Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Understanding Your True Worth

Leslie Basham: God loves you just the way you are. Erin Davis says a simple truth like this can sound cliché to someone who feels unlovable.

Erin Davis: It’s true. God does love you the way that you are. That’s a very, very simple answer for what, for many of us women, is a very, very complex issue.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 24.

Excitement is building in Chattanooga—one day before the True Woman Conference begins. Today’s guest will be addressing the teens at True Woman. Nancy’s here to introduce her.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking this week with my friend Erin Davis. Many of you are familiar with her from the Lies Young Women Believe Study Guide which Erin helped co-author along with Dannah Gresh and myself. Then you may have been on the Lies Young Women Believe blog. If you haven’t, you need to check that out—LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Erin is blogging there regularly with some of the gals who have read Lies Young Women Believe and are grappling with some of those issues.

Then Erin has written a book of her own called Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves. It’s a book about the world’s view of beauty and how God’s view of that is so different.

Erin, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Erin: I’m happy to be back, thank you.

Nancy: I’m just so thankful, Erin, that you have written this book. One thing I want to say about it is: It’s not just a textbook; it’s not just theory. These are issues that you have grappled with, you have lived with, and we’ve talked in the last couple of days about, from your childhood on. We talked about the ways that food and body image and distorted body image were an obsession for you, an area of bondage. I think it’s not just true of you, but of many, many women today, and I’m not sure there’s any age limit for this.

Erin: I don’t think so. In fact, I get the wonderful opportunity to travel and speak on this topic often. I speak to eight year olds a lot, and I speak to eighty year olds a lot. I’ll never forget a woman named Dora who was 86. She came to a Graffiti event, and she said, “This is what I’ve needed to hear my whole life.”

My first thought was that I was thrilled she found freedom. My second thought was that I was sorry she was in bondage to the issue of beauty and identity for 86 years. It does seem to be something that we girls struggle with, almost universally, no matter our age.

Nancy: Even sitting here in the studio while we took a break a few minutes ago, one of our engineers who’s a dad said that he related to this as he was thinking about his eight-year-old daughter. She’s tall and lanky, taller than average in her class, and the kids call her “stork” because of her long legs. This dad was saying, “Boy, I want to be able to help my daughter think about these things from God’s perspective.” As young as eight years of age, those kinds of words and labels can really start to make an impact on our lives. 

Erin: That’s right. In fact, I’m teaching this right now to a group of women, probably in their sixties, in my community. I asked them last week if they could remember one criticism they received. Every one of those women, many with tears, remembered specific criticisms. Most of them were when they were eight, nine, ten years old, and they’ve carried those with them like stones around their neck for fifty years.

Those things have an impact, and this message that you’re not beautiful, or you don’t have value, or you don’t have worth gets ingrained in our hearts very, very early. We should be proactive to counteract that with God’s Word just as early—at any age, really.

Nancy: We’re really talking about counteracting lies.

Erin: That’s right.

Nancy: That makes my mind go back to the third chapter of Genesis where the first woman deals with Satan’s lies, Satan’s temptation, and some of it does center around the whole issue of beauty, doesn’t it?

Erin: That’s right. I really think she was believing a lie about her value and her worth. We know the serpent slithered in and said, “Eat this, and you will be like God.” The implication was that what you are is not enough. “You should be something more. You should be something else.”

It wasn’t long until she bit into that fruit, and we do the same thing. “You should be someone else. You should look like someone else. You should achieve like someone else.” We bite the fruit off then and find ourselves in bondage. We certainly can trace this issue back to the garden.

Nancy: And the lies didn’t stop there. I think from that day to this Satan has been targeting women with lies about beauty and worth and value. What are some of those lies? As you think back to your own journey in this area, what are some of the lies that lodged themselves in your heart and that lodge themselves in other women’s hearts and affect their sense of their own value and worth?

Erin: I think we think these are small issues. “I don’t feel beautiful. I don’t feel thin.” That’s no big deal, but you’re right. They do lodge themselves in our heart, and they grow into something ugly. Satan knows that.

“Your worth comes from your appearance.” That’s a big one, and our culture seems to affirm that. We talked yesterday that’s contrary to God’s Word. God’s Word says to us specifically, “Man looks at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, paraphrased). Yet we continue to feel like if we could just look like—whatever—then we will have more value.

I get really concerned about those shows that our society really loves to watch where people lose a lot of weight, and the message is: If you lose weight, your life will be wonderful. You will be wonderful. Your life will be better. You will have more value. Your worth, your value come from your appearance.

