Author Jessie Minassian offers advice for parents seeking to help their teen daughters overcome an unhealthy obsession with romance and to find their identity in Jesus Christ rather than in relationships with boys. (Part 2 of 2)
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Jessie Minassian: It's crazy to even think about it now and embarrassing to share that I did this, because now that I'm not thirsty, it sounds ridiculous that I would ever consider eating dirty grapes off of a trail, but in that moment, my desperation caused me to do the irrational.
When we let God make us, then we're free to refuse even a good relationship, but when we're desperate for love and for attention, even destructive relationships look tempting and that's why I encourage girls to allow God to make them because when He's made us, we're not tempted to chase after all these cravings for love and attention and relationships.
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John Fuller: That's Jesse Minassian, describing some of the challenges that young women face with dating and boyfriends and all those passionate emotions so common to the teenage years. Jesse is back with us on today's "Focus on the Family," with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and we're returning to the second part of one of the best of programs this year.
Jim Daly: John, we heard last time about the saturation of these issues in today's culture and frankly, it's everywhere. As Christian parents, we need to do all we can to equip our young people to navigate this with the truth of God's Word and to help them make that connection. That's I so appreciate the insights that Jesse brings to the table. Her book, Crushed: Why Guys Don't Have to Make You or Break You is a great resource. And if you missed our discussion last time, get the CD or the download, because this is really good stuff, whether you're a parent of a teen girl or boy. I don't have daughters, but you know what? These are good notes for me to train my sons to be better young men.
John: And as you know, Jim, I do have daughters and more than once, I've had an arm around a sobbing daughter, who's just gone through the drama of a relational issue and so, get a copy of Crushed and the CD and download Jim mentioned, our broadcast app, as well. It'll allow you to listen in when you stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Last time Jessie confessed to being a former "crushaholic." I guess that's a word she coined and that's someone who is constantly looking for a new relationship or crush in her life. She also said, many teen girls and young women treat their boyfriends like idols and that was really insightful for me. They expect a guy to provide them with confidence and security and identity, things that only God really can provide.
John: Well, we'll pick up the rest of that conversation with Jessie Minassian on today's best of "Focus on the Family."
Jim: You also talk in your book and I think you love to coin new terminology (Laughter), which I really—
Jessie Minassian: That I do.
Jim: --appreciate as a fellow Californian, but you talk about the wise and foolish builders from Matthew 7 for teen girls. What are you talking about with that Scripture?
Jessie: I think that Scripture is sort of a bedrock for how we keep guys from making or breaking us. Jesus talked about that the wise man builds his house on the rock, but the foolish man builds his house on the sand. And paraphrasing that and making it applicable for teen girls, the wise girl is the girl who builds her life on the Rock, who turns to God and who makes Him her identity and finds her worth in Him. And so, when the storm comes, when she is in a relationship for five years and her boyfriend breaks up with her in a text message, her house isn't gonna come crashing down like the foolish girl who surrounds herself, who wraps her identity up in that relationship.
Jim: That is so well-said, the difficulty is how to, if you are that young teen girl, how do I do better next time? And if you're the parent of that young teen girl, how do I help her equip herself better to do better next time? Those are tough questions and we covered a bit of that last time, but you know, if I am that dad, what's one thing I could when I see my crushed daughter's spirit, what can I do right now to help lift her up? That's a fix-it question.
Jessie: It's a fix-it question and I'm gonna give you a very non-fix-it answer. You need to wrap your arms around her and hold her. You need to let her know that she is loved and that she is valuable. She doesn't need a lecture. She doesn't need to know that she needs to avoid that guy next time. She knows. Like she feels it.
Jim: In fact, you mentioned in the book and this one, I kinda winced at because you said a breakup for a teen girl is like divorce.
Jim: And I guess in some ways I get that at one level, but hopefully, you know, if she's minding her physical relationship, that can't be quite accurate, but talk to me about that.
Jessie: Yeah, I--
Jim: Maybe emotionally it is.
Jessie: --I think the trouble is and this is what happened to me growing up as a teenager and into my college years, I was dating like I was married and when you date like you're married, when you give all of your emotions, all of your body, all of your spiritual, like everything just wrapped up in this relationship, when you break up, it does feel like a divorce.
Jim: In that case, it is a divorce, isn't it?
