As you strive to become and live as a smart, successful, and strong woman, I want to share some thoughts for you to carefully consider and remember on your journey.
You are a woman. While you are not an identical copy of every other female, you are distinctly a woman. There is not a singular way all women act, think, look, feel, and speak, but being a woman is distinct from being a man.
Celebrate Your Equal but Distinct Design
You are equal in worth and dignity with men, yet you are distinct in your design and purpose. Your worth and dignity are not rooted in your womanhood. All people have worth and dignity, regardless of gender, age, ability, and intellect, as every human life is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Yet, your worth and dignity are expressed distinctly through your womanhood. God’s creation of human life was not complete with man (Gen. 2:18); woman was needed and necessary to make human life complete. This need and necessity for women indicates there are actions, roles, perspectives, and ways of thinking, speaking, and feeling that will come from a woman that would not be present if man were alone.
I caution you not to forget this point because often when someone seeks to root their identity, worth, and dignity in their gender, gender either becomes something set far too high or too low in importance. It’s too high if you claim your gender to be your ultimate defining attribute and set one gender above another either in thoughts or actions. It’s too low if you think that gender doesn’t matter or that the genders do not have valuable distinctions. Gender is not a badge to be worn or a weapon to be wielded. It is not ultimate, nor is it something to ignore. Rather, your womanhood is a distinct way you find and live out your purposes. Whatever abilities, skills, or talents you have, your womanhood allows you to walk towards them in a way that is unique and necessary.
Steward Your Gifts
You want to be smart and known as an intelligent woman. I understand that desire. But don’t forget that just as your gender does not determine your worth and dignity, neither does your intellect. Any mental capacity or ability you have is a gift from God. While you have the opportunity and choice to grow, develop, and use your capacities and abilities, you do not control them, and you did not initiate them. You steward them.
Your intelligence is also not relegated to select areas of life. It is not only to be developed and utilized in academic and career pursuits. Instead, you can develop and use your intelligence in all areas—in your faith, relationships, personal passions, and service. Steward well and use to the utmost the capacity and abilities you have been given, but remember, they do not define you nor your purpose. They are tools to be used faithfully and well with wisdom, grace, and love.
God Defines Success
It is probably clear that I am writing to you from a Christian worldview. If this is you as well, perhaps this is also your testimony: I have faith and trust in Christ. I live to bring God glory, fueled by His Word and His Spirit, with His Truth and ways as my guide in all things. When I understood my need for a Savior, I didn’t wholly grasp the totality of the change He would bring to my life—the totality of the change I needed. I didn’t understand that my mind, heart, desires, goals, and purposes can all be made new as I willingly allow the Holy Spirit to recreate me as I walk in obedience to God’s Word. I have a new capacity to be the woman God created me to be and a new power to live as God calls me to live.
With all that in mind, realize that just as God is the One who saves and transforms us, He is also the One who defines true success. Success in life is described by Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” and by Christ Himself in John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Accomplishments, career, finances, or breadth of influence do not define us or our success. Rather, they are a means of bringing God glory. A life that is lived to put Christ on display through actions, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and words within your family, communities, and world is a successful life.
God Provides True Strength
Finally, you want to be a strong woman. Strength is quite possibly the most convoluted and misunderstood quality of all that you are seeking. True, lasting strength is not an only-you matter. Certainly, many have strength of heart, mind, and character in their own power. But human strength is ultimately temporary and incomplete—effective for a time and in certain circumstances, but not lasting and maintainable. True, lasting strength comes when you realize the insufficiency of your own strength and the infinite strength offered to you with complete and utter reliance on the One who is the Rock, Refuge, and Stronghold (Ps. 18:2).
Strength is not forcefulness, assertiveness, or getting your way. It is not being powerful, loudest, first, or best. It is not disrespecting, belittling, or condemning those who disagree with you or taking advantage of those who are weak. Instead, strength is standing on the foundation of God’s Truth, wisdom, and love with complete dependence on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. It is meekness: strength under God’s control. Your part is to pursue it and use it well, while pursuing other attributes of God like grace, mercy, love, justice, and goodness for the good of all and glory of God.
There is no one, surefire step-by-step process to become or live as a smart, successful, strong woman. The path and results will vary. The ways you learn, the specific kind of strength needed for the circumstances of your life, the skills and knowledge needed for your job, the way you care for others, the passions you have, the needs you are drawn to, and the wisdom you use in your roles will not be the same as mine. But we can both be smart, successful, and strong women in God’s sight. One thing is certain: we should not seek to define a smart, successful, strong woman by solely human standards and ideas. They will falter, confuse, and ultimately fail. You may be realizing how many human ideas and standards you are using and your need for a changed heart and mind. Look to the unchanging Father and Creator of all. Find your worth, value, and purpose in Him and His ways. Considering the things I have sought to bring light to in this letter will hopefully allow you to do that and work to build you up in true intelligence, purpose, and strength. I am pursuing these things with you and praying for us all.
With you and for you,
Heidi Jo Fulk