That is a big one that ensnares a lot of young women.

Nancy: It’s not just losing weight. It’s the extreme makeover shows that if you can get this totally different look, then you will be worth more.

Erin: That’s right, and there’s always a group of excited family members and friends that are cheering and crying because now you are a more wonderful, more valuable person because your looks changed.

I’ve often wanted to interview those people that participated in those shows six months to a year later and ask, “Did it make you a better person? Did it make you have a better marriage? Did it make you a happier person?” I think the answer would oftentimes be, “No,” because it’s a lie. Your value has nothing to do with your outer appearance.

Nancy: And then the lie goes beyond that, not just “Your worth comes from your appearance, but your worth comes from what you do.”

Erin: That’s right. “Your worth comes from what you can accomplish.” If you manage to sidestep the appearance lie as a young woman, this will certainly ensnare you probably in maybe the college years or afterwards as you begin your career. “You have more value if you accomplish these certain number of things. You are worth more. You are a greater asset if, say, you’re educated, if you’re climbing the corporate ladder, if you manage to acquire things."

I think people who are those things and have tried to find all of their worth and their happiness in those things will tell you that they’re hollow. Is college bad? No. Is working bad? No. If you are looking to those things to find your value, you are going to find yourself empty.

Nancy: I think even of moms who are focusing their energy and efforts on their children and are thinking, “I have greater worth if my children behave a certain way or if they perform a certain way.”

Erin: I think performance lies are extremely dangerous because we exert an awful lot of energy in the direction of trying to earn value by performing in any area. I think the number one export of believing a performance lie is just plain exhaustion. We spin our wheels and spin our wheels and spin our wheels and try to earn value in any arena, and it doesn’t work. We’re tired, and then we are left feeling like, “Well, I still haven’t earned my value. Where do I look for it next?” That’s a dangerous lie that the enemy tells to us often.

Nancy: What about the lie that our worth is derived or determined by what others think about us?

Erin: That same group of women that I asked them to tell me a criticism they received, I also asked them to tell me a compliment that they received. Most of them could not. I think our memories play tricks on us in this area. We don’t accurately perceive what people really think about us. We think they like us when they don’t. We think they don’t like us when they do. Their first impression of us may not be what they think about us in the long run, or vice versa. It just isn’t consistent. Even people that adore us are grumpy some days, are tired or annoyed with us.

If we are trying to build our sense of worth and value on what the people around us think about us or are saying about us, we will fall so short because we can’t get a handle on it. We can’t accurately know what they think about us, and it’s prone to changing. So that is probably among the most dangerous.

We do tend to crave the applause of man, but I think we can look at those people in our society that are the most adored and realize that it’s pretty empty and beyond empty, it can be very, very painful.

So it’s better to find our worth in the opinions of someone who doesn’t change, which we know from God’s Word is God. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. That means the way He’s felt about us has always been the same and will always be the same. He’s not going to wake up in a bad mood and decide we annoy Him. He’s consistent. That’s a safe place to build your sense of worth.

Nancy: I know, Erin, that for many of us as women, it’s one thing to know that these are lies and mentally to tell ourselves, or to have someone else tell us, “God loves you just the way that you are, regardless of how you look or what you do. You’re not on a performance basis with God. He’s a God of grace.” Yet for so many of us, just to know that, to hear it, to say it, still doesn’t connect to our hearts. It’s still an internal heart battle. How do you begin to really renew your mind and get your emotions to line up with what you know to be true in your head?

Erin: Well, I think that sentence, “God loves you the way that you are,” for many women is like applying a Band-Aid to just a severe, severe wound, a bleeding wound. It just doesn’t work. It’s true. God does love you the way that you are. That’s a very, very simple answer for what, for many of us women, is a very, very complex issue.

We’ve been talking the past two days about some of the roots. It may be traced back to our childhood, our mothers, our fathers, our experiences in junior high and high school. You can’t apply a simple sentence to those things that have been building for years, but there are complex truths in God’s Word about your value. You have to go on a search for yourself in God’s Word to find those truths. I’m happy to help you in my book. We point to the Word over and over and over in our book. God has so much to say about you, and it’s not just “I love you the way that you are.” He applies rich, complex language to His description of you.

We talked yesterday about the Ark of the Covenant. That’s a complex truth. Why? Because His view of you is that deep, is that wide, is that high, is that significant. So this is a deep issue.

