The Problems with Lies Young Women Believe: With One Sheet Download

by | Jun 21, 2024 | Parenting Teens | 27 comments

Problem with Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh

One of the things we’re passionate about on this blog is making sure the self-help and relationship advice in the evangelical world is healthy.

Over the last few years, our team has surveyed over 32,000 people, measuring how certain teachings common in the evangelical world about marriage and sex affect marital and sexual satisfaction.

And the results have not been pretty.

We’re asking the church to stop spreading harmful messages, and make sure that what is said is actually healthy. Because it is actually possible to write books that do not harm! 

As we’ve confronted harmful messages, we’ve written two big books–The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.

We’ve also published a series of  downloadable one-sheets on evangelical books that still sell well, but have been shown to contain harmful messages.

This is our most recent entry–Lies Young Women Believe (we looked at Lies Women Believe previously). While many of the issues were the same, some were quite different, and are even more alarming, since these messages are being given to teenagers.

This book is still widely used as a group study in youth groups and homeschooling groups, or just among friends.

Yet when we analyzed it for our book She Deserves Better, we found so many harmful messages about the nature of God, purity culture, mental health, abuse and consent, and more.

This post is the text from a downloadable onesheet, so it’s short, in bullet point form, and right to the point. We did a deeper dive into this yesterday on Episode 238 of the Bare Marriage Podcast!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Lies Young Women Believe

One Sheet

Everything Harmful with Lies Young Women Believe Summarized on One Sheet!

Subscribe today to get the free printout to share with your friends, family, and pastors

Synopsis of Lies Young Women Believe

Because Satan deliberately targets teen girls to ensnare, they must be vigilant about defeating lies.

Summary of Issues with Lies Young Women Believe

  1. Overemphasizes the Christian life as constantly fighting against Satan rather than resting in God’s love and grace.
  2. Ignores completely the reality of abuse, date rape, sexual assault, and the necessity of consent, while giving advice that would make girls more vulnerable to predators and encourage them to internalize blame for their own assaults.
  3. Pathologizes normal and healthy human emotions, suggesting God is disappointed when we are sad, lonely, or angry.

    Important Statisics to Keep in Mind While You Read This Post about Lies Young Women Believe

    Issue #1: Hyperfocus on Satan at the Expense of Jesus

    • Opens the book with alarmist language about Satan. Suicide is because “there are evil influences trying to destroy you” (19). Tells girls they are in a “burning house” due to Satan (15). He is waging a battle (30), and you’re in serious danger (14).
    • Mentions Satan and The Deceiver 140 times in the book. The name Jesus is only mentioned 128 times. We don’t hear about Jesus and his love until page 36. Until then, it is all about how we must be hypervigilant or Satan will destroy us.
    • States that Satan specifically “targets women with his lies” (22). The Bible does not say that girls are more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and research does not support the idea that girls are more deceived than boys.
    • Embellishes the Adam and Eve story to ascribe to Eve negative motivations and emotions, taking liberties that go far beyond the text. In so doing, encourages girls to view womanhood with suspicion.

    Issue #2: Ignores Mental Health and Abuse Dynamics

    • Gives examples of being abused and mistreated, including a parent verbally abusing a daughter (182), and a father sexually abusing a daughter (49), and instead of teaching boundaries and finding safety, tells girls they must forgive, overlook “human frailties” and admire parents’ strengths (51), and take the first step in repairing the relationship (51).
    • Misdiagnoses many teen behaviors that can be rooted in trauma, like panic attacks (9), substance abuse (145), cutting (11), and promiscuity, as a girl’s fault for believing lies. Fails to recommend mental health help.
    • Implies anorexia can be cured by giving up lies. Includes story of a hospitalized girl who deliberately infected her arm, almost requiring amputation (26), as an example of how hospitalization doesn’t work, but posting Bible verses around the house does (36). This discourages teens and parents from seeking qualified medical treatment for serious conditions.
    • Tells girls they must submit to authority, even if the authority is wrong (118). Does not include a disclaimer for abuse.
    • Portrays our grief as disappointing to God. Says that suffering “is an essential tool in the hand of God” (201) and God deliberately causes tragedies, like the death of a parent, to teach us, and we should consider these things good (47).
    • Labels anxiety as a “belief issue” (151), ignoring the fact that the teen years are the height of anxiety & depression and often require mental health care.
    • Spreads misogynistic tropes, saying that a girl’s desire for a boyfriend is actually a girl’s desire to control her boyfriend (92). Instead, asserts that a teen girl must let a teen boy lead her (93), grooming girls for abusive relationships.
    • Asserts that girls can only express their opinions “in some instances” to those in authority (118), like parents and pastors. Fails to warn that a relationship where one is punished for expressing an opinion is not a safe one.
    • Ignores consent altogether throughout the book. Calls sexting an area of bondage and sin for girls (184), but fails to highlight the coercive dynamics in their anecdotes (71), or warn girls that sexting is a common form of sexual abuse.
    • Includes anecdote where a youth pastor appears to have sexually abused a minor, without naming abuse (127). Warns girls they are in sin if they become disillusioned with church if youth group goes badly.

