Wanting to fit in
It’s Friday night and 16-year-old Jada has just arrived at the mall with her friend, Alyssa. Their first stop is the bathroom where Jada changes into a short skirt and tank top she brought from home. She applies more blush and lipstick and tousles her hair a bit.
The girl in the mirror looks different than the girl who left her house a few minutes ago, but Jada breathes a sigh of relief. Now she won’t stand out if they run into other girls from school at the mall.
She thinks about her mom, who is totally out of touch when it comes to fashion. Jada’s mom just doesn’t understand how important clothes are to people like Alyssa and her friends, who follow all the latest trendsetters on Instagram.
Their clothes always fit perfectly — and they don’t wear baggy shirts or long skirts. All Jada wants is to fit in with her friends. As she exits the bathroom, Alyssa gives her a smile and a nod. “Savage! Let’s go!”
How can parents instill ‘Christ-esteem’ in children in today’s culture?
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
No one can deny the influence media has on teenagers.
The Representation Project reports that 50 percent of American teens spend nearly 50 percent of their day consuming media, and study after study by organizations ranging from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders to the Girl Scout Research Institute reports that media images, including photos on social media and in advertisements, as well as video images on television and in movies, make girls feel bad about their bodies.
As parents, we want our children to be strong and confident, humble and kind. We want them to be liked by their peers but also to stay true to our family values. In a world that emphasizes self-esteem, we want our children to have “Christ-esteem.” How is it possible for parents to get that message across?
Identity in Christ
Wynter Pitts, founder of For Girls Like You, a ministry for girls, says girls especially need to be reminded of their identity in Christ.
“Her value has nothing to do with where she is, what she can do, how she looks, how she dresses or how popular she is. Her value comes from who her heavenly Father is. She needs to be reminded every day that if she is in Jesus Christ, then she is royalty,” Pitts writes in her book “She is Yours: Trusting God as You Raise the Girl He Gave You.”
Pitts calls on parents to affirm the truth of their daughter’s status in Christ.
“Say it until she believes it. Teach it until she learns it. Impress it until she owns it! God is asking you and equipping you to be the primary voice that affirms her identity. If you don’t, other voices will — but with a different message,” Pitts writes.
Rondie Wilks calls this the “princess principle.” Wilks teaches girls of all ages at NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, and she encourages them to “remember who you belong to.”
“Little girls love to watch movies about princesses and dress up,” Wilks said. “In every girl’s heart, there is a desire to be a princess but the real deal is we truly are princesses — daughters of the most high God. When we look at ourselves in the light of how He loves us, then we begin to have a God-confidence and not a self-confidence.”
As a mother of three now-grown sons, Wilks taught a similar lesson to her boys.
“Every day as my sons walked out the door, I reminded them to remember who you are and whose you are,” she said.
“When you are focused on loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, it changes everything.”
When it comes to self-image and identity, boys are often considered to be immune from the pressures. But boys feel the pressure to measure up too. Heisman Trophy winner and sports analyst Tim Tebow writes about that in his book “Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms.”
Belonging to God
“There have been times when I was playing football that my identity was muddled,” he writes. “But who I am is not based on others, on fitting in, on belonging to a certain crowd or on living a certain lifestyle. My identity is based on belonging to God. No one can take this foundation away from me. I know this to be true, and while I often need to be reminded, I aim to live by these truths every day.”
Fitting in can be especially hard when it comes to trends that seem to celebrate the values of the world over biblical values. Clothing trends are a good example. Many Christian camps and programs try to keep clothing in check by requiring one-piece swimsuits for girls, T-shirts for boys and modest clothing styles for nonwater activities. But not only can creative individuals push the limits of these rules, one rule cannot cover literally or figuratively all body shapes and sizes.
Wilks said her family has hosted many pool parties over the years and has moved to asking teens to wear “appropriate” swimwear. In bathing suits and in clothes, the answer to what is appropriate can be a hard line to find, she said.
Modesty doesn’t just apply to clothing either, which is why modesty is not solely a female issue. Advertisements use the male body almost as often as the female body in suggestive and sexual ways. Speech and behavior can be immodest as well.