You also have to be willing to get really serious about what’s going on in your own heart. You have to realize that if you have disordered eating patterns, there’s a root. You can’t just fix the eating. If you have destructive relationships, there’s a root. You can’t just change the relationship. You have to be willing to do some digging in your own heart, which can be painful. You have to trace back the root lies in your own life and then apply God’s truth to them. We know from Hebrews that God’s Word is a double-edge sword. It’s capable of taking care of it and delivering truth to those wounds (see 4:12).

But you’re right; we can’t apply simple solutions to this complex issue.

Nancy: I think what you’ve just said points out the starting place. That is: Where do we get our messages? What is it we’re listening to? And how many of us, as Christian women, are getting more input from the world and its movies and books and magazines and our friends, external influences, than we are from the Word of God? So, for starters, don’t you think that saturating our minds and our hearts with the Word of God is what will reshape our sense of who we are and how we relate to those around us?

Erin: It is certainly what led to my freedom. I tried self-talk. I tried to tell myself, “Erin, you’re being silly in this area. Erin, God loves you the way you are. Erin . . .” It didn’t work. But then I tried to saturate my life with God’s Word. I tried to just be on a quest, on a scavenger hunt to find everything He said about this issue, and it certainly didn’t return void. There was more about God’s Word, my identity, my beauty, my worth than I ever could have comprehended.

Nancy: So you’re saying we need to let Christ shape our world view, Christ and His Word. Instead of allowing the media or others to shape our hearts, falling for the world’s messages, we need to get renewed with God’s message and His truth.

One of the things that God’s Word tells us is that we need to recognize that we really do have an enemy who is trying to destroy us. He’s a deceiver; he’s a defiler; he’s a destroyer. We need to recognize that he has an agenda in our lives that he’s trying to accomplish.

Erin: That’s right. We know from 1 Peter 5:8 that he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. I can really see that played out in the lives of women in the issues of beauty and identity. He seeks to swallow us whole.

I think what a turning point for me was knowing my enemy. Culture can certainly play a role. I think you should make wise decisions about the kind of media you ingest, but if this were just a cultural issue, you could cancel your magazine subscriptions, pull the plug on your television, close your eyes when you drove by billboards, and then you would never struggle with beauty again.

Nancy: But that’s not so.

Erin: That’s not so at all. Why? Because culture is not the enemy, but there is an enemy, and I think that Satan, our enemy, really seeks to take women out with this issue.

Nancy: So once you recognize that you have this enemy, how do you combat him? How do you deal with him?

Erin: Well, we know from Ephesians what our weapons are: the sword of truth, that’s your offensive weapon (see 5:10-20). What is truth? God’s Word is truth. That may seem like a redundant statement: Go to the Word; go to the Word. It may seem like a simple solution, but in my experience, not many women are truly going to the Word for this issue.

We might look at Psalm 139, which is a great Psalm that has actually taken on new life to me as I’ve studied it in the context of everything else God says about me. It says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We might know that passage, but we don’t know much beyond that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg about what God says about our value and our worth.

I think recognizing mistakes is important. There’s a theory that criminologists use called the broken window theory. Their theory is that if the neighborhood is a mess, you’re going to pick up a rock and throw it through a window if most of the windows are already broken out and there’s litter and the weeds are high. But if the neighborhood is well kept, the windows are not broken out, the lawns are mowed, there are flower boxes under the window, you’re not going to pick up a rock and throw it through the window.

That’s so true about our lives. If you are broken, if you are a mess, if you are not believing what God’s Word says about you, you are that run-down neighborhood, and you become a place where other people throw rocks. The stakes are really, really high. Why does Satan target us with our beauty? I think this is why. If you embrace God’s truth, if you believe God’s truth, you become that well kept neighborhood.

We can see this in the story of the adulterous woman. There were men, people, a crowd waiting to throw rocks at her, but I imagine she probably struggled with the issue of identity. She was caught in some pretty serious sin patterns, and Jesus protected her.

I really think that our enemy is Satan, and he goes after us because the stakes are really high. If we don’t believe what God’s Word says about us, we get into toxic relationships, we make destructive dieting decisions, we make destructive dating decisions. So know that, and know that your sword is truth. What is truth? It’s God’s Word, and fight him with the weapon that works.

Nancy: I think it’s so important for women to know there is hope—young women, older women, that God really can transform us in those deepest parts of our hearts in the way that we think. As I hear you describe those two kinds of neighborhoods, Erin, I’m thinking, when you were a teenager, college student, a young wife, your life could have been described, internally, as that broken down neighborhood.