Jessie: Let no one separate what God has joined together, right? Like there's a very spiritual connection that happens I feel in physical intimacy especially, which you touched on. When a girl does have strong boundaries, she is less likely, much less likely to feel the ultimate devastation that many of these girls feel when they come to Life, Love and God. But it does not mean that she will not feel very intense heartache. And the emotional side for a girl especially, the emotional investment in that relationship is very deep. And when that relationship ends, it can feel like pulling cement apart.
Jim: Yeah and you know what? Let's not pull any punches here. I think even in the Christian community, teen boys and early 20-something boys typically, you know, their hormones are raging, as well. And so often, they can manipulate so easily that if you really want my love, then you've gotta give me your physical body. And they don't say it that way, but that is what is going on so often.
How do you equip both boys and girls, especially those who have a faith in Christ, to be more mindful about that, to not be tempted in that direction too far?
Jessie: Oh, man, so many things I want to speak to in what you just said. I think first, I would say, I mean, I work primarily with believers. The kids who come to Life, Love and God and who I speak to are primarily in the church. And so, as parents, I need you to be aware that this is going on in the church. You may not think it is. Your daughters may seem very pure and innocent. I know I came across that way to my parents, but I was in a very serious relationship for a lot of years. And when two people are in a serious relationship for a lot of years, it's a natural draw to have physical intimacy. It's very hard and I don't think—
Jim: It's hard to hold the line.
Jessie: --it's very hard to hold the line the longer you're in relationship.
Jessie: And I would give young men the benefit of the doubt and say that they're not manipulating intentionally. They are drawn into the natural progression that God created for relationship. It's like three points to a triangle. There's the physical and the emotional and the spiritual, and they're meant to all coincide together and so, as you're drawing closer physically and spiritually, the physical, it's so hard to keep that at bay.
And I think as parents, we can help equip our teens and our young people by helping them understand the nature of physical intimacy, that it's a lot like relationship cement, that a kiss, something as simple as a kiss which Hollywood has glorified as just a rite of passage into young adulthood, is the very first layer of relationship cement that you're laying with another person. We have to help them understand that it's not just no big deal, you know, that we need to be intentional about who we are cemented to.
Jim: Jessie, physical intimacy is such a delicate subject and even the fact that we're bringing it up, some listening are uneasy with it, but we've given so much territory over to the enemy, and we decided not to talk about it in the church 'cause it makes us uneasy. We should! God has given us this as a gift, but it needs to be in the proper context and we fail so often as parents to teach the proper context, 'cause we're uneasy with it. But that physical intimacy aspect, especially for teenagers who are claiming a faith in Christ, how far is too far?
Jessie: That is the No. 1 question that I get from girls who love God and want to honor Him and want to maintain their purity and they want to know, how far is too far? How far can I go before I'm compromising that? It's the question that I had growing up and I don't know if I just didn't hear it from my youth pastor or if I wasn't listening. Either one could be possible.
Jim: Or you didn't want to hear it! (Laughter)
Jessie: I don't know if I wanted to hear it, but I remember looking, like where is that line? And I was looking so hard, looking for that line that I tripped right over it!
Jim: So, you don't think it's even the right question.
Jessie: I don't think it's the right question to be asking. I think the question we should be asking is, like I see physical intimacy like standing at the top of a high vista, like looking at the edge of a cliff, looking at the view. It would be foolish for us to keep inching our way forward to that cliff when so easily one of those rocks can slip and we tumble to our death below. Instead our question should be, how far back can I stand and still enjoy the view? That's the question that we need to be asking as far as intimacy for our young people. There's so much of a relationship that can be enjoyed without even having to get into that danger zone.
Jim: Jessie, I have so appreciated many things that you've expressed both last time and this time. But it gives me a better picture of the condition of a teen girl's heart and what she is feeling and I think that's so important to start there. Why romantic crushes cut so deeply when they end poorly, and how that most likely is not gonna be the guy she's gonna marry—
Jim: --and how she needs to protect herself in that way. Talk about for a minute the parent of teenagers and I've got the teen boys. What is a good way to approach those friendships and those relationships with the opposite sex? I mean, we haven't had that situation yet, but I know that Jean and I—
John: You will soon.
Jim: --the pillow talk's gonna start. We're gonna go, "Okay, what did you think of her?" (Laughter) And "Boy, he seems to be too infatuated with her and what are we gonna do?" Help us prepare for that moment. What do we need to be thinking about and what are some of those healthy boundaries we should say to the Christian family, you know, this is probably good; this would be not good?
Jessie: I think there is definite freedom for parents to wrestle with that together and for single parents, my heart goes out to you, as well, because this is not an easy topic to navigate solo. It's hard when you're a single mom and you don't have a dad to come alongside your daughter or vice versa.