    She Deserves Better!

    Because we all deserve a big faith.

    Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

    What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

    Issue #3: Pathologizes Normal Teenage Emotions and Behaviors 

    • Implies feeling “I don’t have any friends” is a lie (11), though it may objectively be true. Chastises girls who want friends for making friendship into an idol (43), even though friendships are vitally important for teen mental health.
    • Chastises a girl for not considering God enough for her since she was so worried about her parents divorcing (42), even though mental health practitioners include a parent’s divorce on the ACE (adverse childhood effects) scale.
    • Calls masturbation a sin that puts you in bondage (143), yet 43% of girls have masturbated by age 14, and 58% by age 17. Exploring one’s body is normal sexual development, and this is not explained or differentiated from lust.
    • Gaslights same sex attracted girls, telling them just because they feel same sex attracted doesn’t mean they are (90).
    • Disparages women’s quest for equality (169). Tells girls they were created to be men’s helpers (219), and that it is their unique job to manage the home (219). Sees a career as being in opposition to a girl’s highest calling of being a wife and mother. Ignores that men can stay home with children too, or that many families require two incomes.

    Issue #4: Encourages Religous Scrupulosity (OCD-like Symptoms that are Religon Based)

    • Depicts normal teenage behavior, like watching Netflix (21), reading Harry Potter (63), doing yoga (63), listening to secular songs (21), thinking about fashion (27), wanting a boyfriend (91) or a friend (113), spending time doing hair and makeup (28), or finding it easier to talk to friends than to God (43), as opening oneself up to Satan.  
    • Encourages girls to hyper-focus on whether they are truly saved. Makes girls doubt their salvation, because if you are truly saved you won’t do things like watch many movies or hold grudges (135). Depicts a girl who had sex with her boyfriend as not being saved, insinuating that if you make a mistake, you weren’t truly saved (136).
    • Tells girls that their bodies bombard boys (98). Fails to note that lust is the boy’s sin, and she didn’t cause it.

    What Women Have Said

    “This book used fear mongering tactics…Not sensitive to mental health issues, self-harm, or body image issues. I read this book for youth group years ago and it still messes me up. Was instrumental in me losing my faith.”

    Liz, on Amazon

    “I read it when I was very young. It was one of the primary sources that caused me to ignore my intuition. I cannot begin to express the extreme damage due to these harmful teachings which caused me to trust [untrustworthy] men and ignore my inner warnings (and, I believe, the Holy Spirit). My family is in shambles.” 

    E.K., Social Media

    “My co-leader and I HATED the messages it was sending our girls. Shaming their clothing choices, saying their highest calling is to become a wife and mother, simplifying the causes of mental illness, and being out of touch with their generation. We want to help shape them into strong women of faith who seek a close relationship with our Savior, but this book is isolating and shaming.” 

    Leah, youth leader

    “It absolutely contributed to anxiety and several bouts of undiagnosed depression in my teenage years, because of the ridiculous pressures and double standards that were being instilled in me. Breaking free of those unbiblical pressures as an adult has been extremely difficult, and is ongoing, but very freeing.”

    Commenter, Facebook

    “My main takeaway was my feelings are probably wrong most of the time. Basically, don’t trust your intuition.”

    Commentor, Facebook

    “I read it when I was very young and it was one of the primary sources that caused me to ignore my intuition and feel as though my husband could “hear” God better than I.

