Recently a male friend of mine was telling me about his experiences in meeting some very “broken” females. By broken, he was referring to an emotional breakdown in which they had experienced trauma or emotional neglect that was shaping their viewpoints on dating. He explained how he was dating a girl that would not believe him if he told her she was beautiful. She also felt she needed to cross physical (biblical) boundaries in their relationship to gain approval and belonging.
As the Momentum Youth Conference assistant coordinator who monitors our Instagram and other social media accounts, I worry for girls who are looking for approval from the comments posted on their selfie photos. I’m not making a statement about selfies, but some photos these high school girls (and guys) are posting are obviously statements of their own about how they view themselves and the hope that somebody will tell them how pretty and accepted they are.
My friend was grieved over what seemed to him to be a brokenness in self-identity, worth, and image. In our conversation I mentioned to him that perhaps this problem was rooted in her relationship with her father. It was an insight that I didn’t emphasize a lot, but since then have thought more about it.
I attribute much of my standards in males to my father. He was a paramedic when I was growing up. This instilled in me a very deep respect for men and women who serve our community. He could fix a car, build a house, and diagnose my symptoms – a super hero. My dad has always been very intentional with me. When I was a senior in high school he retired from our local emergency services station and started working in the medical station of a remote mine. (I grew up in Alaska).
For this job he would be away for two weeks and then be home for two weeks. Every two weeks he would come home from work on Tuesdays and would take me to lunch just because he’s always desired to spend time with me. My dad takes the time to teach me – everything can be a lesson whether it’s about health, changing a tire, or the time I backed into a dumpster in our family van.
I have never known abuse, absence, or uncertainty from my father and this love has helped shape who I’ve become. As my relationship with my father relates to my conversation with that guy friend about girls and their fathers, I’ve started to realize (now that I am an adult) how often my father has told me that I am worthy of respect, that I am beautiful, that he is proud of me, that I am smart, etc. I believe it is because of this appropriate, positive relationship that I do not feel the need to be searching for this worth from other males in inappropriate ways. It is from a father/daughter relationship that girls draw a foundation for future relationships with the opposite sex, whether that be romantically or in friendship.
Does this mean that if you grew up without a father or without a father who did not emphasize these values, there is no hope? Absolutely not. There is another Father who also tells you about your worth, beauty, identity, security, and value. This Father’s love (Jesus) is the greatest love ever known. It is never absent or uncertain. It is faithful, wise, free, and constant. I am so very grateful for a biological father who pointed me towards Him.
This does mean, however, that I would urge all fathers to understand the depth and importance of the foundation they are laying for their own daughters. No earthly father is perfect, but all fathers can seek out insight from fathers who have gone before them. All fathers can help their daughters understand that no male can dictate her worth or self-image. I understand that when your daughter is young, you may not see the direct cause and effect of your intentionality, but one day she will be an adult looking to stand on her own. Through your small comments, your reassuring lessons and your wise words, you may find a young women who knows she’s worthy, strong, approved, and secure in who you’ve taught her to be.