In a discussion based on her book Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, Mary Kassian explains how parents can help their young daughters resist the pressure to conform to the wild tendencies of the popular culture, and to become biblically savvy in the ways they think and relate to the opposite sex. (Part 2 of 2)
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Mary Kassian: I have so many women coming to my conferences who come and speak to me afterwards and go, "You know, I never planned on this and I don't know how it happened, but here I am and I am in a situation, involved with a man who is not my husband and I don't know how I got here."
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John Fuller: Well, that's Mary Kassian and she's a popular speaker and blogger and a professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Seminary. And she speaks to and talks with thousands of women each year who are struggling, as she just indicated there, to make wise choices as they filter through a lot of very dangerous messages about womanhood, femininity, sexuality and relationships. And she's back with us again today on "Focus on the Family," sharing her biblical perspectives. Our host is Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Mary, it is great to have you back.
Mary: Thanks so much. Good to be here.
Jim: Last time, we talked about this contrast that you've created in your book, Girls Gone Wise, which is obvious[ly] a play off of the "girls gone wild" franchise. Tell me why you saw this contrast. Last time we talked about Proverbs 7 versus Proverbs 31. It's the first time I've ever heard that kind of contrast created. We all look to Proverbs 31, both men and women, as wow! What a lady! She's entrepreneurial. She gets things done, buying and selling real estate and weaving cloth at night and wow! She's superwoman.
Mary: She is superwoman. And then in Proverbs chapter 7, you see the other kind of woman. But if you read Proverbs chapter 7 carefully and study it carefully you go, "You know what? That's today's woman."
Mary: That's a woman who is sexual. That's a woman who is aggressive. That's [a] woman who feels entitled. She goes out and she figures out what she wants and then she goes out and gets what she wants. And in this particular case, she wanted the guy and she went out and seduced the guy.
So, it's a fascinating contrast when you look at Proverbs and see throughout the whole book of Proverbs and particularly in these two chapters, Proverbs chapter 7--the wild woman--and then Proverbs 31--the wise woman. But one of the most interesting characteristics that I find in Proverbs chapter 7 is, that it describes this wild thing as being loud and wayward. In other words, she's very demanding. She's very clamorous, very controlling. And it's interesting to me, because that is precisely a description of what today's women are taught to be.
Jim: Bring us up to date in that regard. What do you see in the culture, the women that you're talking to, both Christian and non-Christian. Unfortunately, it seems to be dissolving that faith line. Women, regardless of where you're at in your faith journey seem to be tripping on this issue today of their sexuality.
Mary: It has to do with the Women's Movement. And I think we are at a time in culture in which the Women's Movement has really been mainstreamed. When you talk about feminism and the Women's Movement, you go, "Oh, well that is so 60's." Or so '70s, that's like those hippie beads in my mom's closet. Not for me, no thanks. But you know, they look at that and say, you know, that's yesterday's news, but don't realize just how much the views of the feminist movement and of that movement in the '70s really have been mainstreamed and integrated into our new definition of what a woman is.
Jim: How are women absorbing that today and how are they acting out on it, without even, probably without even knowing it?
Mary: I think that the whole culture screams it and right from the time a woman is very young, a girl, you know, baby girl, you start having these messages from a very young age, you know, about girl power, about girls rule, boys drool. The new movies that are coming out that, you know, guys are really kind of bumbling and dumb and we don't need them. We don't need marriage. We don't need to be in a relationship with guys. We're strong. We're independent. And we can go after what we want and we can get what we want.
And so, not all parts of those messages are bad and harmful. But they're harmful in that I think we take them in and we don't analyze them. We aren't careful to uphold them and to compare them to the Word of God and to see where they go wrong--
Mary: --because they do go wrong. According to Scripture, this woman in Proverbs chapter 7, a lot of her problem was her attitude, just that she felt entitled and that she was loud and clamorous and just went after things and decided, "Hey, I'm just gonna go and I'm just gonna get it." And Scripture paints a very different picture of what the wise woman is like.
Jim: Tell us.
