Listen to a broadcast about teens loving their families with Jessie Minassian.
I met Stacy* when she was 16. She reached out because she was considering ending her life. Deep down, though, she wanted hope rather than death. As we began peeling back the layers of her despair, the truth — or rather, the lies — of the matter began to surface.
What we believe about God, ourselves and the world around us affects you and me more than we realize. But to a teen whose brain is still developing, a lie she believes can plunge her into darkness or send her chasing after everything but God.
Stacy had fallen prey to the same five lies that many teen girls believe. As a parent, it’s vitally important that you’re aware of these lies so you can help your daughter identify them. Even more importantly, you must know the truth that combats the lies so you can arm your girl with the weapons she’ll need to fight them.
Lie No. 1: What I feel defines who I am
A teen girl’s feelings can swell and crash like the tide, pulled not by the moon, but by hormones, peers, media and the pressures of emerging adulthood. You and I know this. But your teen might not.
If she views her feelings as the highest truth, whatever she feels is right and becomes the truth to her. She will make decisions based on her happiness, because happiness feels good. She may see anyone who questions her emotional truth — her feelings about her purpose, freedoms, gender or relationships — as an enemy to what is right.
The antidote to this lie is to recognize that God defines truth (John 14:6), and to understand that our feelings stem directly from what we think. It may be helpful to guide your daughter by asking questions to demonstrate the illogical nature of emotional truths. For example, “Is it possible for truth to be defined by feelings if you and I feel differently about an issue?”
Draw from your own experiences to underscore the truth of God’s Word. Talk about your feelings. How are they influenced by what you think? For instance, you might say something like, “When I focus on how messy the house is, it makes me feel overwhelmed and frustrated.” Or recount a time when you overcame a lie and it changed your emotions. “I used to think that my value to the team depended on how many points I scored — and that made me feel miserable after every game. But once I realized my performance didn’t define me, I felt more confident on the court.”
Lie No. 2: God could never forgive me for what I’ve done
An alarming number of young women, even Christians, are trapped by secret sins (self-harm, eating disorders, sexual sin and addiction). Satan’s goal is to convince our girls that what they’ve done is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness, and that if their secrets ever got out, their friends and family would be permanently ashamed of them.
Because girls are particularly good at burying their feelings of shame, it’s vital you speak loudly and often about the antidote to this lie, even if you don’t have reason to suspect she’s hiding anything. Radiate grace by speaking about others’ sins without judgment, and confess your own with humility.
Most people want to hide their sins and not have them exposed. Yet only through confession can God bring healing and freedom (John 3:20-21). There is no sin that God can’t or won’t forgive (1 John 1:9). A teen girl is much more likely to seek help for her issues if she believes God will forgive her and you believe in God’s forgiveness, too.
Lie No. 3: I can, and should, be everything (and do it all perfectly)
When I ask girls about the hardest part of being a teen, their answers always include the word pressure. Girls feel pressure about grades and sports, friendships and boyfriends, college choices and future debt. And the weight of that stress is crushing them.
Is your daughter anxious? Depressed? A perfectionist? Does she spend hours curating her online image? Does she panic if she doesn’t get the grade she wants? If so, she may be captive to the lie that she can and should be perfect in all areas of her life. And — here’s the scary part — you might be the biggest advertiser of this lie.
Do you let your weaknesses and imperfections exalt Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9), or are you trying to be and do everything yourself? What are you modeling for your girl? Do you nag her for worrying too much about her grades, while you neglect family time to meet an important deadline? Have you told her she shouldn’t care so much about how she looks while you spend a mountain of time or money on your own appearance?
We need to model truth. And the truth is that no one is perfect but God. Let’s assure our girls that being an “average” human in pursuit of God’s kingdom is not failure but an opportunity for God to get glory through our inadequacy.
Lie No. 4: A relationship will complete me
God is love, but human love is not God. How easy it is to confuse the two, especially in the coming-of-age years. It’s normal for a girl to notice and crave the affection of the opposite sex. She’s trying to answer a question hardwired in her soul: Am I worthy of pursuit?
However, if she comes to believe she is worthy only if a guy wants a relationship with her, that lie will likely result in a preoccupation with boys and romance. This could lead her into unhealthy relationships, even against her parents’ knowledge or wishes.
You have the opportunity to help her see that only God can complete the deepest parts of her. Her worth is not based on another human being’s evaluation of her, and neither should her happiness. Dads have a special role here in affirming her value, beauty and worthiness. Tell her, show her and then tell her again how precious she is.
Lie No. 5: I’m not beautiful enough
All women have value because we are made in God’s image. But because God designed Eve to be the lovely counterpart to Adam, we also have intrinsic beauty in our femaleness. That beauty comes in diverse shapes, sizes and colors. Sadly, the vast majority of teen girls believe the opposite. They don’t believe they are pretty enough.
You might be tempted to chalk up this lie to petty, immature girl stuff, but a poor body image can quickly morph into deep insecurities, an obsession with “the look,” depression and unhealthy romantic relationships and choices. It’s vital you help your daughter fend off this lie. Give her compliments that affirm both her body and soul. Tell her things like, “You are beautiful because God designed you to reflect His image.” Then be aware of how you look at and talk about other women — and yourself. Celebrate the variety of beauty and the attention to detail that God has woven into female DNA.
Speak truth over her
Lies hold teens captive, but truth can release them. As simplistic as it sounds, don’t underestimate the power and influence of simply speaking truth over your daughter and practicing the apostle Paul’s words: “Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
It would be foolish to downplay the damage these dangerous lies can wreak in your daughter’s life. Seek professional help for you and your daughter if these lies lead to depression, self-harm or deep hopelessness. You don’t have to go through this time alone. Email Focus on the Family at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-771-HELP (4357) from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) to find the resources you need. Learn more at FocusOnTheFamily.com/counseling.
But also remember that God’s truth is more powerful than any lie from the Enemy. Our weapons through Christ — truth, light, grace and freedom — can expose and demolish even the most ingrained lies. So equip your daughter with the truth to give her what she needs to become who God made her to be.Jessie Minassian is a speaker and author of several books for teen girls including Unashamed, Crushed and Backwards Beauty.