Thursday, June 6, 2013

Will Longer Skirts Protect Our Daughters?


Not too long ago the headlines read, "Victoria's Secret to Target Tweens" (tweens is a word that is used by marketers to describe youths between the ages of 10-13). There has been a wave of response to this story. The majority of folks have voiced protest over the controversial direction Victoria's Secret is taking by targeting a younger demographic.

We have seen this tactic used in countless campaigns including tobacco and movies. Reel in the younger audience and they are yours for life. It's effective. It works. I don't have a bone to pick with the marketing plan. It's simple and it makes money.

Maybe I'm a bit naive but I really don't envision the marketing team sitting around the table discussing ways they can sexual little girls or how they can have a part to play in the human trafficking horrors we see these days. I believe they are just in it for the profit. And that's o.k. That's what business is - a money making venture.




Our Fears and Faintings

While I am in complete agreement with the need to train up our children and set good examples for them to follow, I continually have to stop myself and ask these basic questions;

How does the gospel inform this situation, and, how does the gospel empower us to live in light of what Jesus has done for us?

Our fears are real - they are based on what we've seen in our homes and schools and communities. We make the connection between negative cultural influences and the demise of our children. We worry and wring our hands telling ourselves if we could just boycott that company, things would be better. Or, if we could just get our kids to dress a certain way or go to a certain school everything will turn out fine.

The problem comes in when we attribute everything bad to what is happening "out there". We conclude that the solution to our trouble is to "stay in here." It is safe in here. It is a controlled environment. Everyone is accounted for and unharmed.

In his profound film The Village, director M. Night Shyamalan brilliantly captures this truth. Fear has driven this community inside, believing that all of their problems are on the outside. Like The Village, we can easily come to the same conclusion. We are afraid of "out there." We are alarmed. We feel out of control. The only way to calm our fears and gain a foothold is to do something. Anything. We mount offensives and attacks, and all the while we are aiming at the wrong problem.

While there is absolutely no question that we live in a sexualized culture, I am not entirely convinced it is any worse than in years gone by. I have talked about our tendencies to romanticize history here. If we continue to point to all the problems out there (all the while ignoring the problems in our own hearts) we will completely miss the point.

Our children will grow up to believe the lie that the world is bad and they are good. The truth is the world is fallen and they are too.

Arguments, Exhortations and Solutions

Some of the arguments and exhortations go like this:
  • The exploitation of women is rampant and this is another nail in that coffin by targeting young women.
  • This is a slippery slope to the sexualization of our young kids.
  • Keep fighting and be offended. Stand up to Victoria’s Secret.
These arguments are attractive because they give us something to do and a target to aim for, but they are of no help in targeting our children's hearts.

Here are a few of the suggested solutions:
  • Read Romans 12:1-2 with your child and discuss clothing they need to sacrifice.
  • Tell your daughter she is valuable, her worth isn't based on her appearance.
  • Work with her to make a "modesty checklist" to tape inside her closet door.
Reading scripture with your child is a good thing. Validating his or her worth is vital. Helping them to make wise choices is right. However, there is no power in a checklist.

Affirmations of value and modesty checklists cannot protect our children. They live in the world. They are way smarter than we are. They say with their mouths they believe what we're telling them but their hearts are attached to the opinions of their friends.

These arguments and exhortations miss the point because the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

If we as Christians believe the Bible, then we believe what it says about God and about us. God is holy, perfect and just. We are not. No one is righteous and the heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it? That is why Christ died - to live the perfect life we could not and to save us from our sins. These truths inform our lives and we can now make decisions based on what God says, not the world. Now I can begin to understand why I believe the problem is "out there". My heart is deceitful. The problem is my own selfish and prideful heart which deceives me at every opportunity. I am not down-playing problems in our world - we suffer at the hands of this fallen world and the devil is on the prowl. However, if we believe there is a monster behind every rock waiting to ambush us we will completely miss the point of the Bible -

God came down to rescue sinners - that's all of us.

A Liberating Truth

To the question at hand, "Will longer skirts protect our daughters?" the obvious answer is no. However, we operate like they will in a thousand subtle ways. There is an awful lot of conversation taking place about modesty, especially as summer approaches. I have been guilty of it as well as I recall telling my teen son he had to leave his t-shirt on at the beach.

Only Jesus and the freedom he died to bring us can set us free from trying to save our children. Our countless conversations with our children about their clothing, their music, their friends, their purity - they are all ways we as parents count on to save them. It is exhausting, isn't it? Meanwhile, we've left out the only answer to their deepest desire and their strongest need - to be known in the midst of their sin and to be loved by the Savior of the world. When (not if) they fall, their longer skirts won't protect them. When (not if) they falter, their wrong choices in music won't save them. And, their "right" choices in clothing or music won't save them either.

The question is not "what should they be wearing this summer?" The question is, "Do they know the Savior who comes to them in the midst of all their clothing decisions?"

When our children begin to realize this world is not perfect and neither are they, when things begin to fall apart (and they will) in their safe and protected world, they don't need another lecture on purity and modesty. They need to know the Rescuer who sees them and loves them in the midst of their self-righteous goodness and their licentious badness. They need to know the love of Christ for them, the One who lived perfectly for them because they never would and never could do it on their own. Their only hope for a rescue is my only hope and yours too - Jesus, the rescue for sinners.

16 comments:

  1. Wow. Paradigm shift. And this is why my oldest child rebelled and my next "golden child" is that self righteous one who thinks the world is bad and she is good. Lord, please help me. I have 4 more coming. I'm trying to train their hearts instead of their actions. It's messier. I'm not very good at it. Thank you for writing this. I'm glad I found you.