    I ended up doing the Lies Young Women Believe Bible Study with my daughters and their friends in a youth group we hosted at our house but as we were going through it, I finally had alarm bells going off and realized I didn’t want to perpetuate this self-doubt into my daughters. I couldn’t articulate exactly why at the time, but my friend and I bailed on that study. Many of the girls spoke against it too.

    I cannot begin to express the extreme damage of my life right now – due to these harmful teachings which caused me to trust men and betray and ignore my inner warnings and I believe, the help of the Holy Spirit. My marriage is hanging on by a thread and my family is in shambles. I believe God can rescue it all, but un-doing the brainwashing in myself, my husband and all 10 of my kids will take so many years and my heart feels so weary and broken. 💔. I can’t believe I was convinced to betray myself and ignore my own voice! Seems crazy and humiliating.”

    Commentor, Facebook

    “It led me to believe that being grumpy was a sin. When normal mood fluctuations happened to me, I’d feel guilty for how I felt. I worried that I was sinning against my family or husband, when really I just was in a bad mood. This added guilt did not help my mood, as I felt like I was not allowed to feel what I felt.

    In particular, I remember this book talking about how PMS is not an excuse to be grumpy. I internalized this & started to believe I shouldn’t complain about my PMS pain, lest I be grumpy (even though I already was grumpy from the pain & hormone shifts). My relationship with my body suffered; if grumpiness was a sin, why was I so powerless against pain negatively affecting me? Additionally, not sharing my pain likely prevented me from receiving other’s compassion and care, who maybe would have taken me to go to a doctor.

    Years later, I went on to develop endometriosis and debilitating period pain. I have had to intentionally work at being okay expressing my state of pain and believing God has great compassion on me when I am suffering. I wish this book hadn’t placed additional burdens on young girls during their periods. The underlining messages stick around, even at 30.”

    Commentor, Facebook

    Lies Young Women Believe

    One Sheet

    Everything Harmful with Lies Young Women Believe Summarized on One Sheet!

    Subscribe today to get the free printout to share with your friends, family, and pastors

    Synopsis of Findings

    Rather than presenting a mainstream Christian or evangelical message, Lies Young Women Believe parrots the Bill Gothard fundamentalist, fear-based approach to faith. Does not present a compassionate Savior who understands our struggles. Teaches girls to disregard their feelings, which warn us when something is wrong. Instead, the book paints everything a teenage girl normally feels—loneliness, desire to be loved, sadness when relationships go wrong or when one is mistreated or abused—as things that invite God’s disappointment and Satan’s attacks.

    Instead of Lies Young Women Believe, Choose…

    She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self, and Speaking Up (Gregoire, Lindenbach and Sawatsky)

    What was your experience with the book Lies Young Women Believe (or other books like it)? Let’s talk in the comments!

    Written by

    Sheila Wray Gregoire

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    Sheila Wray Gregoire

    Author at Bare Marriage

    Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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    27 Comments

    1. CMT

      Let’s see… scrupulosity? Been there. Anxiety and depression? Check. Self-gaslighting for normal emotional struggles? Yep.

      And the idea that a whole gender can be characterized by a tendency to one particular sin? Well, it’s very convenient for certain people if girls and women are so worried about avoiding the “sin” of controlling men that they surrender their normal, healthy human autonomy without a fight. I’m a bit embarrassed to say how long it took me to notice that…

      This is the only part of the post I take exception to:

      “Rather than presenting a mainstream Christian or evangelical message,”

      Why? I never read this book. I never heard of Bill Gothard or knew anyone growing up who went to IBLP. I went to a little conservative nondenominational church and heard this stuff from the pulpit. I knew James Dobson and listened to adventures in odyssey. This crap IS mainstream evangelical messaging. Or at least it was in the 90’s and early aughts.

      Reply
      • JoB

        I agree that this theology is not fringe at all in the evangelical world. It is extremely “mainstream.”

        Reply
      • Taylor

        What’s really weird is that girls and women are taught to not control boys and men, but that totally goes out the window with responsibility for sexual integrity. Suddenly, in that realm, females are overtly and covertly taught that they have to control males through how they dress, how available they are for sex, how submissive they are. And that if they don’t do it right, the males are likely to be sexually frustrated, unfaithful, and push sexual boundaries, which will be 50-100% blamed the females. Um … some how, this doesn’t seem quite right …

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Absolutely true!

