It’s time to get personal. As we seek to expound on who woman is, we’re going to overlap discussion with personal reflections from several different women of diverse backgrounds and ages. I believe that to understand woman, we must search beyond just theory and ideas. We need to roll up our sleeves and dive in to the hearts of real women. I hope you are as excited as I am to see this unfold! So without further ado, I will begin…
To be loved, to be truly, deeply unconditionally loved for who we are, is one of the most primal needs of the human person (woman and man). Yet, it is especially true for women. Pope John Paul II used scripture to explain that women are first in the order of love.[i] She was made to beautifully receive God’s love and in turn, give that love out to all others. What does that mean? She is more easily able to love; it is her strength. In some ways, it is as if women communicate in terms of love. When women seek friendship, it is an emotive attachment. More than just someone to “hang with”, women look for that “kindred spirit” as Anne of Green Gables described it. And when they seek a romantic relationship, the physical unity (though highly valued), is not the primary goal. Women seek to love and to be loved.
When a young girl is growing up, she looks for that affirmation, that love. Yet there are so many things and people that can confuse what love is and how it is given. If we let it, this often is the beginning of the breakdown of the self-understanding of womanhood. This was true for me. I grew up in a wonderful family. I am the third of seven children. And going through those years was confusing. Only now do I look back upon it with more clarity. I was a spiritual child; my heart and soul stretched for God. Maybe more than others, I had a deep and desperate desire to love God and give my life for Him even at a very young age. In many sleepy mornings, my little self innocently, yet profoundly walked in a relationship with God. This deep, passionate love of God created a deep, expansive canyon of emptiness when I turned to other things – other than God.
When my sights turned to the opposite sex, I sought, as every young lady does, to be loved. And the need was ever intensified by this abyss left behind from my profound love of and from God. And when my love need wasn’t met I turned to the world to tell me how to get it met. I lost weight… a lot of weight. It was innocent at first (like every addiction begins) and then it consumed me. I was never thin enough and no matter how much I lost, I only saw bulges when I looked in the mirror. Whenever I could (without causing attention to myself), I dumped my food and ate little bits of lettuce. The strength of this void of profound love pushed me forward, but I chose the wrong direction. There was one week, when I was away from home through a school activity, that I barely ate anything all week. I came home excited to only weigh in at 94lbs. If I was thin, surely I would find love.
I have to laugh now looking back on it, because those poor teenage boys who were probably just looking for someone to hang with, were met with young Theresa and her passionate ideas of changing the world! No young man could live up to that nor come even close to meeting that need within me – they were doomed before they even began! But it was my heart that had pushed God to the side to choose worldly views of myself. It created not only an impossible reality within me, but just knowing I wasn’t doing things the way I was supposed to, I pulled myself away from my parents too. As much as they said they loved me, my thoughts countered it, ‘their words are empty because they do not know all I have done.’ The lies plagued me and divided me from any love. No one knew what was happening in this little soul (so melodramatic even within my own mind!). The only time I ever remember my father yelling at me was one night when I refused to eat dinner.
It threw me into a tailspin that came to a head my junior year in high school; I was falling into a depression. But over the following 6 years, the constant love of my parents and ultimately, the unconditional love of my husband, a renewed dedication in my relationship to God and the forgiveness of my parents, helped heal the wounds.
This is one reason I have such a passion for helping women! There are too many young women who are depressed, have low self-image and seek to find “love” at the cost of themselves. (One study I read said over 80% of young ladies have some sort of self esteem issue.) How I wish I could speak to each one of them! I know they just want to be loved! They just want the affirmation of their own great dignity: that God made them perfectly, beautifully, wonderfully! I know it’s not the norm these days, but more damage is done to the psyche of young ladies (than to young men) when they engage in sexual activity and I believe abstinence must be promulgated. When a young girl is seeking “love”, she thinks she can get it by giving in to the world’s way. Yet she only ends in further emptiness.
To be or not to be loved, that is the question on every young girl’s heart. It echoes from the depth of her nature – imprinted in us like a roadmap back to God – we all wish to be loved.
That’s my view of it and I welcome yours! Please comment below!
(Stories from other women, starting next week!)