Some say the Girl Scouts are trying to indoctrinate our daughters with a radical, feminist agenda. Others say that their local troops have the freedom to espouse whatever beliefs they choose, including Christian virtues, so buy all the Thin Mints you want.
No matter which side of the Girl Scout debate you fall on, it is important for every pro abundant life person raising a daughter to understand the culture’s pull on our girls. Mantras like, “Follow Your Heart” are printed on pink toddler tees. Tween and teen girls are fed a steady diet of, “Do what makes you happy!” and “Don’t let anyone get in the way of what you desire!” in everything from music to magazines.
While I do want my daughter to know that God has made her special and that he has an incredible purpose for her life, the line between the girl power slogans of our culture and the truth of the Bible gets fuzzy.
As does the concept of self-esteem.
As we talked about in part 1 of this series, self-esteem has been broadly accepted as the cure to a variety of issues ranging from body image to depression. But as Christians, it’s important to understand that greater esteem of self is not the path to life Jesus teaches.
John 10:10 reminds us that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Likewise, it’s no surprise that Satan would attack our daughters by promising them freedom, happiness, and “life” outside of God’s design.
Pro abundant life parents must recognize that the stealth messages of self-esteem may actually undermine our cause. Can girls who are taught to put themselves first make difficult and sacrificial choices when it comes to sex, unplanned pregnancy, and even motherhood?
For this reason, our messages to our daughters must be clear and deliberate. There’s no room for confusion or “Christianizing” pop culture’s favorite clichés. The gospel teaches Christ-esteem, not self-esteem. Here are three ways we can impart these principles to girls.
- Teach Humility
It is possible to teach our daughters that God made them for a great purpose and loves them uniquely without teaching them to be self-focused. The secret ingredient that separates self-esteem from Christ-esteem is humility.
The Bible mentions being humble over thirty times. The first mandate comes in Micah 6:8 where we are instructed to walk “humbly” with God. Here are a few others:
Ephesians 4:2a –“Be completely humble and gentle.”
1 Peter 3:3-4 — “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”
Colossians 3:12–“Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility . . .”
The best news? Teaching and modeling Godly humility has outcomes that the best self-esteem training can’t touch. When girls know their worth comes from Christ alone they gain an unshakeable confidence.
This confidence isn’t “girls rule” hype or feminism—focused on what’s best for self. Rather, humility gives girls a fierce and powerful weapon to wield for the broader good. They stand up for what they believe because they care more about what God thinks than the opinions of others. They make hard decisions, knowing that joy comes from esteeming God and others as greater than themselves.
- Emphasize Character
Self-esteem focuses on self-love—looking in the mirror and deciding to love what you see or taking pride in yourself, deciding, “You are enough.” But, Christ-esteem focuses on looking beyond ourselves—gaining confidence from Christ alone—and seeking to imitate Christ through developing the fruits of the spirit.
Helping girls understand that character is more important than appearance isn’t easy. Girls are bombarded with messages that tell them the opposite. So here’s how to start.
First: Make a conscious effort to appreciate traits that last. Instead of complimenting your daughter on the external, praise her for her kindness, patience, or faith. Yes, she needs to know that she’s beautiful, but help her to see that the kind of beauty that lasts is one that comes from her spirit.
Second: Point out to her the internal beauty you see in others. Likewise, help her notice when someone with physical beauty acts in an “ugly” way. Help her see that what is valuable about the people she knows and loves isn’t what they look like, but how they love, give, and serve.
- See the Sacrifice
In my first college business course, Marketing 101, I learned this simple formula to assess value: Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
Our daughters need to know that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to establish their worth. His grace alone gives them immeasurable value. Nothing they can do or accomplish could ever compare to the value he imparted through his death and resurrection.
Sacrifice isn’t a popular concept. It rebukes the “Me first!” messages of self-esteem. But as pro-abundant life people, we are called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Our daughters won’t learn this unless we teach and model it for them.
Self-love, self-first, and self-esteem lead to despair and loneliness. And girls are struggling because this message of fulfillment leaves them empty. But as Christian parents, we can help girls learn that Jesus offers a better way. He shows us how selfless love and sacrifice bring the greatest joy. His path leads to abundant life.