According to the Book of Titus, older women are to mentor younger women on how to be good wives, mothers, and community members. Yet in today’s society it is becoming increasingly more difficult for women to empower one another because we are so busy competing with one another. I believe that the objectifying of women, from scantily clad advertisements to music lyrics to pornography, not only hurts our relationships with men by creating unrealistic expectations. It also hurts our relationships with each other by causing us to resent those expectations and compare ourselves to each other alongside those expectations.
When I was a young woman in ministry and a young wife and mother, I desperately needed and sought the wisdom of older women. Once I tried to call a woman I went to church with to ask her advice on something that was going on in the church nursery. She wasn’t home and her husband answered the phone. He asked me about some of my college classes and we chatted for about five minutes. There was absolutely nothing flirtatious or inappropriate about it. The next time I saw that woman she treated me as if I had done something terribly wrong. Later I learned that she told another woman in the church that I was “dangerous.”
It was years before I learned the real cause of the issue. The pastor had told the men in the church to inform their wives if they were attracted to another woman in the church. He thought this would help the wives to prevent anything from happening. Well, perhaps it did, but I assure you it did nothing to improve the relationships between the women in the church!
The woman who labeled me as “dangerous” was a good woman whom I loved very much. She passed away just a few years ago after her husband broke her heart by cheating on her with a woman half her age. Now I am certain her insecurity all those years ago stemmed from his behavior and not from mine. Before she died, she asked me to forgive her and I told her truthfully that I had forgiven her already.
Now I am approaching the age my friend was when she thought of me as “dangerous.” I have lived and learned and seen some terrible things. Like her, I know what it is like to be devastated because a man cannot control his impulses. I see “dangerous” women everywhere. I am jealous and insecure. I am in the wrong.
The longer I live, the more I see how important my friendships with other women are. My friend Beth sent me information about a study at Stanford University about the relationship between stress and disease. According to the study, while the best thing a man can do for his health is to be married, the best thing a woman can do for health is to have strong friendships with other women. What does it take in order for us to accomplish that?
First, we need to teach our daughters to value strength and character over appearance so that they are motivated to seek the wisdom they need from older women. We need to encourage them to develop their talents and their intelligence. We need to stop taking them to Victoria’s Secret to shop when they are still in middle school. My friend Sara Barnett says, “Raising confident young women to value one another not for what they can gain, but for what they can learn, is key.”
Ashley Langford agrees that confidence is an important factor. She reminded me that we all need to see ourselves the way God sees us and not as the world sees us. According to Reverend Jack Pennington, realizing that God loves us for who we are should help us to love others for who they are and keep us from competing with one another for the love of the world.