It’s no wonder that my generation of women is struggling with its identity. I was born in 1977, when the Baby Boomers were trying out their hippie ideologies on a whole world full of unsuspecting children. Some of them were clinging to a culture that said love cures all ills and drugs are a doorway to a world of spiritual wisdom. Some of them were figuring out how to get rich and how to have bigger houses and fewer children and more fun. Some of them, like my amazing parents, were sensible, godly examples in a crazy world that seemed schizophrenic in its values and ideals.
One thing that I was taught while growing up was the importance of being sweet. Many of you had the same experience. Girls should be sweet and kind, not loud or rude, they told us. After all, “Sugar and spice and everything nice”– isn’t that what little girls are made of?
Then we grew up and we were told that everything we had learned about being sweet was wrong. Being sweet, they said, is being an inferior version of yourself. You must be assertive. You must be loud. Nice gets you nowhere. In fact, they told us that nothing and no one should stand in the way of our dreams and goals. It got so bad that they even told us that pregnancy was a horrible inconvenience, easily “fixed” by a minor surgery. Children, after all, would only impede our progress. We would be moving backward if we gave up careers for families. We would be slapping the faces of all of the women through the years who had scratched and clawed and sacrificed to earn us these wonderful rights that allow us to discard our children. That allow us to hate other women. That allow us to divorce unworthy men. That allow us to be heartless and cutting and selfish and cruel. That allow us to get away with being mean in the name of womanhood.
After awhile I began to grow tired of this new message. I wondered why the only acceptable mode of femininity was markedly masculine, only much, much meaner. And, I wondered when “sweet” became a dirty word in our culture.
There is no question where Christians should land on the issue of sweetness. It should be one of the foremost qualities of Christian people. Think of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Imagine all of these qualities wrapped up in a fabulous package called Woman. Does she look anything like the raging, rude, biting, critical, bitter, selfish woman that the world has told us is the confident, successful girl of today? Yet, this sweet woman, this gentle and kind and good woman, she is well-loved. She is treasured by many. And she pleases God.
The sweet path is not the easy way, though. It is the road filled with self-sacrifice. It takes much more courage to live sweetly than not. Anyone can say the first horrible thing that pops into their mind. But, it takes a strong woman to speak kindness. Anyone can have a get-out-of-my-way attitude. Only a truly bold woman can lift others on her shoulders, helping them reach for their dreams. Anyone can be cruel to those who are weak. Only an honorable and confident woman wraps babies and children and the hurting and the lost in her strong arms and says, I will love you. I will be here for you. I will sacrifice for you.
So, let the men be all about snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. But, you. Woman. Be sweet. Be gentle. And God will grant you the desires of your heart. Have children or don’t. Marry or don’t. Be the hotshot head of a multi-million dollar corporation or be the chief nose-wiper in your home. But, whatever you do, do it sweetly. Meanness is overrated. And truthfully, it has led to some of the greatest sins our generation has committed.
All generations are known for something. What about ours? Will we be known for our ruthlessness? Or will we change the world with our sweetness? I think it’s time that we claim our identity.
Meanness is weakness. Be strong. Live sweetly. Please God.