Respect for one’s self is the key, which directly relates to God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, Wilks said.
“Loving yourself is not a bad thing if you are loving the person God made you to be,” Wilks said.
And the person God made all of us to be is one who knows that each of us is here to bring honor to God and to make disciples, Wilks said.
“If children are taught that, they will be more aware that life is not about seeking glory for them but for God.”
Greatest sin of immodesty is that we’re saying ‘look at me’ instead of ‘look at God’
By Jennings Napper, MAMFC, ALC
Pathways Professional Counseling
Many people in our society consider the idea of modesty a thing of the past, like when ladies wore skirts down to their ankles and high-necked long-sleeve blouses to cover their entire bodies. Sadly modesty often falls in the “old school” category and today many women and men in the media are celebrated for being anything but modest.
We now live in a culture that praises sexuality and sexual self-expression. Living in a sexualized society, many women feel the pressure to wear trendy clothes and styles that may be tighter, shorter or lower-cut to show more skin. This can make shopping for modest stylish clothes difficult. Others may have a difficult time choosing modesty because of the attention or approval that can come from wearing fashionable yet racy outfits.
Some may wonder, “Why does it matter if I dress modestly? Why would I choose to dress modestly knowing I will not get as much attention as the next girl? What’s wrong with getting a little attention?” The deeper question is, “Why do we desperately seek this kind of attention?”
Most people want to feel attractive, liked and approved of by others. Clothing is often a temporary outlet used to achieve the inherent need we all have to be accepted, cherished and loved. Behind the attention and the pressure there is a deeper underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
We desperately need a Savior who sees us for who we are and unconditionally loves and accepts us. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ satisfies the deepest needs of our hearts. The longing to be accepted by others is a distortion of the desire God has placed in each of our hearts to be accepted and affirmed by Him.
When we have a relationship with our heavenly Father, everything changes. Not only are we forgiven and loved, but we are made new and given a new identity in Christ that can never be taken away from us. In Christ we are fully validated, valued and loved beyond measure. Our worth and value does not come from people, our bodies, our looks, our talents or our accomplishments. Being fully accepted by Christ, we no longer work to earn His approval and love — we already have it. When we know this truth, we start to see ourselves as children of God with a transformed heart along with different desires and an eternal outlook on life.
Dannah Gresh, a Christian author who writes about abstinence and modesty, discusses four myths of modesty on her website at purefreedom.org. In her discussion, Gresh tackles the myth that modesty is just about clothes. Gresh uses 1 Timothy 2:9–10, to explain that women should be more concerned with godliness and good deeds instead of being wrapped up in their outward appearance. Christians should make themselves attractive by the good deeds they do, which overflow from their transformed hearts. She states, “The greatest sin of immodesty is that we’re saying ‘look at me’ instead of ‘look at God.’”
As Christians, it’s our job to set a Christ-like example to those who are lost around us, and this includes how we dress and present ourselves. One way we can do this is by choosing flattering, fashionable clothing styles that are not revealing. Yes, it is still possible for women to celebrate their beauty while being modest at the same time.
But modesty is so much more than the clothes we wear. How we present ourselves should reflect what’s in our heart. God commands that we live a lifestyle of purity — in our speech, actions and thoughts.
Purity starts in our hearts and in our thought life. God tells us to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23) because this is where sin takes root. Hiding God’s truth in our hearts is vital to helping us combat the lies of self-doubt and inadequacies.
When it comes to setting a Christ-like example by relating to others in love, remember it is not our place to judge others by outward appearance. Judging or staring at someone will not win them to Christ. We are called to embrace lost people, point them to Christ and show them His love. Our prayer for the lost should be Romans 12:2, that they would no longer be conformed to this world but would be transformed with Christ’s truth and love. When people’s hearts are inwardly changed by Christ, the inner change also will work to transform their outward attitude and appearance.
Christ lives in us
Without knowing Christ as Savior, people will always have feelings of inadequacy and will continue to try to fill their emptiness with worldly pleasures, accomplishments and man’s approval. As Christians, we have the full deity of Christ living inside of us, so we lack nothing. This is because we know the truth of who we are in Christ and know our identity is found in Him alone.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Jennings Napper is an Associate Licensed Counselor for Pathways Professional Counseling in the Dothan area.