Jim: Great point.
Jessie: And I totally get that, but we have freedom as parents to think through what the best dating model might be in our families, you know. I'm not one that says you need to court or you need to date, or you need to move to a monastery in Spain! (Laughter)
John: Those alternatives. (Laughter)
John: Yeah, we said you can't date—
Jessie: That last—
John: --until 35.
Jessie: --one, exactly.
Jim: See if that works.
Jessie: I'm a huge advocate for parents in our roles to protect our daughter's purity and to be involved in both our son's and daughter's relationships.
But I think it's important for us to understand what God's guidelines for relationships are in the Scriptures so that they can come up naturally in conversation like you had with your daughter, where you're just having normal life and it just kinda comes up naturally. And some of those guidelines I think are specifically helpful for parents to remember and then help instill in our children is, you're family until you're married. It's a hard one for kids to understand that, but until there's a ring on your finger, that is your brother in Christ or that is your sister in Christ. How would you treat your brother and your sister?
Another one, you know, talking about teaming up with a believer, those are I think pretty common understandings as parents, but our kids, it's not automatic that they're gonna understand that. Why is it important that I get into a romantic relationship only with someone who shares my faith? Is that important at all? Those are things that we need to be talking about with our kids. And there's lots of opportunities to talk about this because of the media, considering that normal isn't always best.
Jim: And the media rarely lifts up normal. It always lifts up the paranormal.
Jessie: Right (Laughter) Exactly, which then our sons and daughters think is normal and so, to consider that the dating-go-round, this cycle of crush and date and break up and then do it all again and kinda spinning around on this merry-go-round that, that is not necessarily God's best for you as a young person made in the image of God. And so, having those conversations with our kids is so key.
Jim: Jessie, with that in mind, I mean you talk also about Prince Charming and how that should happen. Talk to us about that when you have that 17-, 18-, maybe 20-, 21-year-old daughter, who is really looking for Prince Charming, the one that's gonna sweep her off her feet—
Jim: --and love her forever after.
Jessie: I think we're experiencing somewhat of a backlash. There's been a lot of Christian books written on the subject in the past 10, 15 years, encouraging girls to wait for a godly guy, which is so on point. However, I think that we've inadvertently set the bar a little bit above realistic and this is--
Jim: And they keep saying no.
Jessie: --right, they keep saying no, 'cause they're waiting for this guy who's gonna rise before dawn to lead family devotions and sell everything to move to Africa, like this is the standard I had in my mind as I was reading—
Jim: Only John does that. (Laughter)
Jessie: --reading these books as a teen girl and young adult girl, I was thinking, "Wow, like I have got to wait until this guy is gonna come and just treat me like a princess every day, is never gonna lose his temper, is gonna always have the right godly thing to say.
Jessie: And so, my encouragement to girls is to, yes, wait for a guy who loves Jesus more than he loves you. That is an absolute.
But there are other things on the list that we're gonna have to maybe give some grace on because we're all sinners! We are all still being sanctified by the Spirit. And so, I think that it's possible to find Mr. Imperfect for us and we have some guidelines in Scripture for what to look for as girls. If we want a guy who can lead us in life and lead our children someday, why not look for a guy who's qualified to lead the church? He may or may not lead a church, but to look for a man who has the—
Jim: Kind of—
Jessie: --laid out.
Jim: As the basic qualification. That's a good—
Jim: --that's a good thing to think about, look for character—
Jim: --not just the—
Jim: --other things.
John: Well, we're talking with Jessie Minassian on today's "Focus on the Family." I'm John Fuller. Your host is Jim Daly and Crushed: Why Guys Don't Have to Make or Break You is the book that Jessie has written. Obviously, the topic broader than just feeling like, "Oh, we broke up and now the world is ending." Lots of good practical information here in the conversation and in the book and you can get a CD or a download of our discussion and the book, when you're at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
And okay, Jessie, you've been giving Jim some advice. Give me some advice please. So, one of my daughters said, "All of my friends are in relationships. They're all dating, but I'm not and nobody's even asked me." I want her to have high standards and to maintain those, but it's really difficult to know how to coach her through that. What—
John: --insight do you have?
Jessie: On one hand, I do think that we have at times set the bar somewhere above realistic, but I also on the flip side of that, I'm all about encouraging girls to keep waiting until God brings the right guy along, because it is so much better to be single and happy than to be in a relationship and unhappy, to be unequally yoked or with someone who doesn't share your same faith values.
