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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

The Many Hats That Women Wear

The Many Hats That Women Wear

BCC Staff Note: You are reading a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on counseling and women. You’ll read posts by Keri Seavey, Jill Wamsley, Julie Ganschow, and Hayley Satrom.

Hats, Hats, and More Hats

The coach section of airplanes level the playing field with people. We are all in the back together, almost indistinguishable. Our attire, bags and gadgets are all that remains to set us apart from one another in our perspective identities.

On a recent trip to New York, I sat beside a youngish woman who appeared to have her proverbial act together. Her crisp, yet stylish suit, perfect hair and nails, and Louis Vitton briefcase gave her away as a savvy, Manhattan businesswoman. My yoga pants likely gave me away as well. Without words, this woman let me know very quickly and coolly that she was not in the mood for chit-chat. Her identity as “successful career woman” must have hinged upon her maintaining clear focus and seriousness, sparing no time for idle frivolity.

I saw a ring on her left ring finger. The ring indicated that this woman was capable of intimate relationship. Though she did not see the value of engaging with a stranger, she did have one person with whom she shared herself and her life with. I wondered how differently she may have reacted toward me if she were travelling with her spouse in flip flops and shorts en route to Hawaii. Would her relational identity bring a lightness to her step and spirit, allowing her to engage in her world differently?

We wear many different hats as women. Each hat requires something different from us and impacts how we interact in our world with other people. Each has its own set of expectations and obligations. Each represents a piece of our divided self, with our many identities, which is often sliced up neatly like a Thanksgiving pie. We may be friend, daughter, girlfriend, sister, mother, wife, grandmother, counselor, career woman, pastor’s wife, student, coach, homemaker. With the endless possibilities of the many hats we wear, the Mad Hatter has got nothing on some of us!

Living for the Double-Take

If it weren’t enough to carefully balance these many hats, we often add to the difficulty by “bedazzling” them. We are not content with plain hats. We want impressive, flashy hats that cause double takes from people around us.

Simple, seemingly lackluster faithfulness in our roles seems a tad uninspiring and so we labor with messy hot glue guns, cheap rhinestones and gaudy gems to give our hats some pizzazz. Nurturing mother. Pink rhinestone. Devoted friend. Gaudy trinket. Inspirational homemaker. Purple gem. The bedazzling and the problems come with the adjectives.

Starting out as harmless, fitting descriptions of our intentions to love others and serve well within our roles, these adjectives have the potential to enslave us when they become self-oriented. Loving others gets replaced with loving ourselves when we begin to live for the adjectives from a desire to standout and be noticed.

Longing to be eye-catching, self-oriented excellence in our roles can drive us tirelessly to do more and more. Rarely are we satisfied with our best efforts. We may alternately swing between pride and despair as we compare ourselves to other’s failures or achievements. Rest and contentment are always on the agenda for tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.

What does inevitably come, with time and failure, is exhaustion, disillusionment, confusion and even anger. When good desires morph into enslaving lusts for recognition, we inevitably buckle under the burden of our blinged-out hats and wonder where things went so wrong.

A Closer Look at Our Hats

What did go wrong? Where did we lose our balance? Do we need to kick all of our hats to the curb and start over? Probably not. Most are representative of identities and roles that we cannot change. We may not be able to take off many of the hats we wear, but we can remove the embellishments that weigh them down.

Yet their removal may be harder than we think because our own glory, which we unfortunately love, is at stake. We have trusted in these adornments to give us the attention-grabbing luster we were after. Does the removal of the embellishments mean that we must cease from any action within our roles that might bring us attention? Again, probably not. We will still have certain duties and actions to perform as mother, friend, homemaker, etc.

The problem is often not in the act itself, but in the motive for doing it.

The external actions of glorifying God in our duties and grasping for our own glory can be nearly identical. For example, we can clean our house to love others and glorify Him by stewarding well the house that He has provided, or we can clean our house to impress the neighbors who are coming for dinner. The action may be the same, but there is a world of difference in the inward motivation.

We act from our motives, which in turn affect the fruit that the actions produce. If we are cleaning with selfish motives to impress, we may exhaust ourselves and our family as we harshly drive them to tirelessly perfect the home. We feel let down if the neighbors never notice or comment. We may resort to fishing for our own compliments to get what we are after. Disordered emotions and bad fruit often accompany actions done from self-interested motives of grandeur.

Grasping for glory requires a disorienting mental commitment to suppressing what is true. As believers, we must orient our lives with God’s revealed truth found within the pages of Scripture. We must believe what the Bible says about us is true. It unflinchingly declares us to be fallen, finite people who are limited and broken in our capacities and abilities. It also says we think far too highly of ourselves than we ought. When we choose to live under the unrealistic demands of our own delusional, idealistic fantasies about ourselves, we must also deny the truth of our fallenness.

Maybe we are more like that Mad Hatter than we realize—we are either passively being deceived or stubbornly believing lies and fantasy. We are grasping for perfection in ourselves which will forever elude fallen people.

Grace for Glory Seekers

True greatness came only once—in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He alone lived the perfectly righteous life that we could never live. Within the gospel message lies our liberation from the slavery of elusive self-glory seeking. Jesus offers us the glory of His own perfect record! Ours only in Christ!

We must forsake the sham of our own glory (which is no glory at all) and rather glory in the One who laid aside His glory to free us from our self-glory. Liberation comes when we rest in His record rather than our own achievements. True glory is found when we glorify Him.

Glorying in Christ alone frees us for love. No longer grasping for glory for ourselves, we can again approach the many hats we wear as opportunities to bring glory to Him through our dependent love and humble service to God and others. We can reflect in our roles the love and glory of the One who gave up His royal crown to wear a crown of thorns. This is grace –the weightiest of all glory! A glory that He invites us to share in.

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Whose glory will you glory in?

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