Popular role models teach our girls that strength is the most important trait for women. From Super Girl to Toy Story 4’s feisty Bo Peep, and The Powerpuff Girls to Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Hollywood resolutely marches out a parade of capable female heroines to show our daughters what it means to be strong.
A crop of Girl Power anthems also rallies their hearts to the cause. Like Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women,” Demi Lovato’s “Confident,” Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” Britney Spears’s “Stronger,” and Alicia Keys’s “Girls on Fire.”[i] What better way to infuse the idea into the subconsciousness of girls than to have them constantly singing lyrics about girls taking charge?
And have you noticed all the glittery empowerment slogans on girl’s clothing? You can undoubtedly find a selection at your local mall. The emblazoned T-shirts have slogans like:
- Girls Rule
- Girls Run the World
- I am pretty . . . pretty smart. Pretty tough. Pretty awesome. Pretty fierce.
- Brave. Bold.
- Girl PWR
- I’m not strong for a girl—I’m just strong.
- Strong Girls Rule
These aren’t playful, benign messages. They promote a specific ideology. (Ever see a T-shirt with the slogan Strong Boys Rule?) Like an IV drip into the vein of an unconscious patient, contemporary culture has pumped ideas about what it means to be a strong woman into the subconscious minds of an entire generation.
Strength and Weakness
From the time a girl is born, she is literally bombarded with messages about how incredibly amazing and capable and strong she is simply by virtue of her sex. By the time she reaches womanhood, she knows that it’s vitally important for her to act strong. Weakness must be avoided at all costs.
But if you’re at all familiar with the Bible, you’ll know that being weak isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, for example, Paul told his friends that he delighted in weakness: “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We tend to think of weakness and strength as opposites. To be strong is a positive trait; it means to be without weakness. To be weak is a negative trait; it means to be without strength. But the Bible doesn’t adhere to this definition.
It redraws the lines.
Scripture teaches that everyone who relies on God is strong and that everyone who relies on self is weak. Your personal ability or inability doesn’t indicate whether you are weak or strong; your dependence on God does.
And there’s the rub.
The Bible’s concept of weak and strong doesn’t line up with culture’s. This is especially the case when it comes to ideas about womanhood.
All too often women think that being strong means foregoing their femininity and denying the most integral and beautiful aspects of who they are as women. Sadly, a woman who thinks she is strong may just be headstrong. A woman who thinks she is brave may just be rash. A woman who thinks she is bold may just be aggressive. A woman who thinks she is confident may just be arrogant. A woman who thinks she is independent may just be standoffish. A woman who thinks she is smart may just be foolish.
Many women have embraced the wrong kind of strong. Christian women aren’t immune to having a skewed image of what constitutes a strong woman. We’ve all sipped the cultural Kool-Aid. And unless we give our daughters a cup full of truth, they will swallow the poison too.
Strong in the Right Kind of Way
Proverbs 31 describes a godly woman as a strong woman: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong . . . Strength and dignity are her clothing” (vv. 17, 25). God undoubtedly wants his girls to be strong—but strong in the right kind of way. So how do you help your daughter develop godly strength rather than the counterfeit strength promoted by pop culture? Here are some suggestions:
- Model the right kind of strong.
Your daughter needs you to model what it means to be strong in the right kind of way. Your actions will speak louder than your words. It will be difficult for her to understand what true strength is if you exhibit an aggressive, controlling, nagging, domineering, cantankerous, and unyielding spirit, or if you are self-sufficient and self-reliant instead of humbly dependent on the Lord. Strong mothers raise strong daughters—so make sure you are raising her to be the right kind of strong.
- Teach her the Bible’s view of strength.
This generation of young women esteem strength. Your daughter needs to know that the Bible promotes this virtue. The Lord wants your daughter to be strong and not weak. Not strong in her own power, but strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might! (Ephesians 6:10)
- Help her intelligently evaluate culture.
The world promotes a counterfeit version of strength for women. Help her evaluate the message contained in popular movies, songs, and magazines. Teach her to discern how these messages differ from what the Bible says about true strength.
- Emphasize the importance of strength-building habits.
Becoming a strong woman doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years of consistent habits, thousands of small, seemingly insignificant steps of obedience. Reading our Bibles and applying what we learn, repenting of sin, choosing to do the right thing, mastering our minds and managing our emotions are just some of the things we must do in order to grow spiritually strong. These small steps, taken consistently, over time, will make a radical difference in our lives. Godly habits are what will turn us into strong godly women.
- Pray for her to be a strong woman.
Never forget that your daughter is engaged in a spiritual battle. The Lord wants her to embrace the right kind of strong while Satan wants her to embrace the wrong kind. The former will strengthen her core, while the latter will inevitably make her weak. So above all, pray for your daughter to become a woman who is strong in the right kind of way.
This post was excerpted from “The Right Kind of Strong: Surprisingly Simple Habits of a Spiritually Strong Woman.” Copyright Mary A. Kassian. Used by permission.
[i] “Run the World (Girls),” performed by Beyoncé, written by Terius “The Dream” Nash and Beyoncé, 2011. “Independent Women,” performed by Destiny’s Child, written by Beyoncé, Cory Rooney, Samuel Barnes, and Jean-Claude Olivier, 2000. “Confident,” performed by Demi Lovato, written by Demi Lovato and Savan Kotecha, 2015. “Fight Song,” performed by Rachel Platten, written by Rachel Platten and Dave Bassett, 2015. “Brave,” performed by Sara Bareilles, written by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff, 2013. “Stronger,” performed by Britney Spears, written by Max Martin and Rami Yacoub, 2000.