As a junior in high school, our friend Pace decided to go to a different church than her parents. With a great deal of wisdom, her parents let her go. That time was a real turning point for Pace. She was discovering truth on her own, and her faith had that much more meaning because she was doing the choosing.
From sixteen to nineteen, girls are deciding who they want to be and what they want to believe. They are developing convictions . . . values . . . character. There has been some development of these things all along, but it was often more by your choice than theirs.
By the end of this stage, your daughter will be making choices on her own. You won't be there to see if she's had too much to drink or if she's wearing clothes that are inappropriate. She has to make those decisions—and now is her time to start.
As we have said, her thinking has changed. Black-and-white answers no longer suffice. These girls want to know why they shouldn't have premarital sex, why they shouldn't do drugs, or why they shouldn't steal a friend's boyfriend. They want to know the reasons behind the rules they have been taught most of their lives.
This is where the stirring comes back. It doesn't help Autonomous-age girls when we tell them why they shouldn't do something. They need to discover it on their own, and they are finally capable of doing so in these Autonomous Years. But what we can do is facilitate the process. We can give them opportunities to talk and think through what they do believe. We can help them find other groups of kids who are wrestling with the same issues, and once again, we can ask questions that help them clarify what they believe. Let us give you a picture of what this looks like in action.
I (Sissy) recently met with a group of eleventh- and twelfth-grade girls. I knew that several girls in the group were angry about choices they had made and were struggling with self-ha-tred—an intense anger and shame toward themselves. It would have been easy to say, "I know several of you have been feeling bad about yourselves. I want to know why and what you can do to change things."
Instead, I asked them a question: "What's the difference between self-hatred and repentance?" What these girls came up with on their own was that self-hatred is being stuck while repentance is moving forward. They talked about self-hatred being easier, because you can just feel sorry for yourself. My next question was, "When you're stuck and feeling bad about yourself, how do you handle it?" The answers ranged from getting really angry with their parents to pushing their friends away to not allowing themselves to eat. As the girls answered this final question, it dawned on them that these behaviors were actually sin.
It wasn't that I had great insight. I just asked two questions, and these girls, in their abstract thinking, arrived there themselves.
Girls in their Autonomous Years are capable of developing their own values and ideals. As they discover what they believe, through stirring teaching and discussions, they will develop their own strength of conviction.
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