Mary: It tell us that the wise woman has a gentle and a quiet spirit and a spirit that is submissive to the Lord. And that is so [a] contrast to today's image of what strength and power is in a woman. And I have seen it to be true in my own life and in the lives of the women that I minister to, that you have a woman who is loud and defiant and clamorous, there's something about that, that detracts from her beauty and essentially from the power of influence that God has given her as a woman, as a feminine woman.
Jim: And just to say that, that path is laid out where that woman is heading right there in Scripture. It's saying, if you choose to go this way, here's what's gonna happen. Fill in that blank.
Mary: If you choose to go this way, if you choose to say, "I'm going to do it my way. I'm going to self-define. I'm going to decide my path," Scripture says that you're gonna be taking some steps down the wrong path. And it['s] two contrasting paths, one path that goes towards wholeness and life and towards the Lord and another path that goes towards brokenness and away from Him.
Jim: And death--
Mary: And death.
Jim: --as Proverbs 7 says.
Mary: Spiritual death and just that whole death on the inside, where you are just not able to even make it work or feel alive anymore.
Jim: Mary, you're working with thousands of women and you're hearing this story repeated over and over and over again, Proverbs 7, where that woman is choosing death in that regard. Why is that veneer? I've traveled internationally. You're from Canada. There are certain cultural overlays that are hard to discern in your own heart, what's biblical, what's cultural? How does this area of human sexuality distort our biblical perspective when that cultural overlay is so heavy on our hearts? Why are Christian women blinded to the true path of righteousness?
Mary: I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think that culture has taught women to think a certain way, to see themselves a certain way, for men to view women a certain way and all of those do not line up with the Word of God.
And so, you have a young woman who's had the message the entire time she's grown up about who she is, how she should act, that she should, you know, grab hold of her power, exert her independence. Men have historically treated women so poorly that men are the enemy and you know, to be angry at men and to point fingers of blame at them. And so, she's had this pattern of thinking through her whole life and she knows nothing different. She doesn't know the way of the Lord. She doesn't understand the path of life.
And so, I think that we just need to be so intentional. And that's what I'm hoping to do for the next generation, is to say, "Girls, you know, you have been duped into a way of thinking that is not going to help you in your relationships." And what's really interesting is, I was with a few girls just several weeks ago who were at a center, really a recovery center for all sorts of sexual addictions, for ways that they had gone wrong in terms of cutting behaviors, anorexia, just all sorts of dysfunction.
And they're studying this Girls Gone Wise as the Bible study. And I was sitting around discussing things with them and talking to them about it. And the overriding thing that they said is, "We have never heard this message before, of how our very small behaviors in the way that we dress, in the way that we interact with guys, in our expectations, in the way we view the male-female relationship, that it was gonna take us down the wrong path. We didn't know that. And I wish I would've know, you know, 15 years ago as a very young girl, what I have learned now through studying the Word of God." So, that's why it's so important to be intentional about taking a look at culture, taking a look at the Word of God and figuring out where they don't mesh.
Jim: Mary, it's got to be a calculation that occurs and it may occur even unconsciously, where a person says to themselves, this little dessert isn't gonna hurt me.
Jim: And there's folly in that and that's what the Scripture's talking about. You take a little of the chocolate cake and it may be okay. But then you want the whole piece and then you want the whole cake.
Jim: Women are missing that. Why does the culture and your friends have such influence on you, when you know as a Christian woman what is right? Why does that drain still pull us down?
Mary: It's just so compelling. The lies are so compelling and Satan is holding out that fruit and it looks good and it looks delicious and it looks attractive and it looks so wonderful. And yet, it is a downward vortex. And the Bible talks actually in Proverbs about three types of fools, three types of women who go wrong, three types of women who miss the path of wisdom--
Mary: --and go down that path of wildness. And one of them is just naive, you know. She just doesn't know any better. She doesn't know the way of life, the way of truth. A second one is someone who's foolish. And that's the woman who knows what she should do, but she just indulges a little bit. She thinks it's not gonna hurt her. What's the harm? No big deal. It's not gonna hurt me or I'm gonna be able to withstand, you know, taking steps down this path. Really it doesn't make any difference. And then the third type is called "the scorner" and the woman who totally rejects and says, "Huh! I'm not doing it God's way. I'm doing it my own way. God's way is foolish."
