I wrote this letter as a way of processing my own struggle with parenting teens in the 21st century. It’s not really meant for teenage girls to read, but maybe yours needs to read it. Or maybe it’s just for you.
This is raw. Like— really raw, so I’m offering a trigger warning.
Your Daddy and I have spent your entire lives shaping your world to help you know who you are so that you don't have to post sexy-pose bikini photos on the internet to find affirmation of your beauty. How many times and from how many places have you heard that you are beautiful? That you're a child of God, a daughter of the King? Perfect, holy, righteous, redeemed, set apart? That there's a special call on your life?
Girls like you don’t want to post mostly-naked swimsuit pics because they find it to be awkward and showy. Girls like you see their friends posting them and wonder how their parents aren’t freaking out and making them delete them. Then you remember that most of their parents don’t even look at their accounts— and this is on their secret account anyway…
I know that being different sometimes annoys you. I’m sure you wish we’d give you more freedom and stop watching you so closely. I understand how difficult it is to be different because I am, too.
Let’s think about what would happen if you did post photos like theirs.
You might enjoy compliments from all your girlfriends with all the fire and heart-eye emojis and words like perfect, hot, adorable, pretty, and gorgeous that flood into the comments, but I’d wonder why you need all that flattery when I hear the sincere affirmation that floods your ears every single day. From me, from your daddy, your sister, people you respect at church, your teachers, other parents... Do you really crave the approval of those poor girls who don't even know how to see the world the way you do?
Who is it you are longing to impress with revealing photos? Whose attention are you trying to grab? Is there a boy you're wanting to notice you? Trust me, he’s already noticed you, beautiful one. You’re hard to miss!
You don’t need to post a swimsuit photo on social media to get anyone’s attention. Is that what you would want to lure a guy in with anyway? Or would you want him to be interested in your heart for helping others, your love for God, your quick wit, and your creativity? If a sexy photo is what makes the guy you’re crushing on want to date you, you’re going to be so disappointed when you finally get what you’re hoping for. The kind of guy that likes girls who post swimsuit pics is a bore. There won't be time for talking about all the places you want to travel or watching hilarious videos or sharing any of your brilliant ideas between make-out sessions. And believe it or not, sucking face gets boring after awhile… So then what will it take to keep him interested?
Your naïveté can't fathom the horrific adultness of the sexual attention and consequences from posting photos like this. You think I'm being dramatic and freaking out because time is running out. Fine. But one day you'll recognize that even in this changing landscape of parenting and sex in general, I DO KNOW MORE THAN YOU.
I know the strength and freedom that comes with making a choice that goes against the culture instead of compromising your values to fit into it. And right now, your values are still my values because you haven’t seen enough of life outside your adolescent bubble to fully develop your own values. But that’s what we’re working on here.
I know far more than you think I know about the reality of how your peers talk about, practice, and use sex and social media.
I know how common it is to send photos and that you’ve probably seen and maybe even sent already. But I also know you’re not common. You are extraordinary.
I know that for kids your age virginity is scorned and that girls have no concept of what love actually is anymore. There isn't even an opportunity to have a crush, get to know a guy, and just hang out together before a magical kiss goodnight because pornography has so skewed sexuality for your generation that girls have oral sex before they've even experienced their first kiss. And I know that this happens AT school.
I know that high school girls believe the lie that checking boxes and building a reputation on what you're willing to do or have done to you is what makes guys want to date you.
I know you’re trying to exist in a culture that expects you to invite people to rate you based on your appearance and performance of sexual favors.
I know the probability of you having already seen porn, as locked down as our Internet has been since before you knew what Instagram was. And if you have, your idea of what sex should look like is wrong. So very, very wrong.
I also know the pain of sexual dysfunction in marriage after being sexually active as a teenager and being sexually assaulted multiple times. I know what it’s like to want to use alcohol and drugs to get out of your right mind so you’ll do what they want. I know what it's like to have to unlearn the reactive panic of feeling like you’re being taken advantage of and abused whenever anything remotely sexual is happening, even after years of healing and Spiritual formation within a healthy marriage.
And I know the beauty of pure, unifying, romantic, and selfless married sex. That’s right, your dad and I have sex. Gasp! And you know why? Because we’re supposed to. It’s the miraculous release that God gave to married people to keep them connected physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Plus it's fun and we’re in love. Sex within marriage is an example of the level of intimacy God desires to have with us. Don’t make that all twisted, because it’s not. Sex isn’t twisted. It’s His gift to us. God designed marriage to be a metaphor for His relationship with His people, the Church.
Having sex outside the covenant of marriage messes that up. Inviting sexual thoughts and activity into your life before you’re ready separates you from God. Anytime we step outside His perfect will for our lives, we move away from Him. I can’t think of a worse consequence to a bad choice… That’s why people who are close to Him make good choices! They know who they are, who they belong to, and why they were born.
I know you don’t want to be like those other girls. You want to be the girl who feels free from the stress of all the hiding and the dirty, damaging feelings that come with drifting to where you don't belong.
That’s the thing, strong one, there’s always a drift— a slow fade to darkness. There are steps to finding yourself lost in a life you don’t recognize and posting those photos is a starting point to that fade. One small compromise leads to another and soon enough you can’t recall that feeling you get when you spend your energy on accomplishing something tough, doing something good for someone else, or even worshiping God.
You’ll never find yourself in darkness if you refuse to let your Light fade in any way.
All the words I can muster can’t make you see this from my perspective. So I’m always praying that God shapes your thinking, opens your eyes and calls you closer to Him so that you never want to move an inch off track from His perfect plan for your life.
You are destined for greatness, precious daughters of mine. Don’t sell yourselves short by believing the lies of the enemy that come at you through what you see on the internet.
I love you beyond imagination.