The December issue of the New Era, the church magazine for young women and men ages 12-18, includes a short article asking readers, “Are you a getter or a giver?” and includes the following illustration:
Looking at the illustration of the two young women, the young woman on the right is wearing her Young Women medallion, she’s carrying her scriptures, her body is more covered than the young woman on the left. Her facial expression is one of upward, wistful eyes with partly-opened lips. The pigeon-toed stance makes her look a bit unsure and passive. The questions show that she’s more concerned with others than herself. And the young woman on the left? She’s posed with her arms crossed, looking closed off, her hair is cut in a bob rather than the hairstyle of a younger girl, her skirt is shorter, and she’s carrying a purse because she’s more worldly-minded? The questions surrounding her show that she’s more concerned with herself than with others.
Apparently it’s the young woman on the right who is supposed to be the model–the one young women need to aspire to be–always thinking about others rather than themselves, always sacrificing, always thinking about how opportunities to serve benefit those around them rather than considering their own opportunities for development and betterment.
But I personally don’t want to be that young woman–or the other for that matter.
I can both give AND get. It’s called moderation. And balance. Being only a giver OR only a getter is detrimental to one’s mental health, to one’s life path, to one’s influence, to one’s divine nature, to the full embodiment of what it means to be daughters of Heavenly Parents.
I want to ask myself, “What blessings will I receive from the temple (and not just a temple marriage)?” AND “How will my temple covenants and attendance bless others?” I want to consider, “How will a mission help me?” AND “In what ways will I be able to serve others on a mission?” I want to contemplate, “How my church attendance shows devotion to the Lord AND what I personally gain from my church attendance.” In this case, I want it all–and God says that this desire can be so if I ask Him (Matthew 7:7).
Think too much of ourselves and we miss out on how our talents and service can improve and benefit the world. Think too little of ourselves and we spend all of our time, effort, energy, and money on the dreams, talents, and gifts of others. Our own unique dreams, talents, and gifts lay dormant, may wither, and may be curtailed from ever being discovered.
Think too much of ourselves and, yes, we may become selfish and entitled. Our identities will be defined by what we do. Think too little of ourselves and eventually we have nothing to give–we’ve lost our individual identities and may live our lives through the lives of others.
As psychotherapist and family therapist, Dr. Julie de Azevedo-Hanks states, “Healthy human beings have to consider both getting AND giving. This presents the only options for girls as either a selfish b?&^% (the getter) or a humble doormat (the giver). The humble doormat looks to others to validate, fulfill, and prop her up which ironically is SELFISH. This is so dangerous. I have seen hundreds of women who end up empty and without a sense of self and get sick and then suck the life out of everyone around them.”
While the illustration doesn’t address education, I have seen this self-sacrificing rhetoric play out in how we (our LDS culture) discuss women’s education. We frame women’s education not in how it will benefit women, but how it helps others: “How will our educations help us be better mothers? Better wives?” Rarely, if ever, do we ask, “How will our educations empower us? How will our educations help us provide for ourselves? How will our educations provide us with more opportunities and choices?”
The rhetoric is no different when it comes to women and careers. We frame women who work as women who must have to work due to singleness, divorce, a husband’s death, disability, or loss of employment. This frame does not create space for women who are framed as “getters”–women who work because they find fulfillment in their careers and empowerment in providing for themselves and their families.
When we present young women with two binary options, we create divisions, we create sides, we create confinement, we contribute to depression and lack of fulfillment.
It’s when we are able to fully embody ALL that we can be, all that we are, all that we can give to ourselves and to others, that we find wholeness, we find integration, we find moderation, we find unity, and we are truly able contribute to building the kingdom of God.
That is the message I wish the New Era shared with our young women AND men.
Be a giver AND a getter. Be strong AND very courageous. Embrace your AND.