COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP) -- Fiercely independent, strong and brash are what many in the western world value in a woman, but Mary Kassian says young women should have a different take on femininity -- a gentle, quiet spirit.
Kassian, who was featured on Focus on the Family's national radio program Sept. 26-27, is author of "Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild" and professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Appropriate clothing, interacting with men and romantic novels were among the topics on which Kassian conveyed counsel to young women and also to wives.
While many refer to Proverbs 31 for the biblical view of womanhood, Kassian pointed to an earlier chapter -- Proverbs 7 -- that provides a warning of exactly what not to be.
" describes this wild thing as being loud and wayward," Kassian said on the broadcast. "In other words she's very demanding, very clamorous, very controlling. It's interesting to me because that is precisely what today's women are taught to be."
Kassian said what the Bible calls women to be is exactly the opposite: quiet and gentle. For each personality, however, she said a gentle spirit looks different, so naturally boisterous girls need not necessarily worry.
"The Bible's not going for this checklist of external behaviors, it's going for your heart," Kassian said. "Is your heart in a place where you're going, 'Look at me, look at me! I'm needing attention. I want all eyes on me. I want, I want, I want.'
"Or is your heart in a place of contentment and quietness and stillness before the Lord -- maybe laughing loudly, maybe being right in there in the conversation and offering your part into it, given your personality and your culture. But at the same time honoring those principles of who God created you to be as a woman."
While it is the heart that really matters, women should still check their external behaviors, especially when it comes to how they dress and show themselves to the world.
Kassian told a story about walking through the mall with her teenage son. While they were strolling past the many stores, a provocatively dressed girl passed them and gave her son "the look."
She noticed her son's eyes following the girl as she walked on, so Kassian asked what he thought about the young girl. After a pause, he gave a surprising answer: "It arouses the male in me, but it doesn't attract the man in me."
Fathers can play a part in preventing their daughters from dressing provocatively and presenting themselves poorly, Kassian said. Dads can give their daughters a hand up by affirming them when they make tasteful decisions about their clothes and confronting them when they don't.
"If you really want to know how to dress well, run it past your dad," she said. "And the sad part is that a lot of girls are growing up without dads, and they don't have those males in their lives that are able to affirm them as women in a non-sexual way and teach them how to interact in a way with men that is healthy and wholesome."
Kassian's advice wasn't just for girls, though. She warned married women of worldly snares as well.
She said women she meets at conferences stumble into emotional cheating without even realizing what is happening, especially if they are in a waning marriage.
"Women, they have stars in their eyes when they get married and then they hit marriage, and it's not as easy as they thought it might be," Kassian said. "And perhaps a co-worker at the office starts paying attention to them in a way that's very affirming and a way that meets some of those deep needs in her heart.... Before she knows it, she's emotionally attached, emotionally involved with him."
Wandering away from a marriage is something Kassian said is not immediate but is a slow process where boundaries keep getting crossed. Ultimately, she said marriages must be held together intentionally. That means not picking questionable magazines, not talking with girlfriends about certain things and not reading romance novels.
Kassian specifically talked about the bestseller "50 Shades of Grey," saying that women are getting caught up in unhealthy ideas about sex. While some women insist books like 50 Shades of Grey are merely a form of entertainment, she said it portrays a perverted portrait of sex.
"For women to justify this ... it tells me that they do not have a good healthy view of the Bible's view of sex or the holiness of sex.... Our sexual union as a couple is to reflect truths about the nature of the love relationship between Christ and the church."
Kassian said she knows that many women are not in the midst of a good love story, but she noted that they were made for a cosmic love story, which they can find in Scripture, not with enticements of this world.
To hear each of the Focus on the Family radio programs featuring Mary Kassian, go to http://ow.ly/e8qfF and http://ow.ly/e8qlk.
Whitney Jones is a writer based in Murray, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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