          Reply
    2. Laura

      I am beyond grateful this book was not written when I was a teenager in the 90s. I struggled with depression and several well-meaning Christians had told me I just needed to accept Jesus as my Savior, pray, and read my Bible then I would not suffer from depression. They believed taking antidepressants was wrong. I had accepted salvation at the end of my junior year 30 years ago after experiencing a rough school year. I had struggled with suicidal thoughts, had a 3-week stay at a psych hospital, started taking antidepressants, self-harmed, and even though I was somewhat better after starting on the antidepressants, I still did not feel great mentally. Accepting salvation did not cure my struggles with depression. Sometimes, I felt ashamed for struggling with depression and maybe God was disappointed in me because I did not read my Bible enough and after I started attending church, I quit going because the pastor was a male chauvinist. So, some church-y damage was already done and if that book had existed back then, I know I would have felt a lot worse. I imagine that my mom would throw that book in the trash, which is where Lies Young Women Believe should belong, or better yet, burned.

      Reply
    3. Jo R

      Huh.

      So I guess there are some slight mistranslations we need to fix up in our Bible margins.

      “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” needs to be changed to “keeping our eyes on Satan, the liar and thief of our faith”

      “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” should use words like shameful, depressing, discouraging, anti-God, self-gaslighting, hateful, and unpleasant.

      Got it.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That certainly is what it seems like!

        Reply
      • Jany

        @JoB, I see where you got the part from Hebrews, but I don’t understand what you mean about the passage from Philippians. Could you explain further, please?

        Reply
        • Jo R

          Philippians tells us to concentrate on the good things, right things, Jesus things, yet this book talks more about about Satan and his activities than about Jesus, therefore itencourages young women to focus more on Satan than on Jesus.

          Reply
    4. Nathan

      Some of this reminds me of stories I’ve heard (here and elsewhere) about kids who were beaten unless they were happy and smiling ALL THE TIME.

      It’s amazing that so many people denounce ALL non-happy feelings and situations as coming under the control of Satan. Jesus Himself said “in this world you will have trouble”.

      Reply
      • Jo R

        “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

        “I’ll need hourly status updates explaining why you’re so far behind schedule.”

        Reply
      • JoB

        @Nathan, the teaching I absorbed over the years always emphasized the second part of the verse you cited: we were commanded to “take heart” and subjugate any “feelings” to the “truth” that “Jesus has overcome the world.” They also liked to cite 2 Cor 10:5, which says to take every thought captive to Christ. In essence, in our sinful, limited understanding, our impulse may be to feel negative emotions or think negative thoughts, but a mature Christian should never entertain such thoughts and should immediately start working on telling her/himself the truth (that God is sovereign, that all things work together for good, that our treasure is in heaven, that God uses difficulty to refine us etc etc). And if said individual were to express or externalize said negativity, it is the duty of their Christian friends to remind them of the “truth” as well and not let them be “swept away” by emotions.

        In my personal experience, this doesn’t really change anything, but it does make you adopt a constant habit of lying to yourself and others.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, it really does.

          Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        The irony — “I’m going to beat you until you smile.”

        Reply
    5. Anonymous

      A well-meaning friend of mine gave this book to my daughter when she was a young teen. I had not read it and encouraged my daughter to take a look, as she was suffering from anxiety and intense insecurity. She rejected it pretty quickly, and I am so glad she did! I had no idea this book was so toxic! My daughter had also experienced abuse at the hands of her father, so I am doubly glad she did not read this book and internalize its horrible, damaging messages. Thank you for your tireless work, Sheila and team, for seeking to unroot and expose the toxic teachings so rampant in our current evangelical culture.

      Reply
    6. JoB

      Like CMT above, I have never read this book, but the ideas seem very familiar- I have spent 40+ years in a very diverse evangelical background (many denominations and organizations, primarily focused on knowing the Bible for oneself). In addition to the emphasis on satanic attack, this theology constantly emphasizes the idea of the Christian life as a battle, between the flesh and the spirit, between the old man and the new. There is nothing morally neutral or “human” or “normal” in this worldview- it’s all either good or evil. You’re either acting as a child of God or a child of the devil; it’s completely binary. Our flesh is going to be constantly tending towards selfish desires and sin, and we must be constantly vigilant to correct it and subdue it to the truth we find in the Bible.

