When I was younger, the “cool” girls had more guy friends than girls. I don’t know if it was a cultural thing or a generational thing, but I have to wonder…how did we get there? In kindergarten, we would link hands and walk happily down colorful hallways with our “best friends”-all whom were girls. When we were in second grade, giant sleepovers with all of your “best” girl friends were the highlight of the weekends. Then something…strange…happened. Middle school started. Bodies and besties changed overnight. All the sudden, girls that were once so close-were enemies. Boys became attractive. Acne ran rampant. Self-esteems plummeted. Periods meant pregnancy and bra size determined social status. Then, if the female brain wasn’t traumatized enough, high school began.
With high school came the ultimate quest for attention. Now engrained in every female was a spirit of competition-and not among the boys, but among the other girls. You see, because of extremely low self-esteem (and flat out lies from the pit of hell) girls began to feel the pressure to fit in. The pressure to rise above. The pressure to matter, because somewhere along the line, someone made us feel like we didn’t. And with that came an unquenchable desire to out-do every other female in the room. Some took the “out-do” literally and found worth in sex. Others, like myself tried to “out-do” socially or academically; filling schedules to the brim and earning the approval of others. Some girls just stayed out of sight because that was the safest place.
I have to think that maybe, for a season, it was easier to be friends with the boys because there was no competition. As the only girl, you don’t have to fight for your place because you’re in a class all of your own. We weren’t smarter, better, worse-we were equal and that made us feel like we at least had a place. Because no matter how we chose to “out-do” our fellow females, all we really wanted was a place.
Not everyone has the same post-high school experience. But whether college followed graduation or the workforce, all women kind of go through the same sifting period. Life happens. We are alienated from the people we grew up with. No longer does it matter how you try to “out-do”. You realize, outside of those brick and mortar walls of school, the world, and the female population gets a whole lot bigger and a lot harder to conquer.
It’s interesting to me that our culture degrades women as much as it does, yet simultaneously campaigns for women’s rights. Turn on the TV at night and watch shows like “The Bachelor”, “Scandal” or “Sex and the City”. Women are literally killing each other on TV over gaining attention while women throughout the country are marching for women’s liberation desperately seeking recognition all at the same time. The competitive spirit that is bred into us in middle school is the same one that dominates every influence in our modern day culture-especially when it comes to women.
And y’all, we carry that with us into our homes. We carry that with us into our jobs. And worse than anything we carry that into our relationships-with our husbands, with our children and with every female we come into contact with.
Lately, God has burdened my heart for women in general. Maybe it’s a combination of all I’ve been through in the last few years. Maybe it’s because he has strategically separated me from women I once held so dear and exposed me to all of the women I was missing out on because of my insecurities. Either way, I’m thankful he cares enough to break me down-repeatedly.
I recently reconnected with a girl that I went to high school with. She dated my husband for a short time, but she was also a good friend. Because of that competitive spirit, I separated myself from her for a long time-especially after I started dating Jonathan. I won’t sugar coat it-I was beyond jealous of her and didn’t want anything to do with her. In an effort to protect Jon’s love for me-and only me-I stayed as far away from her as possible. Until one night, God broke my heart and I knew I couldn’t minister until I apologized to her. So, I did. And slowly but surely, God has not only kindled a sweet friendship, but I am now a part of her wedding to the love of her life and I get to call her one of my sweetest, most supportive friends. She is the only person-outside of family or close friends from my miscarriage journey who reached out to let me know she was thinking of me on my due date this year. She is a beautiful woman who is a beautiful picture of God’s redemption. And I treasure her.
Since reconnecting with her, my burden for women has only grown stronger. Since this week is National Mental Health Week and today happens to be Day of the Girl, I felt it was appropriate to talk about this competitive nature to remind us all, that we have the power to stop it. I first felt this noncompetitive spirit at She Speaks and vowed to never let it go. I came back and God has all but made it the call on my life. I love women. I love what they are capable of-I love that they love their families. And that they are emotional. And that they are funny. And that they care. I love women who are struggling because I know they have a story to tell, and it excites me and rips my heart out all at once to see how God redeems them. And I won’t stop loving them and lifting them up-no matter how inferior Satan tries to make me feel.
I used to feel like I had to grip tightly to what I had so that I would never lose it-especially Jon. Sounds kind of familiar huh? A lot like that voice we all first heard in middle school telling us we weren’t enough and it was all up to us. But I have found that I never did have a grip on him-only God does. And the joy of my life is serving others. And if I compare myself to the world’s standards rather than God’s standards, I will never be enough. So, I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep loving on and lifting up the women in front of me.
Have you ever thought that maybe if women started encouraging women that there would be a ripple effect into the home and into the families that make up our society? Less divorces, less affairs, less broken homes? Have you ever thought that maybe loving that mama who has a drug problem would change the dynamic of her life, and her child’s life? Have you ever thought that someone may just be one “You go sis” away from accomplishing her dreams? What if everybody took time just to send a note saying “Hey sis, thinking of you, love you”? What would the result be?
People may think you’re crazy and it is uncomfortable at first. But, try it this week and see what happens. Love on your sister. You don’t have to shove Jesus down her throat to love her. Smile. Say hey. Go get coffee. Jot down a note and put it on her desk at work. You will be surprised how much it encourages you.
To get you started, I am giving away one free set of the (in)courage postcards from Lifeway.com! (shown left) They are my absolute FAVORITE. To enter, simply subscribe to the blog at the bottom of the page. For a double entry sign up for the newsletter too!
Happy “Day of the Girl” sisters. Love someone today!