the permission men feel to consume  our bodies in ways that don’t honor the goodness of them.

So, yeah, I’m pretty sure self-esteem is important for girls.

I was hanging out with a friend this week and her daughter, who is EIGHT, was contemplating doing an activity and asked her mom, “Will it help me lose weight?” My head whipped around so fast it almost spun off and I hissed, “WHAT?!” to her mom (not accusingly, but shocked). There’s no reason this kid should be thinking about her weight at the tender age of EIGHT. She certainly hasn’t picked it up at home. Her mom wrung her hands and tearfully told me that this has been going on and she doesn’t know where her daughter picked up this destructive idea or how to really combat it.

Oh, it made me so sad. I mean, we already know that we live in a dumpster world where everything feels terrible 92% of the time but an 8-year-old already worrying about her weight takes it too far.

Like I do, I got all, “NOT TODAY, SATAN” and started thinking about what I could do to help.

I remember that when I was a kid, other adults speaking truth into me was so life-giving. It’s not that I didn’t care what my parents thought about me- I did- but your mom kinda has to say affirmative things. Even to this day, my mom swears up and down that she doesn’t see my childhood resemblance to Hamilton Porter from the Sandlot. I’m 32 years old and I still kind of see the resemblance, so…

Again, it’s not that I don’t believe my mom or Alex, but there is this sense that they kind of have to back me up and so it doesn’t feel as meaningful as when someone outside my family says something encouraging (because they could tell me that I’m crap or say nothing at all).

So, I picked up an Illustory “Create Your Own Book” kit at Barnes and Noble (also available on Amazon). You write and illustrate your own story and then send it off and they send it back to you published. I stuck it in a bag with the following letter, along with a list of affirmations that she could hang in her room.

Here’s the thing. We are all in this together. It is still life-giving when someone outside my family affirms something that they see in me. We can do a better job at encouraging one another. We can do a better job at pointing out the good and the amazing gifts and talents that we see in one another. This should be part of our daily practice.

I know all of us aren’t writers. You have my express permission to use the template below, tweak it for a young woman in your life, and pour into her. Members of the Lady Club have to back each other up and our youngest members need us now more than ever.

*********************************************************************************

Hey Sarah-

You’re old enough now to join the “Lady Club”. It’s a pretty spectacular club because women are amazing. There is so much that we can do- so many gifts and skills and talents that we have to offer the world and those around us. All sorts of women have done all sorts of things. We really are spectacular.

There are also some not so great parts to being in the Lady Club- like living in a world that tells women lies about themselves. Sometimes these lies are so powerful that we start to believe them about ourselves. The problem is that the lies are everywhere: books, TV shows, movies, music, school.

Here are some of the lies that I try not to believe about myself. I want you to remember that even though I’m an old fart, like your mom, I’ve been struggling with some of these almost my whole life:

  • -“You have to be skinny and beautiful to have value.”
  • “You need a boyfriend or a husband to be happy.”
  • “Women aren’t good at science and math.”
  • “Women are too emotional and so what they have to say isn’t as important as what men have to say.”
  • “God thinks that men are better leaders than women (or that women can’t lead at all)”
  • “It is a sin to be proud and happy with your body- all parts of it.”

Those are all lies! ALL OF THEM! But sometimes it takes a lot of work for me to not believe them. I have to remind myself that I am valuable because God made me and God doesn’t make any junk (no matter what anyone else says).

Part of being in the Lady Club is that we build each other up. We say to each other, “NO! Don’t you believe that lie about yourself. You are awesome. That’s the truth!”

So, I want to do that for you. What are the things that I like best about Sarah Johnson? What are the gifts and talents that God has given you?

  • You are funny. Who else could dance like you did last week? You are so so funny. I bet you make our family and friends laugh all the time. Humor is a gift because it makes the people around you feel joyful. You have a light inside of you that shines and warms up everyone who gets to be close to you.
  • You are compassionate. I see this in the way that you interact with your friends and your siblings. I see it in the stories that you tell me about your interactions with your parents. I know that you have a sensitive, caring heart. I see it when you get angry when I tell you stories about injustice in the world. That compassionate anger will take you so far. You can change the world with it.
  • You are brave. You ask some of the most amazing questions I’ve ever heard anyone ask, and that includes adults! So many Christians, even adults, think that asking questions about God is dangerous or wrong. Even as a kid, you’re not afraid to wonder and be honest about your questions. That takes a lot of courage! I am just now learning that God can handle my questions and I’m 32 years old! I really hope that you keep asking questions because I think that God has some amazing things planned for your life. She (cause we both know that God could be a boy or a girl or BOTH) really made a special person when She created you. Our world needs more people who are willing to be brave.
  • You are a leader. You have natural leadership abilities. The respectful way that you treat others and your humor makes you easy to follow. Some of the lies that you’ll hear are that women can’t be good leaders. When you hear that or feel it, recognize it as a lie and remember that God has given you such great leadership skills! Everyone around you sees it.

 

Think about your life as a book. God has given you gifts and talents and a blank book and She says, “Okay, what story are you going to write?”

Other people will try to write your story for you. They might say, “Oh, you can’t be a leader because you’re a girl” or “You can’t be a lawyer! Girls aren’t smart enough”. They might even try to say that you don’t have value or you can’t do something because of the way you look. I feel like that’s the biggest lie. Everywhere we look are beautiful “perfect” women and most members of the Lady Club feel like we have to be that way too. We let that lie become part of our story.

Don’t let other people write your story, Sarah. You and God are writing your story together and sure, you can let people that you trust, like your family and your friends, help you write your story. But if someone tells you lies and makes you feel like you aren’t good enough, it doesn’t matter how famous or rich or beautiful or popular or smart they are, don’t let them write your story.

It is such an honor to welcome you to the Lady Club because I know that you have so much to offer the world.  You are already an amazing kid and I can’t wait to see how your story unfolds.

 

Much love,

-Beth

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