Engage

Women’s Wars and Personal Value

I felt worthless as a teacher. In my first semester of teaching English as a Second Language, I discovered one day that all my students had made D’s and F’s on their first lab assignment. My stomach tightened into a knot and I considered stepping down mid-semester to allow someone else to take over my class.

Later that day, I discovered that I had misunderstood the grading chart and that every single one of my students had made either A’s or B’s on their lab assignment. Since most classes have a very small portion of A’s and B’s on their final grades, I felt that I had done a pretty doggone good job of equipping my students.

God tells us to have a right view of ourselves. When I finally talked with another teacher about the language labs, I learned that they teach different skills than I teach in the classroom. They reveal nothing about my worth as a teacher. I was looking at the wrong yard stick for the measure of my value.

That day as a teacher is far from the only time I have looked for worth in the wrong place! I have measured my value by the way my kids acted (or acted out), by the praise or criticism of others, by how my Bible study seemed to go . . . the list could go on and on. All the while, I thought no one but me searched for esteem in the wrong places. But I found that thought couldn’t be further from the truth.

Finally I wrote a group of women in ministry and found that all of them struggle with seeking value in the wrong places. Here are some of some additional areas where they looked for a feeling of worth:

  • Personal appearance, including being the ideal weight (no more Toll House cookies), wearing attractive make up and clothes
  • Appearing busy in the eyes of others—“Oh, wow, look how busy she is!”
  • Being smart, raising children who go to prestigious schools.
  • The happiness of their family—get those kids to soccer practice on time.
  • Success at work, a significant ministry goal or title. “I’ve arrived—I’m leading my first Bible study.”
  • Children who are walking with the Lord. (Her son is in seminary; mine is in rehab.)
  • Physical fitness—Have your gotten in your 10,000 steps today?

I identify with most of the things on this list. But, when are we going to stop measuring ourselves by our own unrealistic expectations or by the perceived expections or behavior of others?

In Romans 12:3, Paul exhorts us “not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think,” [or more negatively] “but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.” Books have been written about personal esteem. When I look in the Bible, there is much to read on the topic. Here are three principles:

1.       Our worth is not a feeling but a fact. Just as a Van Gogh painting is valuable, because of the artist who painted it, every person has worth because our Designer is God. (Ps. 139:13-16) We are valuable.

2.       Believers are holy and loved by God. (Col. 3:12-13).

3.       The good things we do, then, are not motivated by a desire to elevate ourselves above others or compare ourselves to others. They are our loving response to the love we have received from God. We are simply doing the things He prepared in advance for us to do. (Col. 3:12-14, Eph. 2:8-10)

Ladies, let’s leave the women’s wars behind. Put away all the yardsticks. Let’s grant ourselves and others the grace God grants us.

Beth Barron and her husband have worked cross-culturally for 32 years, first in the Middle East and now in the U.S. She teaches English to refugees and uses her writing skills to advocate for them. Beth enjoys writing, biking, vegetable gardening and connecting heart to heart with other women. She is involved in her church's External Focus ministry. She and her husband have three adult children, two daughters-in-love and two grandsons. Beth graduated from Rice University in Houston and is committed to life-long learning.