So, I would encourage her to keep on waiting, that God's timing is perfect. He has a different path and a different curriculum for each one of us. It's not the same and it doesn't mean that something is wrong with you if you haven't been in a relationship when you're 18, 25 or 35. It just means that it's not God's best for you in that moment.
Jim: In fact, Jessie, along with biblical qualifications, I think you coined that "be on the lookout." It doesn't mean you don't keep looking, but you know, just be aware, but don't take any bait.
Jessie: Right, that—
Jim: Is that fair?
Jessie: --be on the lookout. I think a group setting, friendship setting, is a perfect place for you to keep your eyes wide open. You're looking for qualities that you would like to have someday in a spouse. It doesn't mean that, that's necessarily gonna be the guy that you're with, but you can kinda glean what is it about him that I'm drawn to? What is it about him that draws others to him? And kinda keep those in the back of our mind or even make a list of qualities that you're looking for in a future husband.
Jim: Now that's the guy side. Let's hit the woman's side and actually you point to Proverbs 31, which most women cringe (Laughter)--
Jim: --when you say, "I gotta live up to that?"
John: Before you turn the dial—
Jim: Yeah, oh, my goodness.
John: --let's go on to something else.
Jim: I mean, but basically, you're highlighting the dignity, the modesty and what I found interesting, the mystery, which is so beautiful. Jean does a fantastic job of that and always has. She always kinda keeps—
John: Being mysterious?
Jim: --just that little bit of mystery, you know. I felt in our dating relationship, we were really good toward each other that way and we didn't cross the line and I just always felt that she's got a natural ability to keep the mystery alive and it's a good thing.
Jessie: It is; it's intriguing to a guy—
Jessie: --isn't it? There's something that we've lost in our culture and I think young women especially, we struggle not to lose this in our culture of vulnerability and openness, which is good on so many levels, but in this sense, it's not. On our first date when a girl is spilling all of her hopes and dreams and ever after with this guy that she's only just begun to date, there's nothing left to get to know. Like there is something—
Jessie: --to be said for savoring in little pieces as we go along, like a bar of dark chocolate, like (Laughter) just getting little bits at a time that increases our curiosity to get to know that person over time.
Jim: Well, and the interesting thing about it is, I think guys are wired to hunt. I mean, that's what many people will talk about. And so, you know, a lot of people, once the wedding bells happen, it seems like, wow, he stopped pursuing me. But there's something in that mystery. It doesn't have to be all physical. You're not saying that. It's in that emotional and spiritual realm, as well—
Jim: --to maintain that mystery. You know, it's funny with Jean, because she also is the kind of person that would never open a Christmas present early. She'll wait. If she could, she'd wait till the end of the day after dinner on Christmas. (Laughter) I'm like—
John: Very different from you.
Jim: --nobody does that (Laughter). What are you thinking?" But and she never wants to get an early birthday present. She always wants to keep—
Jessie: I'm the same way!
Jim: --yeah, okay, but there's something. You recognize that, but I don't know that a lot of women do recognize that.
Jessie: No, I agree; there is something to be said for not baring all at the beginning and just allowing that slow recognition over time as you get to know each other. And I want to make a distinction. I'm not talking about playing hard to get. I'm not talking about being overly coy or you know, purposefully trying to keep information or that's not what I'm talking about. I'm just talking about allowing it to be a process or getting to know each other, rather than just, "Here I am; here's everything about me," and …
Jim: For the immediately gratification woman and what I mean by that is shopping or whatever it might be that a woman is seeking that's more immediate, that might sound like a lot of work. Man, to keep that mystery going, what does that mean? I want to open the Christmas present right now (Laughter) and it's only you know, November. But speak to her about how she can develop the ability to keep mystery in that relationship.
Jessie: I think it does take determination and it takes forethought I think to intentionally say even if this is against my grain, I'm going to wait and allow this relationship to develop slowly. And I would say, it's worth the wait. I learned the hard way one Christmas the downside of getting everything at once that you want. At the Jewett household, we got really excited about Christmas, and Christmas Eve we had the tradition that a lot of people have, is opening one present on Christmas Eve. After we had our traditional Slovenian dinner, we got to open one present. And so, my sister and I both chose the gifts that we'd been eying for weeks and we—
Jim: The biggest?
Jessie: --picked them out. Of course, of course, the biggest! And we opened them and you know, you have that excitement of this thing and then like we did every year, we looked at daddy and we said, "Hey, Dad, can we open just one more please." And we knew he was gonna say no, except he didn't. He said, "Okay, one more" and we were shocked. It was like the world had come undone. We—
Jim: And he…
Jessie: --were no longer spinning on the right axis.