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    1. It is messy - you are so right! I'm not very good at it either :) The Lord will be with you in the midst of it all - that is the promise. Thanks for stopping by!

      Blessings,
      Lori

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  2. As a former modesty police & checklist lover, I am slowly waking up to the freedom I have in Jesus. Thank you for making His freedom known in your writings. I am benefitting!

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    1. Hi Allison - I am totally with you too! I still lover my checklists, but more and more my heart is relieved at Christ's work for me. Thank you so much for reading.

      Blessings,
      Lori

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  3. This is a bit confusing -- So there should be little effort to live modestly and with self restraint or teach our daughters & sons the same? I agree that understanding and knowing the love of Christ is foundational...why would you describe our conversations as all "trying to save them" when it grows out of a love for Christ and His love for them? Or are we always supposed to second guess our actions?- that seems burdensome in a different way...

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    1. I agree Anonymous, it can be confusing. On one had we are to train up our children and yet we want them to understand that their behavior and performance can't save them - only Jesus saves sinners.

      It is important to discuss these topics with your children - whether it is manners, modesty or character. The problem comes in when we fail to give them Jesus. Setting anything else above Jesus and his love and forgiveness for them leads them to believe their behavior can actually save them. That their performance will provide for them what only Jesus can provide - peace, safety, comfort, acceptance and value.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You may want to drop by http://dropping-keys.webs.com/ for more resources.

      Blessings,
      Lori

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  4. Holly has left a new comment on your post "Will Longer Skirts Protect Our Daughters?":

    Love this! and I can tell you my experience has been that the ultra conservative kids are the ones who are impolite, rowdy and misbehaving when we've been on retreats...

    Elizabeth@Warrior Wives has left a new comment on your post "Will Longer Skirts Protect Our Daughters?":

    Amen. You perfectly expressed the reasons why I get so frustrated with the myriad of modesty posts that assure moms that the solution is to just cover up some more and everything will be fine. The problem isn't so much the clothing as it is the heart issues. Unless you fix the heart, the problems will still be there.

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    1. Thank you Holly and Elizabeth! It always goes back to the heart, for sure! And, the truth is that all our kids are impolite, rowdy and misbehaving at times. None of them get it right all the time - they are sinners, like us :) There is great freedom in realizing that...

      I appreciate the comments and look forward to hearing from you again!

      Blessings,
      Lori

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  5. I'm late to the party on this one:) Great blog. There is a great outcry from girls raised in the purity culture and I can't disagree with everything they are saying. I heaped law on my kids and I'm paying the price now. When I first saw The Village I thought - that's how I parented! Raising them in fear and trying desperately to keep them from the very world I was called to love in the name of Jesus. Living in fear of what others would think if we didn't perform to their standards in the home schooling world.
    So many regrets. I have to continually be immersed in the gospel or I sink fast.
    Thanks for your blog, you always remind me of the gospel

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    1. Thanks so much Susan! Be done with regrets my friend. We all have them, but the gospel crushes them with the truth that there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I sink fast too, so I am grateful for Christ who rushes to our side with grace upon grace.

      Blessings friend,
      Lori

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  6. This is really good to remember. I for one, was raised in a way that unknowingly made me believe I was a good girl......I wore dresses growing up (or coullotte's...ugh!LOL), I did not go public swimming, I did not go to movies, I attended church 3 times a week, I did not go to any extra curricular school activities with the "other" kids...I went to church camp, I did not date boys when I was in highschool...etc. And yet, I did not have Jesus. My appearance seemed religious to the outside world, and indeed, it probably WAS religious. But religion does not love me, Jesus does. I finally came face to face with my need for Jesus at the age of 25. And He saved my soul.
    I struggle from time to time when He shows me that I, too, am guilty of molding my childs behavior, instead of showing them Jesus. I long for all my kids to know Him....but He longs for them even more...and that is such a comfort to me. I love Him.
    Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Haha! Coullottes - omg! I remember those too :)Thanks for stopping by and I so appreciate your heart for your children. You are right, God longs for them more than we do and that is huge comfort for us!

      Blessings,
      Lori

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  7. I, too, find this a bit confusing. We are to be modest because Christ exhorts us to be modest. Not because we "have to", to earn or keep our salvation or His love... but because we should want to, right? His laws are always to protect us... not to keep us enslaved or from having fun. As the mother of two teenage boys I know they struggle when surrounded by teenage girls in skimpy bikinis, short shorts or low cut tops! God has hard-wired our boys/men to be visual creatures! One of my boys told me the other day that he liked a certain girl because she "protected him", meaning she was modest in her clothing choices when they were together, not causing him to potentially stumble. If I had daughters, I would still encourage them to be modest... again not out of fear or legalism, but to be "in the world but not of it!" Does that make sense?

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    1. Thank you Anonymous for your comments!

      I too have struggled with this issue, having raised a young man. This is an issue they will struggle with for the rest of their lives, so they need to be prepared to live in the world. If everyone around them is "protecting" them they will never have need for Jesus and the protection he offers and the forgiveness of their sins that they need and the reliance on him and him alone. Giving our kids a group of friends that will keep the rules for them will never propel them closer to Christ - they just won't feel their need. As far as these young women, I am thankful they care about modesty. However, putting the burden on our young women to protect our young men is a weight they were never meant to carry. Men can be (and are) just as stimulated by fully clothed women than scantily clad women - that is not the issue. The issue is the heart, and how our kids (men and women) respond in love because they have been loved by Christ regardless of how they dress...I agree that it is difficult, and it is painful to watch our kids struggle. But they must - they need what we need which is heaping doses of the gospel that reminds them they are loved, accepted and valued in the midst of their sin and self-righteousness.

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