Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guarding Little Hearts

Something significant struck me today and I feel compelled to record it before it goes to the backburner of my memory. It was a revelation, of sorts, and it was one that is likely to cause me to pay more attention to what kind of information is being fed to my children (whether seen or heard).

My mom and my friend Allison both watch Good Morning America. I hear so much about that show from them that I was starting to feel like I was missing out. So, I turned it on this morning to see what all the hoopla was about. I’ve watched it before and have enjoyed it, but for the past few years my mornings have been spent with Big Bird, Mickey Mouse and Blues Clues (at Ella’s request). I told Ella that it was Mommy’s turn to pick a show so she sat down beside me to watch Good Morning America. As soon as I turned it on, a story began about which is more attractive: curly hair or straight hair. I, of course, was interested in to hear the results, but something inside my heart begged me to turn it off. But, I kept the show on because I wanted to see the results. Based on their findings, most people find straight hair more attractive. Several people commented that they think curly hair looks "messy". No big deal, right? What’s wrong with letting my four year old daughter watch that? It’s not morally wrong, and it doesn’t even go against any commandments in the Bible (that I am aware of). Yet, the urge to turn off the show grew more and more in my heart.

You see, Ella has curly hair. She loves her hair (as she should) and I’ve always prayed that she would love herself just the way she is and that she wouldn’t be bound by the world’s opinion and it’s impossible standards of beauty. It’s common for most girls to begin to feel insecure about their outward appearance, but I don’t think it needs to happen to my daughter at four years old. I had this sinking feeling in my heart that my daughter was going to hear this show and then think to herself, “Maybe I need straight hair because curly hair is viewed as ‘messy’”. I switched the channel and decided to check out the Early Morning Show instead. I instead got a commercial for a soap opera and within seconds my daughter and I were exposed to a conversation about sex. Great. I quickly turned off the TV and opted to listen to the local Christian radio station instead. Good choice.

Do I believe that my daughter will be scarred for life from our five minutes of TV viewing? No. But, what if she was exposed to those types of things on a regular basis? What then? Then, I would have to say that her character, mind set, self-esteem, world view, and her moral compass would be damaged. At this point I have to remind myself that the TV isn’t the only negative influence. What type of example am I setting? Does it do her any good to hear me complain about losing weight? Do I mind my tongue and maintain integrity in my speech? Do I exercise self-control in difficult circumstances? I must confess that I am not always the best example myself. It grieves me to think of the times that I have yelled in my children’s presence or talked about how “fat” I am to a friend with Ella standing right next to me.

Even at four years old, Ella talks about dressing up to be beautiful and marrying a prince “when she’s grows up”. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. But I want her to know that inward beauty is more important than outward beauty. I want Ella to know God’s view of beauty:

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30)

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3,4)

My conclusion is that while some things may not be bad, they may not be the best things, either. What we put into our minds determines what comes out in our words and actions. Jesus warns us in Matthew that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Ella proved Jesus’ statement earlier today. We were preparing to leave for the YMCA when I heard her singing a line from a Newsboys song: “All God’s people sing holy, holy, halleluiah He reigns!” She learned that song from us listening to KSBJ (a Christian radio station) in the house and in the car. It brought joy to my heart to hear her singing a praise song to God. Although she may not fully understand what she was singing, she does understand that the song is for God and that it is a happy and good song to sing. I’d much rather hear her sing that than hear her sing the latest Britney Spears song or some other song filled with filthy and sensual language. While I cannot shield my children from every evil in the world, I will do my best to prepare them for the world that they are bound to become a part of. I hope to build confidence, faith, self-esteem, self-worth and a sense of purpose in them and it is my prayer that God will use them for the good of the world and for His glory. I also hope that when my children look in the mirror, they will see themselves as God sees them - fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
–Philippians 4:8

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