To contact Pathways Professional Counseling, call 1-866-991-6864 or visit www.pathwaysprofessional.org.
Christians must saturate hearts, minds with God’s Word so worldly lies can’t sink in
By Rondie Wilks and Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
More than 100 passages in the Bible address the issue of “self” in relation to Creator God.
God’s Word is clear that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). From before our birth, God knows us (Ps. 139:13–14) and during our life he knows our every thought and action (Ps. 139:1–4). We are His workmanship, Paul writes, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
God who knows us so intimately should be the source of our approval — our “Christ-esteem,” if you will.
The Bible is our standard
But how do we know how to walk in the good works God has prepared for us? The answer is to look to His Word.
From an early age, we need to teach our children to seek their instructions on how to look, live, walk and talk in Scripture. The Bible is our standard for living, full of all the wisdom we need.
Unfortunately, the world sets a different standard than the Bible does. Movies, television and social media are filled with deceitful voices telling our children who they should be. We must continually point our children to the Word of Truth that tells us who we are to be. We must saturate our hearts and minds with God’s Word so the lies and counterfeit message of the world can’t sink in.
In truth, we are all imitators of something. Boys often imitate their fathers, sometimes by walking around in their shoes or maybe by cheering for their dad’s favorite sports team. Girls often imitate their mothers by caring for their dolls or pushing a stroller during a walk. Child psychologists tell us that imitation is an important part of human development because it is how young children learn new words and skills.
As believers we are to imitate Christ. He is the only One worthy of imitating.
The Bible also addresses the temptation to seek attention for ourselves, which often happens by the way we dress.
Is there anything wrong with wanting to look our best? Not at all. But vanity and a desire for attention can lead us to prioritize physical appearance over character. More important than physical beauty is the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:4). Jeremiah 9:23 warns us not to boast in our wisdom, our might or our riches but instead to boast only in that we know the Lord.
The Bible also cautions us against judging others by appearance. When God sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the future king of Israel, Samuel was impressed by Eliab. Perhaps it was because he was the oldest. Perhaps it was because of his looks or his demeanor. Whatever the case, the Lord tells Samuel not to judge based on physical attributes. While our human tendency is to look “on the outward appearance” the Lord “looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Finally Paul urges us as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (Col. 3:12) and to set our minds on “things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).
Children of the King
When we point our children to the Bible, God’s truth will come out in their lives because they will realize who they are and whose they are — children of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The only true source of confidence is Jesus. When we truly realize who we are in Him, that we are chosen and loved, how confident we can be in Him and Him alone.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Rondie Wilks is a popular Bible teacher who has led numerous women’s retreats and conferences. Rondie works with her husband, Bill, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, to equip others for a lifestyle of discipleship.
- “More Beautiful Than You Know: Celebrating the Young Woman God Created You to Be” by Jennifer Strickland
- “So Long, Insecurity: Teen Edition” by Beth Moore and Susan Weibel
- “Lies Young Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh
- “Shaken: Young Reader’s Edition: Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way” by Tim Tebow
- “Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women”
(Compiled by Carrie Brown McWhorter)
11 facts about teens and self-esteem
- Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unlovable and/or incompetent. Once formed, this negative view permeates every thought, producing faulty assumptions and ongoing self-defeating behavior.
- Among high school students, 44 percent of girls and 15 percent of guys are attempting to lose weight.
- More than 70 percent of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks. Brighten someone’s day by posting encouraging messages on your school’s bathroom mirrors.
- More than 40 percent of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass.
- Seventy-five percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking or disordered eating. This compares to 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem.
- About 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
- Teen girls who have a negative view of themselves are 4 times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later.
- The top wish among all teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them. This includes frequent and more open conversations.
- Thirty-eight percent of boys in middle and high school reported using protein supplements and nearly 6 percent admitted to experimenting with steroids.
- Seven in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.
- A girl’s self-esteem is more strongly related to how she views her own body shape and body weight than how much she actually weighs. (Source: www.dosomething.org)