One of the best things that parents can do for their children is to teach them to have clear standards so they can navigate once they are away from home or out on their own. Standards are simply moral guidelines, a set of principles, boundaries that you don’t cross, a fence of protection. Young men and women need to have standards so they are not caught unprepared by the circumstances around them.
Parents may have standards for their daughters when they are living at home, things like curfew, dating or not dating, movies, music, etc. But these have to be internalized in order for them to do any real long-lasting good.
Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present ageâ€¦” I like the way the NIV renders this passage. It’s something like “teaching us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly lusts…”
Young women in particular need very much to learn to say, “No.” It does not come naturally to most young women because they are usually way too worried about hurting feelings or being rude. Somewhere along the way, women developed a fear of being rude, even if it means being on the receiving end of quite a bit of rude conduct from men. It may start out innocently enough. For example, a young man asks a young woman out on a date. Now he has not done anything deserving of condemnation for that. It’s a free country, and the operating assumption of most young men is that they are supposed to pursue the opposite sex. But let’s say that she is horrified at the idea of being with him, but more horrified at hurting his feelings, so she says, “Sure.” Then she has an uncomfortable evening, going somewhere she does not want to go with someone she does not want to be with. When it is all over she sighs with relief, and after enough of these dreadful experiences, she begins to learn to say something like, “I’m sorry, I’m busy.” But then he calls back another time, and she is forced to deal with it all over again. This pretty much sums up the typical American system of dating.
Having standards in place for such things keeps life simple. When a man asks a woman out and she doesn’t want to go, she should say something like, “No, thanks.” It’s not that hard. I have encouraged young women to practice in front of the mirror. Just start with the N sound and then add the O sound when you get good at it. It is a wonderfully liberating thing for a woman to be able to look someone in the eye and very simply, clearly, audibly say, “No.”
I remember when I first began to try this technique (after years of frustration, complication, and regret). A young man asked me if I would like to go to the rodeo with him. I said, “No, thanks.” He said something like, “Don’t you like rodeos?” which was an unfair and impolite question. He should have just taken my answer with dignity and grace and moved on. But no, he had to pry. So I said something like, “No, I have nothing against rodeos. I’m just not interested in dating you.” Much to my surprise, the earth continued to rotate. He did not fall down dead or anything, He just said, “Oh. Thanks for telling me.” End of trouble.
Now if young women can manage such a feat as that, it will keep them out of many uncomfortable circumstances. Maybe the relationship is in the context of courtship, the young man is speaking to Dad, and everything is going smoothly. Dad is doing the dirty work, which is as it should be. But what if the young man who has gotten past Dad gets a little pushy physically, and she doesn’t know how to say, “No”? Or he wants her to lie to her parents about being late, or takes her to a party where people are drinking too much. What will she do in these cases if she has not learned how to say the big “No” word?
Girls should be learning this from day one. It can be a movie at a friend’s house that she’s not comfortable with or having some guys come by her apartment late in the evening and wanting to come in for some fellowship. It can even be learning to say, “No thanks” to a babysitting job that she just doesn’t want. The first thing is to get over false guilt that comes in the guise of supposed “rudeness”; and next it is having standards that are clearly in place. If a daughter can’t say no to a babysitting job she doesn’t want, how will she stand up to friends who want her to do something bad?
Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts is something that the grace of God teaches us how to do. It is not something that women are naturally good at. It is not simply a matter of writing up some rules. It takes courage and faith to say NO to ungodliness. But God’s grace teaches us. We have to be listening. We must want to learn to do this, to internalize the biblical basis for our standards, so that we understand them to be wise.
So, what kind of standards do women need to live by? You need standards about what you think.What you say.What you listen to.What you will read and watch.What you will laugh at. How you dress. What makeup and jewelry you wear. How you drive. How you walk down the street. What you will post on myspace. Who you will receive phone calls, email, or instant messages from.The kind of people you will befriend. The kind of parties you will attend. The kind of gifts you will receive.The kind of men you will spend time with and where you will spend that time.
In other words, God’s grace is needed to instruct in every area where ungodliness and worldliness are threats, and that is just about everywhere.