As I’ve pointed out before, parents take for granted the culpability to which we are immediately introduced upon conceiving a child. As if this wasn’t obvious enough in our culture’s current mindset towards the murder of unborn children, it can also by pointed out in myriad other ways.
One of these ways is the way in which we tend to raise our girls into women.
So let’s examine some compliments and see where we go from there.
“She is so cute!”
I’ve heard this about my daughters. I’ve said it about my own daughters. It’s almost always totally innocent. This sort of compliment comes when they’re as young as an infant and for several years afterward. It starts to get a bit awkward once a girl reaches a certain age, yes, but, for the most part it is universally innocent. I am happy to hear this from strangers or from close family and friends; it means they have an appreciation for the beauty inherent in God’s creations—even if they might not offer it with that depth.
“She is beautiful.”
I’ve heard this before, too. Usually not about one of my daughters—and rightly so—because my oldest daughter is only going on five years old. In my worldview, that means she still too young to receive an intellectually honest version of this compliment, though I tend to be charitable towards most people if they do happen to say it.
But this is where things get hairy. See, my wife and I have decided to encourage and example old-fashioned, conservative modesty to our girls. Not only modesty, but an awareness of the value of that sort of modesty, and that we strive to err on the side of conservative and *more* modest rather than take any chances. See, I wouldn’t want anyone to *notice* the beauty of my little girls—especially at this age. Once again, in my worldview, these girls are nowhere near old enough for courtship. Is that to say that all folks who might offer this compliment to girls their age are potential suitors (um, gross!)? I hope not! But I want there to be a clear line between what is appropriate and what is not appropriate speech towards them.
“She is gorgeous.”
This word, as far as I am concerned, is a sort of superlative. You had best be a suitor or another adult woman before you offer such a sentiment. Yes, men, I would advise caution in the use of this word for anyone who is A) not your wife; B) close to your age; or C) not an adult woman. Why? Well, because the way we speak of women is often indicative of our feelings about them, and I want my girls to grow up believing in something far greater than the value of an off-handed, over-used superlative.
In one of our discussions about raising our girls, my wife and I have talked about the difficulty in dealing with a girl who becomes so self-aware of her beauty and the compliments of others that she derives a majority of her self-worth from them.
Of course, as I’ve inferred above, this only comes from one of three things: A) the less-than-modest of the girl; B) the less-than-appropriate offerings of an observer; or C) some combination of both.
Inasmuch as we are unable to totally control the offerings of an arbitrary observer, we can certainly offer guidance and discipline in how our girls value and apply modesty.
One thing we noted was that there really is no external way of reversing the trend of a girl who has established her self-worth from compliments on her looks (and, manifestly, how she dresses and acts to flaunt the looks). Imagine a thirteen-year-old who wears makeup, dresses in tight-fitting clothes, and shows off a certain amount of skin: would she, if removed from one guardian and given to another with stricter standards, embrace the idea of suddenly dressing and acting in such a way that compliments which flowed freely were instantly stopped-up? Without some personal conviction of her own (sanctification), the chance of rebellion is barely a chance at all.
But if her rebellion is universally agreed upon as the outcome of such a scenario, why do we allow any of our girls to flirt with sleaziness? Why even take the chance? Why even test the boundary of modesty? Why are we not even more conservative when the world becomes even more lascivious?
Yet time and again, I watch as the little girls around me flirt more and more with the inappropriate. Yes, to different degrees, I’m sure many will point out… but why is any degree is acceptable?