And so, you have these three different profiles. And I think that we see those in the church probably not the scorner as much, because she doesn't really want to go to church. She doesn't want to hear God's Word. But you have the two profiles of women in the church, some who are just naive and don't know any better and have not been instructed. I think that we are living in a motherless generation that has not been mothered well and so, it's like, where are the moms, you know? They haven't been taught and so, the girls don't know.
And then we have those other girls who do know, but they think that it's not gonna harm them and they just buy into those little lies of Satan and get tricked and sucked in, just as Eve was in the Garden, get deceived really. Take a bit of that apple, of that forbidden fruit and then end up with a result that is just heartache, heartbreak and just so much brokenness and dysfunction that they don't know how to work themselves out of that hole. But the good news and it always is good news is, that Jesus Christ has the answer in that, in turning to the cross and in turning back to truth and in turning back to answers, that He can redeem and He can make whole.
Jim: Mary, there are women that feel that what they've done is too bad. God could never forgive me for that. First, is that a fair assessment? And secondly, if not, what can I do?
Mary: Not a fair assessment at all. The Scripture says that there is no sin, there is no sin that is not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross. [FYI: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Luke 12:10, Mark 3:29, Matthew 12:31-32] And I have spoken to women and I have ministered to women who have bigger bags than you can imagine in terms of brokenness, in terms of sexuality, in terms of being abused, in terms of going into addictive behaviors, into pornography, into all sorts of things that have really just intensified the hole in their hearts. I have spoken to those women.
And I have witnessed the power of God in their lives, that when they go to the cross and when the power of Christ comes into their lives, they are changed and they are redeemed and they are made whole and that, their sins, though they were as scarlet, are made white as snow. And it's just the powerful, beautiful message of grace and the power of the Gospel.
John: Mary, you know, we address Scripture so frequently here on Focus on the Family and you've done a beautiful job of unpacking the Proverbs. As you're speaking, I'm thinking of perhaps one of the best-known stories of grace and forgiveness, particularly for women who have really found terrible damage in their lives. And I'm thinking of the woman at the well.
John: Jesus spoke to her and offered words of life and turned her life around. He does that today still, doesn't He?
Mary: He sure does. I call that "the alternate ending." I call that "the story of hope with the alternate ending." Do you remember those books where you used to read them to your kids?
Jim: (Chuckling) Right.
Mary: And you had these stories or you had like a paragraph and then you had Choice A, he does this. Choice B, he does that. Choice C, he does that. And then you flip to the appropriate page to figure out what the ending's gonna be.
Well, this is like the alternate ending. This is like coming to that choice, that crossroads and making a different choice than another woman. The woman at the well made the choice that was different than the woman of Proverbs chapter 7.
So, her life story really was very similar. Her story of neediness, of depending on guys for validation, of that empty hole in her heart that she tried to fill with marriage and husband and that hole still wasn't filled. She came to that point of choice and she made a different decision. She chose Jesus. And so, the ending of her story is way different than the story of the woman who went down to death. And the good news is, that each of us can come to that point of decision and choose Jesus and choose differently than we have chosen in the past. Tomorrow can be a different day than today was. God can make all things new.
Jim: Mary, the test of some of what you're talking about is the practical nature of it. Does it work in this culture today? I believe it does and that's why you're here. We have some college students around the room here today, young ladies particularly who may have some questions. And I'd like to keep it anonymous, just for their benefit, so that we can really be honest here and open up our hearts. Let's hear from the 20-somethings about how this is either connecting with them or hasn't connected with them. Are you willing to do that?
Mary: I'd be happy to do that.
Jim: All right.
Young Woman #1: You talked earlier about how girls sometimes make choices and they don't know that they're making bad choices. I like that a lot, like growing up my dad would always affirm my sister and I. He'd be like, "You look really nice today, but you look modest." So, I really liked that."
Mary: That's something that is so helpful, is when fathers are able to pull out the femininity of their daughters and affirm the femininity in a non-sexual way--
Mary: --and in an appropriate way. And I always tell girls, if you really want to know how to dress well, run it past your dad. And [the] sad part is, that a lot of girls are growing up without dads. And they don't have those males in their lives that are able to affirm them as women in a non-sexual way and teach them how to interact with men in a way that's healthy and wholesome. So, I appreciate that comment. I appreciate what your dad did for you. That is an incredible gift that he gave you and it's one that I would encourage fathers to do for their daughters, is affirm them. Tell them that they look pretty. Tell them that they look beautiful.
