Have you heard about the latest Miley Cyrus scandal? If you haven't, don't Google it. Long story short, she hosted the video music awards this year, wearing one scantily clad outfit after another. This is the latest in a series of such exhibitionist performances by Miley.
But people of my generation and younger probably remember Miley from her earlier days - as the sweet, innocent young star of the TV show Hannah Montana.
What went wrong? We can only wonder. But, as a mother of two daughters myself, my heart goes out to Miley. So, if she were my daughter, this is what I would tell her.
I saw your performance the other night at the VMA. I saw the outfits you wore, and I saw how much you wanted everyone to notice you, to like you.
So, that is the first thing I want to remind you, Miley - you are loved. You are really and truly loved. You are loved by your family, by your friends, and you are loved even when we don't agree with your actions. You will always be loved.
I'd like to say that I don't understand why you're dressing or acting the way you are, but I do understand. In a less extreme way, all the women and girls of our generation, growing up in an over-sexualized culture, internalized the same message - you only matter if you have "sex appeal." Of course, to our feminine ears, what that promises is that if we are sexy then we will be loved. But, that's simply not true. The kind of attention you receive when you wear next to nothing, is not love. It is lust. It is people craving your body, but not longing for you.
I know that you claim that you want love, and you've made it clear that you think having sex with anyone and everyone will satisfy your desire for love - but Miley, that couldn't be farther from the true. Love does not always feel good. Love is more than a mere feeling. Love is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of another. Love is the willingness to be open to suffering and pain for the good of the beloved. How does love win? Love wins when it dies to self.
I know that, deep down, this is the love you're really seeking. It makes me sad that so many applaud your actions because I see in them as acts of desperation. You are desperate to be loved. And you are not alone.
What we crave as women is a connection. We want our whole selves to be desired. The physical pleasure of sexual union is a gift, but it is only a small part of the gift. It is the union, the fidelity, the total gift of self, and the openness to life that are the real gift. That is the gift that satisfies our real desire as sexual beings.
Sexuality, dear Miley, is about so much more than the sexual act and foreplay. It is about relationships. It is about our longing for one another, and ultimately, our longing for God. A healthy sexuality does not mean an openness to have sex whenever you want, with whomever you want. That is a very unhealthy sexuality, seeking only a tiny taste of something that is profoundly good.
A healthy sexuality is so much more. A healthy sexuality is the recognition that we are made for openness and sacrificial love. A healthy sexuality has deep, beautiful relationships as its end. When a man and a woman marry for life, a healthy sexuality does include actual sex. But even for spouses, that is only a small part of their sexuality. For a husband and wife, it is the perfect manifestation of their union and love. Outside of that union, it is lacking so much. The true pleasure of sex is not just the physical feelings - it is in experiencing utter vulnerability and knowing that you will be held safely in the arms of one who truly loves you. It is experiencing a love so real that, nine months later, you may just have to give it a name. It is the total gift of self.
I don't know that you're longing for marriage or motherhood. But even if you aren't ready for that next step in your life, it's obvious that you are longing for a healthy sexuality. You're longing to know that you matter, that people care about you, and that they desire your presence. You're longing to have a place where it is safe to be vulnerable. You're longing for the fidelity of a good relationship - be it with a family member, friend, or future husband. That is what a healthy sexuality is!
Miley, you don't need to do what you're doing to fill your longing. You don't need to settle for less than what you actually deserve.
Know that you are loved. And know that that is enough. You are enough.