      A corollary is that in this (scrupulous?) focus on my own sin, I give up any right to complain about sin against me, since my focus should be on recognizing my own sin and repenting of it and overcoming it, not my own rights. Seeking your own rights is the flesh, not the spirit.

      They talk about “resting in God’s love,” but I could never figure out what they meant by that. The best I could manage was an intellectual override of my own thoughts, but it never took away the constant depression. I never felt loved. I often ask myself now what it would even be like to know I was loved by God. God’s love meant refining me through pain, and supposedly he was holding me through it. Supposedly he was “with me in suffering.” I kept repeating that for decades, but something about midlife makes you drop the pretense, and all I can say is I don’t have the maturity to be comforted by something that is entirely imperceptible on every level. If it only exists as an intellectual concept and nothing more- I guess I just don’t get it. I can’t say it’s not real because that might invalidate others’ lived experience, but I have concluded I am somehow incompatible or ineligible.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think this is what I was trying to get at in Facebook post yesterday: “I give up any right to complain about sin against me.” Yes. You have to so focus on where you fall short that you’re never allowed to acknowledge that you have been hurt.

        It’s like we miss the whole part of the gospel where Jesus announces the kingdom of God. Abuse is not part of the kingdom. We don’t have to just accept it or tolerate it or forgive it.

        Reply
      • Jo R

        Wow, I could have written every word of this.

        Hugs to us.

        Reply
      • Nethwen

        JoB, your comment reminded me of a Gospel Bill video we watched in children’s church where one of the puppets said that if we disobey our parents, we are worshipping the Devil. This caused me a lot of anxiety as a child because I had a habit that I could not stop, even though my parents clearly didn’t want me doing it (I don’t remember them directly telling me to stop, but I knew that’s what they wanted). The way I understood the world as a child, even having an opinion or desire different from your parents was disobedience. I didn’t want to worship the devil, but I didn’t have the skills to stop this habit, either.

        Reply
      • CMT

        “They talk about “resting in God’s love,” but I could never figure out what they meant by that… I never felt loved.”

        Oh, I feel this!

        When, as you say, everything natural to us as humans is seen as suspect at best and evil at worst, we lose the ability to experience the joy and love and peace we are promised.

        When we are taught “perfection” is the goal, and our difficult emotions need to be relentlessly squashed instead of comforted, we can’t even imagine what it would be like to let someone else really see us, let alone comfort us.

        It doesn’t have to be this way!

        Reply
    7. Curly Sue

      Issue #3, last bullet point. Doesn’t Nancy have a career? Wear makeup? Style her hair? Rules for thee, but not for me?

      Reply
      • Jany

        Yes, she has a career. She didn’t get married until mid 50’s and therefore has no biological children that need her to stay at home to care for.

        Reply
        • Laura

          Very ironic for Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth to have lectured women about this stuff. It would be like me, never had biological children, writing a book on childbirth which obviously I never experienced.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            Or if men wrote such a book. 🤔

            Reply
            • Lisa Johns

              They have…

    8. Taylor

      If boys and men had PMS, the advise books would probably say

      Boys: PMS is a regular part of your hormonal cycle. On your cycle, you’re likely to experience elevated anxiety or depression, brain fog, and a lower tolerance for stress. This is a good time to focus on slowing down, getting enough sleep, and giving yourself extra care. You may find you can’t do as much, and that you need more support from the people around you. This is perfectly normal. If you are suffering high levels of discomfort or pain, or mood swings that are distressing to you, talk to your medical professional.

      Girls: boys have a physical cycle that you don’t have. PMS is a challenging part of this cycle that involves hormone shifts that can affect their moods, particularly if they’re experiencing discomfort or pain from cramping. This is a time to be particularly kind and understanding to them, and not take their outbursts personally. Expect less, be ready to offer more support, and accept that PMS support is just a part of having a relationship with a boy.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very true!

        Reply

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