Yesterday, we lit it up on the post called Not Cool – A "Good Girl's" Guide, discussing how to talk about acceptable/unacceptable behaviours in women and girls, knowing that rape & sexual assault is never justified. We chatted about 8 basic rules that could open conversations about modeling for girls appropriate behaviour and lifestyle choices.
(insert weird random metrix fact: I get most of my response through private messages, FB, or Twitter. My Comment Section on the actual blog seems strangely silent most times. But I do get feedback, & the numbers show people are hitting the blog. That's good I guess!)
An excellent point related to Rule #2 ("Who's around you loving you?") cropped up in response to yesterday:
"When girls or women do behave in ways that are harmful to themselves or others,
how do we respond?"
It's one thing to teach girls to find real love in wise, caring others and God but if wise, caring others (or God for that matter) seem absent, how are they supposed to connect?
So today is all about what's "cool"… how to be that zany, wonderful, not-quite-altogether, quiet, outspoken, spontaneous, cautious person a girl can rely on to learn about real love.
Rule #1: Love first.
This might go without out saying but there are so many of us that have lived through times without love that we have no idea how to express it, live or model it. Some of us have tried looking for love in churches (some of us have found it; others of us have found condemnation).
Religious or non-religious, if we point out the wrong that needs to be addressed right away thinking "it's the most loving thing we can do", we are so wrong. Pointing out the bad is just stating or re-stating the obvious. How is a girl coming to you supposed to experience love from you when the first thing you do is say: "Well you posted your boobs online. No wonder you're being called a slut!"
That's not love.
Love is: "Hey there, my friend, how's it going?"
"Let's chat about life over coffee!"
"Shoot me an email! Tell me what's up!"
"I'm grateful to have you in my life as a friend (or family member or colleague)."
If the relationship isn't there first, you aren't loving the girl. You're a resounding gong or clanging cymbal… useless noise (I Cor.13). As tempted as you might be to point out the flaws first, draw back. Withold and gear the conversation towards the immense gift you have in this person right in front of you. This will breed trust. When trust is bred, then the girl (who may or may not have yet known real love) will experience it and be just a bit more open to chatting about her own flaws or mistakes.
Rule #2: Love second.
Rule #2 flows straight out from Rule #1: if you aren't around anyone you think might confide in you, reset your thinking. There are always people around us whom we are influencing. Regardless of others' behaviour (good, bad, or ugly), we need to be a loving people — open, prone to mistakes, faithful in forgiveness and grace, trustworthy, and kind. When others see how we treat each other, in season and out, girls who make mistakes will seek us out.
Some people might believe that speaking of God's love constantly is a good way to go.
Yes and no.
I've had people speak about God's love only to use it as a venue for evangelism. You know something? I'm a Jesus-follower, but I've been asked to be "born again" more times than an atheist. It's not a loving gesture. It doesn't care about me as a person, but as a convert.
If you truly loved me, you'd quit evangelizing and know me. Let our words be few.
And let us become people of trust.
Rule #3: Love third.
By learning to build relationships — going out and looking for them — we learn how girls respond to gentle rebukes. No one likes to be called on stuff they've done. I know for me, I despise confrontation of any kind (even when it has nothing to do with me), so I can easily lash out defensively, trying to justify my behaviour.
What do I need?
Someone to gently speak with me about what I've done, remind me how loved I am, and then… let me sit with it. For me, the defensiveness factor decreases when I'm given the chance to think over a gentle rebuke. If a repentant spirit is demanded immediately, I tend to close down not because I don't want to own my stuff, but because I'm more than a little bewildered and ashamed. Give me a day or two. I will come around.
Other girls can have a pep talk, coach-style ("Hey! You know what you did last night was not cool?!"), and they immediately latch on to the openness of it all, see things more clearly, and step into action about what's next.
