Four "Truths" Harming Christian Women (Part 1)Jun 06, 2022
“Hey, kiddo, go tell your brothers dinner is ready.”
A smiling face nodded, and feet traipsed around the corner, stopping at the bottom of the stairs.
“Mom says to get down here right now. It’s time to eat!”
What? That wasn’t what I said. I suppose a skilled attorney could successfully argue the similarity, but my heart had certainly been lost in translation.
This happens a lot in life. What an author, speaker, teacher, or facilitator says isn’t what’s heard or passed on, and before long, ideas root and spread, not being entirely wrong or totally right. Here are four examples:
“Jesus can’t love you any more than he already does.”
“You’re beautiful just as you are.”
“You already have everything you need.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too much or not enough.”
This messaging has dominated Christian women’s books, conferences, tote bags, memes, mugs, t-shirts, and social media posts the past several years. These statements are true, but they can be – and often are -- interpreted and applied in ways which make them false. And damaging. How can that be?
We often think of half-truths as lies. Someone intentionally gives partial information, knowing if they tell the “whole truth and nothing but the truth,” they’ll suffer undesirable consequences. But half-truths come in another package, beautifully wrapped, and delivered with a sincere eagerness to help.
All of life transpires in a state of tension. This isn’t anxiety, but rather two forces which pull at each other. Good & evil. Yin & yang. Light & dark. Claim & counterclaim. You name it, everything has a counterforce. While opposing forces can be destructive, they also create structures of strength. A bridge holds up against the tremendous stresses of traffic and weather because of forces tugging in different directions. A high-wire troupe performs on a line held taut on two different ends.
When it comes to forming beliefs, it’s imperative we hear both sides of truth, lest we only exchange one error for another.
Communication never occurs when someone writes or speaks. It’s only when what is presented is what someone else hears. While no one can control how others interpret, apply, or share information, it is a human responsibility to consider how we’re being received – whether chatting with a friend over chicken salad or standing on a stage under bright lights.
Popular and well-intended messages, as exampled above, can leave women with warm fuzzy feelings instead of soul-strengthening truths if the counterweight messages aren’t presented in equal measure. Half-truths never get you to a final desired destination; only a dead-end or cliff.
Good intentions are insufficient for good outcomes.
We must also have good information – the whole truth which includes application, context, and counterweight.
The four messages listed above aren’t 100% inaccurate. It’s not that their opposites are true. I’m grateful “Jesus can’t love you more than he already does” when we mean Jesus’ love is perfect and needs neither growth nor pruning. Yet we can mentally add a “therefore, ___” which doesn’t get examined but is still a powerful motivating force. When we add the counterparts to truths, we increase the probability what follows the “therefore, ___” is accurate.
Think of it like two sides of one coin. The two sides aren’t opposed to each other. It’s not like “heads” is true and “tails” is false. Rather, the two sides combine to create a complete coin. Or consider a high wire. What anchors both ends of the wire may be the same fastening system, but because it’s anchored in two places, it creates space for the wire to be stretched. Only one anchor, and the wire hangs loose. There’s no possibility for movement forward – only sliding down and climbing back up.
One of the reasons women can get stuck in “sliding down” and “climbing up” cycles is because they’re anchored on only one side and need the counterpart information to provide a sturdy structure for moving forward. Trust me, I know this, having spent too much of life “sliding down” and “climbing up.” How can you tell if you're moving forward or just spinning the hamster wheel? Here's one clue:
Movement without progress produces fatigue. Growth, even when exhausting, supplies satisfaction.
In today’s post I’ll address two of these four messages. Next week I’ll tackle the other two. Ready? Hold on!
1. “Jesus can’t love you any more than he already does.”
So, so, so true … until I equate “love” with approval.
God’s love for me is unconditional; his blessing is not.
Love is not synonymous with approval. Throughout the Old Testament, beginning with the first man and woman, we see receiving God’s approval and blessing is quite dependent on obedience. This isn’t a formula where I obey and God blesses me by granting all my prayer wishes, er, requests. It’s a principle where I own my responsibility to follow God and keep his commandments. Not to earn his love but to receive and reciprocate it.
It’s like a parent-child relationship. A mother doesn’t love her 10-year-old less because he lied about raiding her “secret” trove of chocolate chip cookies. But she may decide he’s not attending his friend’s upcoming birthday party. (Because he lied, not because he devoured her sugar stash.) Can he do anything more to earn her love? No. But there are certainly some things he needs to do and stop doing to earn her trust and blessing.
We absolutely need reminding God’s love is not earned. His cherishing you isn’t measured by how many spiritual to-do boxes you check off each day. “Ah, today, I see you had 10 minutes of quiet time. One love scoop coming up. And this happened before you picked up your phone. Congratulations! You get a bonus scoop!” Not how it works.
Neither, however, does it work like this. “I’ll love you just as much whether you’re scrolling through social media or studying Scripture, therefore, it doesn’t matter how you spend your time.” Our choices matter – beyond what we are capable of even knowing.
It is precisely because God loves us that while his love is unconditional, his blessing is not. Yes, we live in a state of grace we do not earn. Every blessing isn’t the direct result of our obedience. We experience benefits from the choices of others, just as we bear hardships because of others’ decisions. Nor do we receive every blessing on earth; some treasures await us in heaven. Yet when we advance the message, “Jesus can’t love you any more than he already does,” we need to safeguard this message doesn’t get mistranslated into, “…therefore, you’ll receive his blessings regardless of your choices.”
2. “You’re beautiful just as you are.”
Mention “beauty” and a woman’s mind tends to the immediate association of physical looks. I live in the same world as you. The one where acne, wrinkles, cellulite, or feisty eyebrows aren’t invited to the “beauty” table. Unless it’s for a make-over or to sign up for a gym membership.
This message is sometimes directed at one’s looks and/or sometimes at character or personality. Addressing how this relates to our physical bodies is important; it’s just not my primary focus in this post.
When a girl or woman has been subjected to cruel messages ingraining the idea her existence is a form of ugliness, she absolutely needs to hear “You’re beautiful just as you are.” Even to those who haven’t experienced personal abuse, bullying, cruelty, or demeaning language, the world isn’t kind. But no woman can walk life’s tightrope successfully and confidently if she doesn’t have the counterweight, an old adage: “Pretty is as pretty does.”
Grumpy? What’s gorgeous about that? Irritable and short-tempered? Nothing exquisite there. Gossipy. Dishonest. Lazy. Whiny. It’s ugly in men; it’s ugly in women. The counterweight, just like a silky skin cleanser, needs daily application.
“Pretty is as pretty does.”
I’m not always “beautiful,” and I don’t just mean when my face, er, make-up, has been washed off. I can be self-absorbed, impatient, irritable, and … the list goes on. Do these failures transform my entire existence into one of “ugliness?” No. If I bake a cheesecake too long and it cracks in the middle when cooling, it doesn’t get tossed into the garbage. I apologize, drizzle it with chocolate sauce, and still serve it on pretty desert plates. The counterweight to “You’re beautiful just as you are” isn’t “You’re ugly just as you are.” Rather, it’s to align your thoughts and actions to reflect the beautiful person God is resurrecting.
Next week we’ll look at two more truths and their counterweights. Until then, pay attention to what truths you may be hearing impacting your friendships, work, involvement, parenting, or family relationships, and make sure the counterweights are in place. Because -- and this is 100% true -- you have an impact which is immeasurable, eternal, and irreplaceable!
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©Stephanie D. Smith, 2022
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