For the young women I know

This election feels so much more high stakes, but every election feels like the end of the world. In a sense, every election is the end of a world, especially elections without an incumbent. A way of life is ending. Change comes, whether I like it or not.

But, little actually changes. Promises are issued. Some are broken. Bills are passed. And yet, few significant changes happen in my life because of this turnover. Maybe this time things will be different.

But, likely not.

I’m no longer afraid. God is bigger than this election.

Still, grief visits. Anger lurks not far behind.

Regardless of how this election shakes out, I know things I didn’t a year ago. And I cannot return to the me who was ignorant.

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The worst part of election season is the shocking behaviors from other people. The snarky political posts. The us versus them mentality. The fear mongering. The shame language lobbed back and forth. The sexism and racism I didn’t want to find, like slicing an apple and discovering worms. Ugh.

I find myself frustrated with my silence. Often I am silent because silence seems wise. Or at least it seemed to ensure people like me or wouldn’t label me “heretic.” Or is it that cowardice looks wise from a practical standpoint? I am full of self-doubt.

Sadness nestled in as I realize, yet again, the frustration of being a woman who leads. Listening to conversations this election I’m reminded that women in leadership are held to higher standards than their male counterparts. A man can make mistakes, and a woman cannot.

Perhaps more unsettling are the mental hoops folks will jump through to rationalize their biases against women. And I realize I can’t readily point out these biases in conversations with others, because such labels can be conversation killers. We are women, or we love our daughters, friends, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives — so we can’t possibly hold sexist attitudes.

I’m sad for the girls I know watching the election madness. We want to tell them they can be whatever they want when they grow up. And perhaps they can.

For the young women

You can try to be whatever you choose. You can try. Success is not guaranteed.

And if that thing involves being competent, assertive and intelligent, be prepared for others to hate you for it, especially if self-deprecating humor is not your gift. If you’re a woman, they’ll hate you just because they can, and they won’t look hard for a substantive reason like they would with a man.

The rules will be different for you than for the boys you know. Your mistakes will likely cost you more than the boys’ mistakes. Because boys will be boys and all that baloney. A man can make mistakes while a woman’s mistake is blown to bigger proportions about her whole person or her gender’s competence.

None of this is okay. It’s not.

And still we must learn how to live and thrive in the world as it is.

Don’t quit your dreams due to fear. Go in with your eyes wide open. Work smart. Put in your best efforts. Don’t be afraid to be you. Or be afraid, and be yourself anyway. Let the chips fall where they will. You can’t control that part, so don’t waste your energy.

Maybe the world will change. I hope it does. But, perhaps it won’t until a few more of us share the pain of breaking molds we were never meant to fill. Stories break open hard hearts — more than the cold facts or simple logic ever could.

And, dear ones, you cannot have it all. Having it all is an illusion. Take comfort that no one can. Our hands are small, and they only hold so much.

Then, you must choose: what to hold and what to let go. There’s freedom in letting go as well as sadness. We don’t just hold onto things; they also hang onto us and wrap shackles around our legs.

Still, I grieve for you young ones. For the lessons you’ll learn the hard way. For the spells when you make yourself smaller to appease someone’s ego. For the way others will attempt to shame you into quiet submission.  For the moment you resent being a woman.

May you find strength and community to help you bounce back from those moments! Treasure the friends and family who know you and love you, especially the folks who can tell you the truth from a place of unrelenting support. To have someone give you honest feedback and do it because they love you is a profound gift.

You are precious. You have something unique to share with the world. We need you and your voice. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

For all of us

And for the rest of us, can we become encouragers? Can we be the people who look for the best in others and name it? Can we be people who welcome and make our tables bigger?

It’s simple to be a critic. It’s easy to complain and lob verbal rocks. It takes little effort to toss out corrections and reproaches while not intimately involved in someone’s struggle.

I’m not saying be silent when we need to speak up about injustice. I’m saying: where is the love? Too often as I hear conversations and read posts on the internet, we speak our “truth” out of fear, shame and hate — not out of love.

Let’s choose a better way: love.

Instead of dragging people down and feeling threatened by someone who doesn’t fit our expectations, can we lean into discomfort and get to know their story? Can we try to make this world a gentler place for our sons and daughters? Can we choose love over fear? Can we follow the wild and fearless example of Jesus, who loved at great cost to himself?

I hope we do. Our girls and boys are watching.

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