So there we were in a room full of 150 of the best teenagers in the world. These were bright, moral, respectful, hard-working kids that had been part of my Hero Simulations, some of them for years.
They were pretty much the cream of the crop.
These kids were raised in homes where scriptures are read regularly as a family, serving others is a way of life, and staying away from pornography is not just encouraged, it’s expected and talked about regularly.
In short, these kids are from homes where the parents are doing everything right.
So what happened next surprised me on multiple levels.
I had put together this training as part of our Summit Programs. It was our kick-off for the new year with a new theme and exciting new changes. Queen Deborah and I had planned it for months and we had a line-up of messages that we knew would really touch the hearts and inspire the actions of this amazing group of kids. We did our welcome and rah-rah then introduced our first guest speaker.
This was a young woman, our awesome cousin, who has a message that is important to share about Real Beauty, defining ourselves based on what God sees in us, instead of focusing on outward appearance. As part of her presentation she put up a big picture of a girl in a bikini, one of those typical head-chopped-off, body-focused selfies we see online every day. She asked the kids to write down how it made them feel about their own selves while looking at an image like that. Next, she showed a slideshow of dozens of happy people, working together, playing together, taking vacation shots together, etc. All pictures that focused on their faces and their smiles and their connections with each other (all modestly covered, too). She asked the kids to share what those photos made them feel about themselves.
Her point was clear. When we focus on the body only, on our outward appearance only, we are isolating ourselves, comparing ourselves, and we never feel good about ourselves. When we are connected to others and we focus on how we act, how we treat others, we are truly beautiful.
It was an amazing, powerful message. But I don’t think more than a few of those kids got anything out of it.
All that was seen, was that there had been a giant picture of a girl in a bikini on the screen. And. That. Is. Not. Okay.
These amazing kids literally panicked. There were gasps and muttered words like “disgusting” and “sickening.”
As a mentor who works insanely long hours for the purpose of teaching kids to be heroes, to stand up for what they believe in, I NEVER want to put those kids in a position where they feel their values are being threatened. Heroic Youth is supposed to be a safe place. I do understand the tender feelings of our youth. And if I had known everything that was included in our guest’s presentation I probably would have told her that the bikini picture itself wasn’t really necessary to get her point across.
BUT . . .
What is Panic?
Panic is a fear response when we are confronted with something dangerous that threatens our safety. Panic is actually the WORST response, however, that we can have in any dangerous situation. If you are in deep water and you start to panic, that is the surest way of drowning. Panic makes your mind stop looking for solutions BUT makes you put your full and constant attention on the source of your terror. In other words, panicking over something is going to make a lasting memory that will be seared into your brain. And it makes it a lot more likely that you will drown.
This experience has really stuck with me ever since that day a few months ago. I went home from our event, the rest of which was so good I . . . I just don’t have any words. But still, at the end of the evening I was sure that I was about to get deluged with parental emails asking why their kids had been exposed to “pornography” at my event. It made me heartsick to think that we could have put all this work and prayer and energy into bringing a positive, Christ-centered spirit into this training only to have it destroyed by one girl in a bikini.
But as time went by, no parents emailed and I hope that’s because they understood what we were trying to teach. And I’m glad I had this experience because it made me take a hard look at how and what I’m teaching my kids about the body.
What do we believe?
We are firm and unshakeable believers in modesty as a sign of respect for our Heavenly Father who made our bodies. We keep them covered, not because we are ashamed, but because we hold our bodies to be sacred temples of God. We avoid pornography for the same reasons. Not because sex or the naked body is bad and something to be ashamed of, but the exact opposite. Because it is beautiful, and special, and sacred and we want to protect it and keep it that way instead of dragging it through the mud. We don’t want to reduce it to a mere physical act that can be made as base and twisted as the human mind can go. Instead we teach that sex is an amazing thing, a connection between a husband and wife that brings joy, intimacy, and brings new life into this world.
That is all well and good. But the next question is this. HOW are we teaching our kids to handle the situation when they are confronted with something that makes them uncomfortable or is against what they believe in? How are we preparing them so that they can CALMLY and CONFIDENTLY handle the exposures that will come?
And they will come.
Not all pornography is on adult-only websites tucked into the dark recesses of the internet. For a lot of these kids it’s passed around, right under our noses, on facebook and twitter and Instagram. Even if you are a parent who thinks you have every nook and cranny of your home completely fortified against the dangers of pornography, how are your kids going to handle walking through the mall and seeing mostly naked models on posters, women who don’t bother covering up, even buses plastered with advertisements and parked next to your car in traffic?
Avoiding pornography and immodesty is a HUGE and crucial step in fortifying our kids. But unless we also teach them to calmly and confidently handle exposures, we are setting them up for a drowning experience that can tear apart their spirits.
Since this experience with the bikini-photo panic, we have had some great conversations in our home. My kids span the ages of 6-18 but I taught them all the same thing.
When you are confronted with something that you know isn’t right for you to be looking at (define what that is) this is what you do.
- First – Take a breath and stay calm.
- Second – Tell your brain to put that in the “Not for me” category.
- Third – Turn your attention to something that IS for you. If you are driving and you see a billboard with a mostly naked woman on it, turn your attention to the beautiful scenery around you, or a conversation with the person you’re with, etc.
- Fourth – remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
- Fifth – report it to a parent when appropriate (pointing out a billboard in a car full of people may not be appropriate as it just calls attention to that billboard. BUT, finding inappropriate images on a family computer needs to be reported).
- Sixth – ask questions of parents in private WHENEVER YOU WANT! As parents, we are ALWAYS here for you when you want to talk. Nothing you can say will embarrass us or make us think bad things about you. You can ask us ANYTHING.
Let’s all calm down a little as parents and realize that teaching our children to be vigilant is important. But teaching them to panic could be deadly.
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Sometimes you just have to share your thoughts. I run what feels like hundreds (more like ten) websites, all for business or specifically for my books. But almost daily I’ll have something pop into my head and think, I’d really like to have a place to share that idea.
Since Deborah and I do everything together we decided to make this blog a joint venture.We wanted to share our ideas, our pretty creations, our moments of frustration, and our triumphs with others.
For years I’ve been in the front, out where everyone can see me. And people get a really strange view of you like that. They start to think you are perfect (NO!) that you don’t have any challenges (oh, no!) or that you have no flaws (nothing could be farther from the truth).
This is a chance for me and my sister, Queen Emily and Queen Deborah, to share what we love and even how we struggle. Maybe something we have to say will encourage you or at least make you laugh along with us. And that is a pretty noble thing.
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