Erin: That’s right. I frequently say that my picker-outer was broken. If there was a boy who was going to be bad for me, I was drawn to him. If there was a friendship that was going to be toxic, that was the kind of friendship that I wanted to have. I was a Christian all of that time, but I just made a lot of really poor decisions. You’re right. Now I’m that cleaned up neighborhood, and take it from somebody who was in bondage and is now free, that the victory is so sweet and so possible.

Nancy: God really has transformed your heart from the inside out by the power of the gospel as you’ve gotten into the Word. Christ has cleaned your mind, cleaned your thought patterns, changed your life. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not some self-reformation effort you went on, but it’s Christ renewing you from the inside out, and now using you to be an instrument of renewing and restoring others.

I think your message, Erin, is so important, not just for women who are listening who have their own issues, which we all do, but particularly for moms who have younger daughters. I want you to just speak a word to what a mom can say or do to a daughter, six-, seven-, eight-year-old, that she sees starting to have some of these wrong ways of thinking, some of these destructive patterns and how she views food or self or body or guys. How can a mom speak words that will encourage that daughter to begin to think God’s way?

Erin: Well, first you need to know that it’s an ongoing conversation. It’s not the kind of talk you can sit down and have with her once and check off of her list because she is being inundated with lies in this area from her enemy, from the culture, maybe from her friends. So you’re going to have to counteract it as intensely as all those other messages are coming at her. So seize every opportunity.

I’m sure you know this, moms, but prayer is your primary work. If this may be something you haven’t been praying about, start. Start praying that the Lord would teach you how to teach your children a version of His beauty, His identity, His worth. He’s going to give you the tools.

I think you can take your daughters and your sons to the Word. They may not be able to discover these things in the Word in their own quiet time, in their own Bible study yet, they may not be to that point, but you can take them.

Take them to Psalm 45. “Look at this cool passage I found where it says, ‘the King is enthralled by your beauty’” (verse 11, NIV). Any little girl is going to love to have a great conversation about what that passage means.

 Take them to that story in 1 Samuel where it says clearly, “Man looks at outer appearance, but God looks at the heart” (16:7, paraphrased).

When you go shopping, that is a great opportunity to talk about what we see in 1 Peter, “Let your beauty not come from outward adornment” (3:3, paraphrased). What does that mean?

So you’re going to have to talk about it, and you’re going to have to talk about it often. Sometimes you’re going to need to call them out when they say, “Oh, I feel ugly. I feel fat.” “We don’t say that. We don’t talk about ourselves like that, and this is why.” You’re going to have to talk about it and talk about it and talk about it and talk about it.

Nancy: And you’re currently expecting.

Erin: That’s right.

Nancy: Your second child—you have a little boy. Erin, if God blesses you and Jason with a little girl, what are some of the things, as she’s growing up, that you want her to hear you say that you didn’t hear when you were a little girl that you think might make a difference?

Erin: I want her to hear her daddy and I constantly affirming things that are eternal, that she loves others well, that she knows Jesus, that she’s committed to His Word. I hope, when she’s in her late twenties and reflecting back, like I am, that she will talk about the fact that those things, physical appearance matters and performance matters, but she didn’t hear much about it growing up; she heard a lot about eternal things. I’ll do my best.

Nancy: You’re going to do a great job because of the transforming work that God has done in your own heart, Erin. Now you’re passing that baton of faith on to the next generation. Thank you for pouring your life into young people.

I want to encourage all of our listeners to pick up a copy at our resource center of your book called Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves. You take a very practical and physical matter of beauty and body image and eating and weight issues, and you show us how these things really are spiritual issues of the heart. So I want our listeners to read this book because we’ve all been, in various ways, influenced by the world’s thinking on these issues.

Then I want to encourage them to share a copy of this book with a teenage girl and believe God to allow you to influence the lives of these young women in the next generation.

Erin’s book, Graffiti, is available through our resource center when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You can just call us at 1-800-569-5959, or you can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com and ask for a copy of Graffiti when you send your donation of any amount to the ministry.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Our guest Erin Davis is live blogging today. Interact with her at ReviveOurHearts.com. Click on today’s program and add your thoughts at the end of the transcript. Erin will be adding her thoughts as well.

Tomorrow, Nancy Leigh DeMoss will continue talking with Erin Davis about the pressures young women face. Learn how to help young women to approach the media, peer pressure, and relationships. That’s over the next couple of days on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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