I saw a really hurtful post the other day. It was by a boy talking about a celebrity girl who is over weight. There was some banter between other people, some defending her, others making even more hurtful jabs.
Then there was the article I saw a while ago about the cruel prank a girl’s high school class played on her, making her think she had won the title of Homecoming Queen, when in fact, it was a ruse. All because she wasn’t popular.
And then I think of the hateful things people say about women with facial hair. Or women whose breasts are too big or too small. Girls whose families don’t have any money. Girls who are slandered because they are just too nice. Girls who are called masculine because they are too smart. Girls who are unfairly accused of having an eating disorder. It literally hurts my heart to think of all the things women have to suffer at the hands of societal normalcy.
As women, I feel as though we suffer so much. Sometimes it is inflicted upon us and sometimes, I know I choose to let it sear me. It’s hard in those times when we hear hatefulness to remember to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us. It can get even more difficult if we try to remind ourselves what God believes about us.
Many times we fall into the trap laid by society and Satan, telling us that we must conform or stand to be ridiculed — to be marked as less than. But there is a difference between health and vanity. Beauty and character. Values and prejudices. Between caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit, and working hard to look like the cultural standard via exercise, nutrition, fashion and surgery. Then, too often, we turn around, judging and pressing others to do the same.
When we conform, we are no longer finding joy in the way God made us, but trying to manipulate ourselves by sheer willpower to fit in and be accepted. We say we want people to love us just the way we are, yet are we even sure we love ourselves just the way God made us?
As a woman who has struggled, does struggle and has friends who struggle just to live in Jesus’ presence every day emotionally and spiritually, I don’t appreciate the added pressure to be the culturally accepted version of a temple. Whether I do it, society does it, or other women (Christian and non-Christian) do it, it hurts to be squished into a box I will never fit in.
But freedom from the box comes in Christ. It may be the hardest lesson He’s trying to teach me. I’m not an easy student to have. I can do my homework and get all the answers right, but in practical application, in the lab where the work happens, I’ve never gotten good grades.
In the real world, where every time I go into a store the clothes are too small, the home decor is too expensive and the shoes are way too high, I never seem to feel confident in not “fitting in”. There is so much pressure. And can I get an amen from any other girls who feel judged, even by their Christian sisters, if they don’t fit a standard they have set on themselves? That’s not all your sister’s fault, dear, that’s you, too. Maybe one of my biggest insecurities is around other Christians who just seem to have it all together. But those are expectations I have placed on myself. To be a great cook, a DIY’er, organic, simplistic, trendy, creative, a great mother (even though I don’t have kids!) … it’s exhausting! But I’ve done it to myself. They haven’t said, “Whitney, get it together. You are seriously lacking in such and such department.” I feel that pressure myself when I take the focus off of God’s work in me and focus on Whitney’s work in herself. Because the truth is, God knows. He knows who I am and who He wants me to be. He doesn’t have anything to compare me to, I’m unique in His eyes. But He also knows who I try to make myself into when I take the reins.
I have so many comparisons that can distract me from Christ: celebrities, other Christian women, friends, family. But Christ is the only person I should be taking character cues from. No one needs me to be their moral hero or role model for perfect-life advice. I couldn’t give that, and it’s not worth trying for. Admitting my shortcomings and failures makes my relationships honest, and puts the focus on Christ.
Let’s all do ourselves a favor and as Christian women, work to be pleased with God and His creations, despite our sinful natures, imperfections and a fallen world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying health, nutrition, success, creativity or fashion to the glory of God, but when the harmless and good things become the idol you spend more time with than Him, and in turn, create a comparison monster in you, yeah, that’s when you know.