*The following post is by my friend Jessica Minassian, who's an author, speaker, and the resident “big sis” at LifeLoveandGod.com. If you're a teen girl, or has teen girls, you need to know about Jess's ministry.
Ten years ago on a whim, my husband threw some flowery graphics on a webpage and we launched LifeLoveandGod.com, a place where girls could ask and get answers to their most personal, pressing questions. What started as a place to continue the relationships I began at speaking engagements grew to include thousands of girls all over the world. Oh I got lots of questions about boys, and broken family relationships, and body image stuff, and all of it broke my heart and made me cry real tears for these girls. But in the “safety” of not being known, girls also began to share their secrets:
- Mason had strong feelings for another girl.
- Grace cut herself to feel relief.
- McKenna was stuck in a sexual addiction that started after a coworker raped her.
- Alana drank to numb the pain of her parents’ fighting.
- Amber starved herself to feel beautiful.
On one hand I was surprised just how many girls admitted to struggling with “secret sins”. These were largely churched, Christian girls. On the other hand, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, because I was that girl. I was a girl who loved God, but who couldn’t seem to find freedom from the secrets I was too ashamed to admit to anyone.
For thirteen years I led a somewhat double life. On the outside I was an outgoing, God-loving girl who was captain of sports teams and a youth-group junkie. I went on mission trips and led Bible studies, and—more importantly—I genuinely loved God. But I still struggled with different secret sins for years.
Do you know what kept me in bondage for so long? Unhealthy coping or craving is complex, sure, but basically I was just too ashamed to get help. Our enemy uses shame as a weapon against all of us. And for teen and young adult girls, that shame is like a death-sentence. We think we’re the only ones who could struggle with something that weird, gross, or stupid, so we keep silent about it. We build a shiny, “perfect” exterior, while inside our lives are disintegrating.
It was watching these beautiful, formerly vibrant girls drowning in shame (just like I used to be) that led me to write Unashamed: Overcoming the Sins No Girl Wants to Talk About. In it I share my own struggle with secret sins, and the real, not-going-back-to-that-mud-hole-ever-again freedom I found in Christ. I aired my own “dirty little secrets” so that girls everywhere would know they aren’t alone in theirs.
Why You Should Care But how does this affect you? For starters, you need to know that any teen or young adult girl in your life could be struggling. Your friend. Your daughter. Your neighbor. Nobody really knows how many girls struggle with eating disorders, cutting, sexual addiction, substance abuse or same-sex relationships because girls don’t usually volunteer that kind of information (remember that shame thing?). Also, the stats are rising faster than the studies can keep track.
Based on my purely on-the-ground experience, I think that number is at least fifty percent. At least. So the chances that the girl in your life is struggling in silence is quite high. I can’t say this strongly enough: Don’t assume she’s fine just because she looks fine. A silent sufferer often does everything she can to make sure she doesn’t look like she’s struggling. Girls are masters at hiding their struggles. That being the case, how can you be there for a girl who is genuinely struggling?
Here’s the thing: we’re all struggling with something, right? So if we can be the kind of people who walk in humility, genuinely care about others, spend time with them and are honest about our own struggles, we create an atmosphere of openness. It’s like a really great perfume—the people around you probably can’t put their finger on the label, but the scent draws them in. Grace is that way. If you wear grace like a perfume around that teen or college-age girl—whether she’s your friend, daughter, niece, granddaughter, or the girl who sits in front of you at church with the powder-blue hair or the super short skirt that you just. Don’t. Get.—she’ll sense it. She’ll be drawn to you.
If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, sexual addiction, self-harm, substance abuse, or any other secret sin, please grab a copy of Unashamed for her. You’ll find more info and resources at Unashamed.Link. If you suspect she’s hurting, but hasn’t fessed up yet, maybe get her a copy under the ruse, “I’ve heard a lot of girls are struggling with this stuff, so maybe you could read it to know how to help your friends.” Subterfuge is in this case is completely valid. This book is a resource for girls, yes, but it’s also a launching point for parents, youth pastors and other caring adults to begin the discussion with the girls in their lives.
You have no idea what secret sins the girl in your life might be hiding, but you can be a place of safety—a place where she’ll hear truth and compassion, pointing her to the One who can give her the freedom she’s longing for. When she feels safe, she’ll feel she can share. And sharing opens her heart to accept help, hope and freedom.
Jessie Minassian is the resident “big sis” at LifeLoveandGod.com, a Q&A site for teen girls. She has written eleven books, including “Crushed: Why Guys Don’t Have to Make or Break You” and “Unashamed: Overcoming the Sins No Girl Wants to Talk About.” She is a frequent guest on local and national radio programs, including Focus on the Family, Parenting Today’s Teens, and Moody Radio. Although she has a special heart for teen girls, Jessie loves sharing God’s Word with all ages and genders. For more information about Jessie’s books or to invite her to speak at your event, visit LifeLoveandGod.com.