Jim: --and you didn't know what to do.
Jessie: We didn't know what to do. We looked at each other with big eyes and we like tiptoed over to the Christmas tree and like grabbed one before he could change his mind and we tore into 'em. It's like, wow! That was awesome. "Hey dad, could we open just one more?" And of course, he's gonna say no, except he said yes. And this happened again and again. He kept saying yes until we had opened every single Christmas present under that tree and we were giddy with excitement. I was kinda like we had done something wrong. And we were just kind of excited that we had just opened all of our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. But the next morning when we got up on Christmas morning, no one was gettin' up early runnin' to mom and dad's room to get 'em up for Christmas. We all slept in.
Jessie: And it was the most depressing Christmas I've ever had in my life, because there was nothing to look forward to. There was no mystery waiting under the Christmas tree and I think that's such a great illustration of what happens, whether it's the physical side of a relationship or just the emotional mystery side that we were just talking about, that when we open all our presents on Christmas Eve, there's nothing to look forward to on Christmas. And all the best gifts that our Daddy gives us, that God gives us have a gift tag on them and say, "Wait to open. Trust Me; it's gonna be great."
Jessie: Right, isn't that true?
Jim: That's a terrific analogy.
Jessie: Like in every area of life, He knows that the best gifts are even better for the anticipation.
John: And that's how we concluded this best of "Focus on the Family" broadcast with our guest, Jessie Minassian.
Jim: John, my hope is that many parents have been encouraged these past two days. This is really good material and I recommend you get a copy of Jessie's book, Crushed: Why Guys Don't Have to Make You or Break You. But I'm sure we're talking to some families where there's a bit of a crisis going on with your teenager or your young adult, like the mom who contacted us the first time we aired this broadcast a few months ago.
She wrote, "I made it a point to teach my daughter about who she is in Christ when I became a believe years ago and it changed my life. But now she's 16 and has turned away from God completely. She lives with her boyfriend. Please pray for her, especially that she will return to her faith."
Man, you can feel that mom's heart just heavy for her daughter. Maybe you have a similar situation in your own family and you don't know what to do now. You don't know who to call. If that describes you and your circumstances, let me encourage you to contact us here at Focus on the Family, not tomorrow, not the next day, call today. That's why we're here.
In the past 12 months, more than 190,000 parents were helped through a crisis with a child. And we want to be here for you. So, if that's your situation, don't be embarrassed. This is life and that's why we're here. Call us. let us give you that support. We have caring Christian counselors who are available to pray with you, to give you some advice on the direction you may need to go and to help you with tools or resources to point you in the right direction.
John: We are a phone call away and the number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can find our help center at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Jim: And of course, we can't do this on our own. We need your financial help and your prayers. We have something right now called Give the Gift of Family campaign, which allows you to be a part of rescuing a hurting family. And you're giving them, again those resources, spiritual support, counseling and most of all, hope in Christ. But we need to hear from you, because some generous friends have provided us with a special matching grant here at the end of the year and that means anything you give will be doubled by their contribution. And I want to say thank you to them for doing that and thank you to you for helping us meet that challenge.
And most of all, folks, we're the body of Christ. Can we stand together and be that cup of cold water for that family that is so desperate? I hope I can count on you. If you haven't given to Focus in a while, perhaps never, can you stand with us today and be there for these families? Let me say thank you for doing it.
John: You can donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And please allow us to send a complimentary copy of Jessie Minassian's book, Crushed to you because of your generous support of this family ministry. The size of your gift doesn't matter; we simply want to express our appreciation for your partnership with us by sending that book.
Now at our website, we're going to have details about the entire Best of 2015 collection of "Focus" programs from this past year. It includes this one, of course, and I hope you'll check out the various parenting, marriage and spiritual growth programs we have, offering great insights to encourage you.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We've got a powerful story about trusting God, even if your family is facing tragedy.
Mrs. Bo Stern: God doesn't work everything out, but He won't waste anything. And so, hard things in good people's lives will never be waster. They'll never go to waste. They'll always be used for His glory and our joy. They just always will.
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John: Next time, as we once again, help your family thrive.
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Jessie MinassianView Bio
Jessie Minassian is a public speaker and the author of several books for teen girls including Unashamed, Crushed and Respect. She is the "resident big sis" at a Q&A website for teen girls called Life, Love and God. Jessie and her husband reside in California and have two daughters.