by John Croyle
Katie is a beautiful girl. At the age of ten she came to Big Oak Ranch out of a hellish environment. She had been beaten and abused on a regular basis for most of her life. When she wasn’t being beaten, many times she was being locked in a closet for days at a time. She arrived at the Ranch in clothes that were ragged and dirty and two sizes too small. She possessed zero self-esteem.
But still, she was beautiful. She just didn’t believe it. Every chance I got, I told her, “Katie, you’re beautiful.” She didn’t light up when she heard it, the way your daughter might. She didn’t even smile. She just looked down at her feet. “Katie,” I would persist, “you know it, don’t you? Don’t you know you’re beautiful?” Still, she just kept looking down, shaking her head. No, she didn’t know she was beautiful, and it seemed there could be no convincing her. This didn’t just happen once or twice. It happened for months.
When a girl lives through what Katie had lived through, her trust muscles are pretty much shredded. When I told her she was beautiful, I was telling her the truth. When I told her she was praiseworthy, I wasn’t lying. But she couldn’t believe it. Ten years of hearing that you’re worthless, useless, a dog to be beaten and worse—that’s not something that gets turned around in a few days or a few weeks. It may not get turned around in a few years, or even in a lifetime. When a girl hears the same thing repeated enough times, she begins to believe it. I was going to have to do a lot of repeating to make her believe what I was telling her.
It is a dangerous thing when a girl thinks she’s worthless. There’s more at stake here than self-esteem (though self-esteem is incredibly important). When a girl thinks she doesn’t matter, she thinks her choices don’t matter, for good or for bad. She makes the kind of choices that perpetuate cycles that hurt her and the people around her.
Does your daughter feel like there’s nothing wrong with her? I don’t mean does your daughter feel that she is sinless or that she can do no wrong. That would cause a whole other set of problems! But she does need to know that she is praiseworthy. She needs to hear from you that she’s valuable and loveable just the way God made her. And she needs to hear it often enough that she believes it even when the world tells her that she needs to starve herself to be beautiful or a boy tells her she’s going to have to put out if she expects to be loved. A girl who already knows she’s praiseworthy is going to laugh at the world as she finishes that cheeseburger. She’s going to tell that boy to stick it in his ear. And she’s going to be a light and a hope for the girls around her who face the same pressures.
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