However a girl needs to be approached, always be straight. Don't beat around the bush. Be kind, be thoughtful, but give the straight up goods. Girls these days want the truth. But truth must be tempered with love, just as love needs to be spined with truth.
a) take the girl aside to speak with her. Don't be so secretive as to create shame, but refrain from public shaming too. Give her the decency of being able to respond to you without others over-hearing.
b) always, always, always remind her that you love her. Period.
c) even though you will always love her, her bevhaviour is hurtful… dangerous… not cool. Dumb friends let us be dumb. Good friends take us aside and help us become better people. It stings (no doubt about that!), but better a sting from a good friend than support for dumb behaviour from not cool friends.
d) explain that real love doesn't let friends/family track down the wrong way without some guidance. You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't love her deeply (this explanation, however, has often been abused. Again refer to Rule #1 before daring the speak it. If you haven't got the relationship, shut your mouth).
e) allow for a cooling off time. Being rebuked is tough on anyone, let alone a teenage girl. Remind her again and again she's loved.
f) if she's tells you to "F— off!", do so. Remind her she's loved, but leave it alone. Unless you've grown that right to speak into her life, leave it be for a time. She won't listen if she's chosen not to listen (but that can be said of anyone of us, can't it?). If you think it's your God-given right to point out her flaws or mistakes, then you've got a plank in your eye to deal with first. Shut up and wait for a better time.
Rule #4: Love fourth.
Allow for silence.
When silence has been had, allow for more silence.
And listen some more.
Who knows what's going to come out?
ALLOWS FOR QUESTIONS!!!
Some of us are shy about asking questions… some of us don't know what to ask because we've never been called out on certain behaviours (so why would we?)… some of us see the hypocrisy in our circles (family, school, church, work) and struggle with how to respond… and some of us are just plain curious and want to know more about stuff.
Some more tips:
a) don't try to have all the answers. Especially Christians, when we fall back on proof-texting in Scripture, all people hear are quotations from the Bible. It actually goes a long way when both religious and non-religious people say: "I don't know."
Admitting that you don't know doesn't diminish your love. It enhances your humanness and trustworthiness.
b) no stupid questions. Everything is fair game. Nothing is shameful.
c) especially when talking of sexual matters, use proper terminology ("penis", "vagina", "anus", "intercourse", "masturbation", etc). If you're not comfortable doing so, stand in front of a mirror and repeat the words over and over again to your own face. Girls want the real deal. If certain words trigger fearful reactions, back off and respect that. But over all, when girls hear you speaking of our bodies without shame or without mockery or filth, they'll sense it and respond in their own times and ways.
d) have some ideas for an action plan. It's one thing to call a girl out on stuff, but if you leave her at that… NOT cool! Friendship or parenting sometimes looks different to the girl (and us!) after rebukes like this, so have some ideas as to how to nurture this tender relationship in the aftermath. Give her space to offer her insights too.
Rule #5: Love fifth.
Girls will laugh in our faces when we don't live what we preach.
If you don't want your daughter posting filth on FB, but you post your junk on social media, she has no reason in the world to trust or believe you.
If you're engaging in "not cool" behaviour, whether others know or not, and a girl is coming to you for help, she'll sniff you out in a New York Minute.
Ask yourself: "How am I loving God? Myself? Others?"… "How am I being loved by God? Myself? Others?"
While we can't demand perfection of ourselves, we can expect patience, kindness, trustworthiness, grace, forgiveness, humility, passion, creativity and a host of other things if we claim to have this kind of love in our lives. If that love isn't there, but we're preaching to other girls how to behave, we need to:
a) shut up
b) find this real love ourselves
c) ask forgiveness of those we tried to hark at without any basis underneath us
Rule #6: Love sixth.
Expect more mistakes.
Are you perfect yet?
This one's so tough because there are "mistakes", and then there is repeated deliberate behaviour, and then there's a mixture of the two. But love sticks it out.
Be prepared to stick it out for the long haul.
Any other rules you would add?
One thing I would suggest that we all keep in mind is that the term "girls" can be used quite generally. How we address a 13-year old needs to be a bit different than when addressing a 30-year old. No one needs patronizing tones or condescension, but we can learn to be sensitive to a teenager's needs and to an adult's needs.