I once met a woman who grew up with a father who failed to show her love and affection. Hungry for attention and very naïve, she went to a party one night in 9th grade, had too much to drink, and made some regrettable choices with a boy.

The next week, her phone began to ring off the hook. It wasn’t the boy reaching out – it was his friends. You see, word travels fast when a girl makes a mistake. One night is all it takes to get the wrong kind of label and start attracting the worst guys, the predators who only want to use girls and have no idea how to show respect.

As a writer for teen girls, I often hear school counselors talk about the regret they see in their office. I hear about the girls who come to them feeling broken and ashamed, convinced they’re damaged goods because that’s how people treat them or that’s how they see themselves.

In many cases, they think they don’t deserve what the “good girls” seem to get – like a guy who will respect them – because of choices they made in the past.

It breaks my heart to think that any girl would give up on herself like this or believe she has no power to turn her ship around. At the same time, I understand why. While God is incredibly forgiving, our world can be horribly unforgiving, especially when it comes to a girl’s reputation.

So how does one respond? How does a girl restore a reputation she isn’t very proud of? Here are a few things I’d tell someone trying to move forward.

1. You are a work-in-progress {just like everyone else}. Who you are now is not who you will be in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. Even on your worst day, even after a massive fail, God loves you. And when He looks at you, He sees beauty, hope, and potential.

2. Where you’re going matters more than where you’ve been. Who you’re becoming matters more than who you Rather than fixate on your mistakes, focus on your recovery. Commit to taking your life in a positive direction, and seek the company of people who believe you can do it.

3. Real change occurs in baby steps, so be patient and don’t expect overnight results. Just as a ship at sea must take a wide turn to change direction, it takes time and lots of small actions to change the course you’re on.

4. God’s office is at the end of your rope. The way we often come to Him is not by doing it right but ironically by getting it wrong. Nothing you do overwhelms God because His grace is so much bigger than any mistake you can make. And when you confess your mistakes and ask for forgiveness, He can use them for good. He can make you a new creation through Christ, transforming you from the inside out.

5. Shame and regret can paralyze you. They can trap you in the past and distract you from your purpose. The only way to permanently fail in life is to stop, so make it your goal to press on. Believe in yourself and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you, strengthen you, and fill you with confidence.

6. Some people may never forget your mistakes. Some people may never let you live down the choices you once made. But ultimately that doesn’t matter. What people say about you is opinion. What God says about you is fact. The way to know your worth is to focus on the facts by embracing {and believing} what He says in the Bible.

7. In the New Testament, the Greek word for sin means “to miss the mark.” While God certainly has high standards, He knows you’ll miss the mark again and again. The standard we’re all called to live up to is Jesus, and clearly everyone – even the “good girls”– miss that mark daily. Instead of being discouraged, gives thanks that God’s mercies are new each morning. Even if yesterday was a disaster, today is your second chance.

8. When your choices give you a bad reputation, you have three options. You can 1) accept the label, decide “This is who I am,” and start glorifying the lifestyle rather than deal with any pain or remorse, 2) hate yourself and stay stuck in that dark place, or 3) change. My hope is that you’ll choose option 3. I hope you’ll love yourself enough to know that your mistakes don’t define you or commit you to a path that’s less than you deserve.

Recovering from a bad name takes work. While it can take years to build a good reputation, it only takes 5 minutes to ruin it. But regardless of what played out in the past, the future can be a different story. Since our God is a God of redemption, He loves to renew and restore us in the ultimate name of Christ.

So to the teenager who messed up on Friday night and discovers she is headline news on Monday…to the college co-ed who doesn’t recognize herself or like who she’s become…to the woman who has spent a lifetime feeling worthless, lost or used…remember there is hope

The truth about you is found in your Maker, not in the rumor mill. You were made in God’s image and designed for His purpose, and no matter what anyone says or thinks, you are still His masterpiece.

So hold your head up high, face the consequences of any mistakes, and create a better future based on the lessons you’ve learned from the past. If you want to reinvent yourself, do it. Don’t let anyone stop you or convince you it’s too late. With God on your side and some initiative on your end, you can live out God’s best plan for you while also inspiring those who witness in you the transforming power of His love, grace, and forgiveness.

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Thank you for reading this article today.  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below.COVER

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Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a resource for the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group/church studies. 

If you’d like to hear me speak, I have two mother/daughter events in April and would love to see you! On Sunday, April 23 at 5 p.m., I’ll be at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa. This event is open to the public, so bring your daughter or a group of girls to be encouraged in the teen years.

On Wednesday, April 26, I’ll be at Washington Golf & Country Club in Arlington, VA for a 7 p.m. event. Tickets may be purchased HERE, and again I invite you to bring your daughter or a group of girls for a night of sisterhood and faith!

Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!