Jim: You know, there's a story that came to Focus on the Family a while back, a father of a teenage girl. Some fathers struggle in this area. They may not feel comfortable talking about it and this story happened to be a young teenager who was going out with friends and she was dressed provocatively. He was out doing gardening in the yard. She walked by and later said, "I was hoping my dad would say something--
Jim: --but he just said, "Have a nice time." And the father admitted later that it ran through his mind that, that is not appropriate, but he didn't feel comfortable in addressing it. So, you're saying, "Dads, have courage."
Jim: This is your kid!
Mary: --the initiative. Take the initiative.
Jim: Yeah, don't ...
Mary: That's what it means to love and to serve in your home.
Jim: That is not a time to shrink back and second guess. Just go for it, even if it's a mistake (Chuckling).
Mary: And even if your daughter is upset with you, I have heard numerous stories of girls who were ... while I was mad at him at the time, but then several years later [they] begin to just love the wisdom and the boundaries that dad's poured into their lives.
Jim: In fact, Mary, you have a story in your book that helps a woman, a young woman set those boundaries.
Mary: My son and I were in a mall walking down the mall side by side. He was about 17-years-old or so. And there was a young woman who brushed past and she was very provocatively dressed. And so, she kind of brushed past the two of us and gave my son "the look." And any girl who's listening knows what "the look" is. It's the "come get me" look and it was the provocative dress. And I'm thinking, "He's with his mother! What are you doing (Laughing)?" But--
Mary: --it was an interesting moment, because I turned to him and I said, "So." Because I noticed his eyes kind of, you know, glimpsed and didn't stay focused straight ahead, you know. He kind of followed her with his eyes. And so, I asked him. I said, "What do you think about a girl who comes on to you like that, a girl who presents herself in that manner and flirts and comes on to you that way and is dressed provocatively? What do you think?" And he paused for just a moment and then he said something that I think is very, very profound and that every girl should know. He said, "It arouses the male in me, but it doesn't attract the man in me."
Jim: Wow! That takes my breath away. What a great statement.
Jim: Oh, man.
Mary: And that's so true. And I think that if women were to understand that, 'cause women don't just want to arouse male hormones. They want a man. And if they knew what it was and how to behave and how to present themselves as godly women that would attract a man, I think that they would go for that.
Jim: All right, the next comment or question.
Young Woman #2: Yeah, I just had a question for young women who grow up in an environment where they have to like assert their position and they have to be more loud, like a young woman who grows up in Vegas in a big Italian family. Would you say that there's a fine line between being clamorous and being a virtuous woman when she grows up in that kind of environment?
Mary:Italian families! Oh, mama, Italian. That's always a very loud, boisterous environment. And that just demonstrates the importance of running the biblical principles, that they do apply in different cultural situations. And that may not look the same in every culture's situation.
And also, it may not look the same from personality type to personality type. So, you have women who are boisterous. You have women who are extroverts. And the Bible's directives for a woman to have a soft, quiet spirit still fit, but they look a little different. And it's a matter of the heart. It really does boil down to the heart.
The Bible is not going for this checklist of external behaviors. It's going for your heart. Is your heart in a place where you're going, "Look at me! Look at me!" I'm needing attention. I want all eyes on me. I want this, I want, I want, I want. Or is your heart in a place of contentment and quietness and stillness before the Lord, maybe laughing loudly, maybe being right in there in the conversation and offering your part into it, given your personality and your culture, but at the same time, honoring those principles of who God created you to be as a woman.
Jim: Women who are perhaps doing things they shouldn't be doing, they can get rather cunning at hiding it. We don't want everybody to know about it, because guess what? Somebody might step up and hold us accountable for that, especially if we're proclaiming to be Christian. It's one of the things the world looks at and say[s], "You're a bunch of hypocrites."
How does a person take that step of vulnerability, to maybe confide in a friend, to confess what's been going on in their heart or in her mind? What should she do?
Mary: It's an important step. In the life of the Proverbs 7 woman, the wild woman, that was a thing about her life was, that it was duplicitous. She was one thing when she was at church and she was another thing in those dark corners at night when she was alone with a guy.
