Mother’s Day isn’t just a time for sweet cards and a kitchen wrecked from a gift of “breakfast in bed.” It is also a time of reflection on what for most women is our most difficult and momentous role in life and the lessons passed down from our own mothers.
This subject could easily fill a book, but here is just one question for our consideration this year, whether you are a mom or a daughter. The question I pose to my daughter, myself, and others is this: “On what do you base your value?”
We live in a society in which little or no imperfection is tolerated. As part of a piece I did for Concerned Women for America this week, I interviewed three moms of special needs children in an effort to honor those heroes among us. The interview underscored that our society practically worships both physical and mental perfection. Americans spent $12 billion dollars last year on plastic surgery alone in pursuit of that elusive idol. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, those numbers are up by nine percent — despite a deep recession. Our young women are bombarded daily with unrealistic images of the ideal woman on TV, magazines, and even shopping catalogs.
ABC news recently reported that one in five girls has some form of an eating disorder. One in five! What are we doing?
When my daughter was a baby, I called Victoria’s Secret and cancelled the delivery of their catalog to my home in an a very weak effort to push back against the false notion that airbrushed, surgically-enhanced, photo-shopped women were the attainable and ideal body to envy and ultimately imitate. It just doesn’t exist in real life, and if it does, it fades with time. Watching my daughter scan the magazine covers in the grocery store checkout aisle, taking in images of women that will never exist in real life, makes me anxious to continue to affirm her worth and instill in her that her worth doesn’t come from beauty, from men, drugs and alcohol, friends, or even achievement.
No. My child, your child, and all the special needs kids in this world were fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God in His own image. From the beginning of time He knew who they would be and, despite their imperfections, He knew His plan for them. It doesn’t sound like a mistake anymore, does it?
So, to my daughter and us all, I want to say that you are a beautiful creation. Never undervalue yourself. In fact, for those of us who accept Christ, the Biblical principle is that we are actually the adopted “daughters of the King.” Therefore, we are to carry ourselves with the dignity due our station.
In a practical sense, this means that we both deserve self-respect and the respect of others. What a lesson. On college campuses all over the nation, the “hook up” culture would never exist if our young women understood their own incredible value. Our out-of-wedlock birthrates would plummet, and eating disorders would diminish if we could stop trying to vainly boost our young women’s self-esteem, but instead teach them self-respect based on their Creator’s view of them.
As my daughter grows up, I am trying to teach her our values. My husband and I work hard to continually encourage her, tell her she’s beautiful, and make sure she knows how special she is in God’s eyes.
In a world full of false expectations and a culture containing mine fields along the road to adulthood, our job as moms is fraught with danger. However, the best gift I can leave my children is the knowledge that the image they bear is not just mine, but more importantly, it is God’s.
Penny Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America.
Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).