We need to change the story
Most of you know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I have a calling (volunteer position) of teaching the Beehive class who are 11-13 year old girls.
This year we are having the girls teach with us and they get to pick the lesson. I was surprised when one girl picked "Why is chastity important?" as the lesson we would teach together. But I was also humbled knowing that she felt comfortable enough to suggest this one, without even giggling, and prepare for it.
I knew I needed help with this myself so I went on Instagram for opinions and insights on this sensitive subject; specifically, what you wish you had been taught as a young woman that you didn't know until you grew up. The response I had from my friends and colleagues on social media was astounding.
So many amazing insights and differing perspectives and I'm going to share them here because this is a conversation I feel we ALL need to have with our children. Especially our sweet girls.
As a youth myself I remember this lesson and feeling the blush come up on my cheeks just hearing the word chastity. That lesson was always a source of embarrassment and uncomfortable. But I never felt like I was being guilted or told I wasn't enough ever in those lessons. I was also incredibly lucky to have my mom and her two best friends as my teachers for 5 of those 6 years in Young Women, so the lessons, while weird, were never to make me feel like my only worth was in staying pure.
For others, they were not as lucky. They got the "chewed up gum" or the "mud splatted white fence"
lessons of guilt and worthlessness should they transgress. The worst thing some one shared was of a leader saying in a lesson like this was "what man could ever want someone that wasn't clean or pure?"
When I heard that from this incredible friend I felt like I personally had been punched in the gut. What a horrible thing to say!
While the law of chastity is there to help keep us pure and IS important to follow, that does not diminish our worth in the eyes of God if it is broken or a mistake is made. It shouldn't diminish anyone's worth in our own eyes.
Most of the time in our religious culture (almost regardless of which religion it is), women are shunned if they transgress with this law. I feel that this is so egregious and horrifying. Instead we should be so loving and open and willing to help them heal.
How do we help them heal? We talk of the healing power of the Atonement. The power of the Atonement is overwhelming when you start to understand it. Jesus Christ literally suffered for ALL of our sins. He did this so when we mess up, NO MATTER WHAT, if we repented of and forsook it, He would remember it no more because He already atoned for it. That is something amazing to realize.
Even if you do transgress in this way, you can recover, You can be healed. You are still so loved beyond measure. He will never forsake you, believe on that and your healing will begin. A friend equated it to a broken bone: over time you nurture it and it will heal, so will your heart.
An amazing woman opened up about how she wished that she had been able to be more open about her changing body. But she felt that every part of her was sexualized and therefore felt embarrassed to even think about asking. She feels that maybe if that had been more out in the open, she would have been able to recognize the times when she was being sexually assaulted and been able to do something.
So much of what we're taught and discussing needs to change.
We need to teach more about what our bodies are capable of: growing human beings, feeding those same babies, preparing to hopefully be able to conceive those babies as well. We need to change the story of breasts being nothing but things to oogle at. We need to change the story that women are inherently sexual and want that at all times. We need to change the story that women are the only beings "responsible" and the only ones that have to "deal with the consequences". We need to change the story that our girls have to be constantly worried about becoming a sexual object by anyone of the opposite sex.
This lesson started as just the question of why is chastity so important? It became so much more to me personally as I read story after story of heartbreak and abuse.
Moms. Sisters. Leaders. Teachers. we need to change how we speak to our young girls and boys. Chastity is a hard thing to describe and explain to a room of preteens. I want to change that. I'm not saying we share intimate details with other people however I believe that an open communication channel between kids and adults they trust is imperative. Be open about what our bodies will naturally do and want to do. If we make it so taboo to even speak of who will they go to for answers when things are hard? I want my kids (my young women included) to feel comfortable to come to me with any issues they may have. I may not have all the answers they seek, but I can help them find them.
We have a long ways to go in our society to change how we perceive things. I only hope we have enough time to teach our kids this: Sexual feelings are natural. You're supposed to have them, it's ok. It's also ok if you don't have them right now. Sex itself is a wonderful natural gift we've been given to show we love someone else so much. But it is also so much more than physical. Save that experience for the one you know will treasure you forever. Someone who will stand by you no matter what. At the right time. In the right place.
But also this: You are loved even when you make a mistake. You are worth more than all the treasure of the earth. NO matter what.
I want to wrap every single one of these amazing ladies in the biggest Mama Bear hug possible for being so brave and sharing these very intimate experiences with me. I also am sending a virtual hug to any and all who may be dealing with this now.
If you have felt shamed for anything, please know that I see you. I hear you. I hold space for you and want you here!
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