And so, her life didn't match up. There wasn't authenticity. And I think that we need to pursue authenticity. I think being authentic about our struggles and about our sins to other believers in community to our best girlfriends, to those who are also trying to live a life that pleases the Lord, that's so important and that is so key.
I always tell my kids, you know what? When sin is hidden, when you keep it hidden and in the dark, it has power. But when you even confess it to someone else and say, "Hey, I'm struggling with this. This is an area that I am having difficulty with." When you bring it into the light, all of a sudden it begins to lose power in your life. And so, that is a key point and I'm so glad that came up, because a key point of walking in the way of wisdom is being authentic and being real about our struggles.
Jim: That's what people are truly attracted to that don't know the Lord--
Jim: --when you're doin' that. Okay, let's go to the next comment or question.
Young Woman #3: I was wondering, oh, we've talked a lot about women who [are] like the naive and the foolish. Are there ways that we can guard and protect ourselves from the lies of the culture?
Mary: There certainly are ways that a young woman can guard and protect herself against the lies of the culture. I think intentionality is a huge point for a woman who's naive. Just really starting to study and look into what does Scripture have to say to me as a young woman in my relationship? How to relate to guys, just all the various aspects of who I am as a woman and what that means, what that means to my current male-female relationship and what that means in [the] future and if in my marriage, if I'm to get married.
So, I think that a naive woman, a woman who doesn't have enough information, she needs to be intentional and to say, "It does matter and I need to really work at getting the information that I need to protect myself against just falling for culture because I don't know any better.
For a woman who is foolish, that probably requires something a little bit different. A woman who is foolish, really is telling the story, well, I know what I should do, but, and you have to deal with that "but" part and just begin to take a look at women around you who have fallen for that same lie, the "but," and who have really walked down the wrong path.
And so, for that woman, just to have the courage and perhaps she needs to pull her girlfriends around, as well. Pray for me. Help me out here. I need to start believing in my deepest heart of hearts that this matters and that is it important, even in the little things.
Young Woman #3: So, with that, is there a way, because if you're naive or foolish, you don't necessarily recognize that you're naive or foolish, are there any warning flags or things that would indicate that we can recognize if we're foolish or naive in different areas of this?
Mary: I think if you find yourself bumping up into areas where you were taking a misstep or getting into trouble or things aren't going the way that they should be going, or another big flag is your parents. What happens a lot with foolish women, foolish men is, that they don't listen to advice and they don't listen to the counsel of friends who love them or parents or godly people who are speaking into their lives. So, if people are speaking into your life and trying to tell you something, that's a warning sign right there that you need to listen to.
Jim: That is so good, Mary. Mary Kassian, author of the book, the Bible study really, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. Thank you for your perspective. It was transparent, refreshing and hopefully, many people, many women were touched. Thanks for being with us.
Mary: So glad to be here with you.
John: Well, what a great opportunity for the ladies here in the studio with us to interact with Mary, to hear from her and we so appreciate Mary's biblical perspectives and the wisdom that she has. And the book once again is, Girls Gone Wisein a World Gone Wild. That's the kind of book you're gonna want to have in your home to have that conversation with your daughter, maybe even use it in a small-group setting. We've got details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
In fact, we'll send a copy of the book to you when you make a generous gift of any amount to the work here of Focus on the Family, as we equip parents to have thriving children and this is the kind of took that can be a conversation starter for you, so please consider a generous gift.
Also let me mention that we have a CD of this program and it's also available as an mp3 audio download. Now you'll find those and other resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We're going to hear from Pastor Tony Evans, as he takes a biblical look at manhood.
Dr. Tony Evans: Real men are men. They are men who initiate the leadership responsibility at home and in the culture, of applying truth to the situations of life.
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John: That's tomorrow, as Tony Evans is on "Focus on the Family" and we once again help you and your family thrive.
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Mary KassianView Bio
Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, a popular public speaker and a distinguished professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Seminary. Her books include Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, Knowing God by Name and In My Father's House. Mary was born and raised in Edmonton, Canada. She and her husband, Brent, have three grown sons. Learn more about Mary by visiting her website, www.girlsgonewise.com.