Why must Christian women try to constantly outdo each other?
The other night as I was getting ready for a date, I was doing my makeup–I don’t normally wear any. I put on this fancy skirt that I’m not very comfortable in. Then I looked in the mirror, and realized that I was not dressing up for the man I was going out with, but for the other women who would see me with him. I wanted to project a certain image to my fellow women, but an image that is not who I am. On a date, I want to be completely honest with who I am, and not wear any kind of outfit that masks who that is. So I wiped off the lipstick and changed into an outfit that I am fully comfortable in. And you know what? I was myself on this date. I was honest and strait forward, and I didn’t think about how others would perceive what I was wearing, because I was comfortable.
This experience raised that question that I led with. Why must women compete with one another, especially Christian women? Why is there such a pull to be viewed as better, more stylish, thinner, or even to have the cutest boyfriend. I do definitely see this among Christian circles, though it does seem less apparent, more clandestine and difficult to discern. And this makes it difficult to address. So what should we do? How should we respond to this?
Do you agree with me that this is a problem in our Christian communities as well as the secular ones?
Well, in my opinion, it is. Christian women are being somehow inculcated by worldly standards and comparing themselves to those, which really are unrealistic standards for real women who have real bodies that are different, yet all equally beautiful. The discontentment and competition come from this comparison with stereotypes filling our society. The Christian community even has detrimental stereotypes for women…shocking, I know. (Notice the sarcasm.) But yes, the Christian community is also filled with certain unrealistic expectations, and when women fail to meet them, there is shame and pain involved. This doesn’t only apply to women of course, but it does seem to affect them more somehow. Just think of the pervasiveness of men using pornography in the church, and how addressing it is almost taboo–because it’s so common among men (even pastors) that it is now acceptable?? Yet, if a woman is trapped in a pornography addiction, people don’t know what to do with her. Sometimes they shun or reject her. This seems wildly inconsistent, and discouraging.
But anyway, that aside, why must women compete with one another at the expense of the feelings of their fellow sisters, even at the expense of the glory of Christ? Well, the simple answer is sin. There, I’m done right? Well, not quite. There seems to be more. A lack of humility. An overabundance of pride. A lack of a full understanding of the holiness of God. A discontentment that is fueled by undue pressure and a sinful heart. An incomplete knowledge of what it means to rest in Christ. A lack of understanding that we are made in the image of the most high God. A lack of understanding that our full and beautiful identity is in Christ and in Christ alone.
Our identity is not in what people think of us. It is not in the stereotypes that are thrust before our eyes. It is not in our failures–we know we have many. It is not in our pain, our lack of faith, our stumbling into temptation. Our identity is in Christ and in him alone. Praise his holy name for this reality.
Now just to clarify, just because our identity is secure in the Father of everything doesn’t mean we stop trying to honor him, it doesn’t mean that we give up. It means that we strive for his excellence, not the pseudo excellence the world offers. We should strive to meet the expectations of our Heavenly Father, not those of men, or even those of solid Christian communities–at least not exclusively. It needs to come directly from Christ and from his word.
As he said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
Of course, we CANNOT be holy while we carry around this body of flesh. But that is when we remember that we have “Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34) and that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
And when you think that you’re the only one who is failing today, remember that I am too.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Our worst days bring us closer to our Father, if we let them. They drive us to our knees, and make us more like him. So the next time you are tempted to compete with anyone in a self-serving way–especially a dear fellow sister in Christ–remember to whom you belong and to whom you really should be comparing yourself to.
Hold me to this, will you please my dear sisters, as we try and become more like Jesus together for his glory and our combined edification.