I was sitting in my art class. Art Appreciation. A dumb class, but I had to take it because I needed the credit. I ended up with a D, and it didn’t count as a transferable credit anyway. But I did get things out of it that had nothing to do with a grade. One of the in-class exercises that we did was to describe beauty. So many people immediately piped in with, “Clear skin,” or, “Long hair.” Another girl said, “Being thin.” Even the men were saying things like, “Nice eyes,” or, “Tall,” or even “short.” I sat back, stunned. I had heard people say that our culture is superficial, but until I heard a sample of college students from this culture defining beauty, I’d really not had a very clear idea of what that meant.
We connect the word “beautiful” to so many superficial things. “You’re so skinny and beautiful,” or, “Your skin is so perfect and beautiful,” or, “Your hair always looks so beautiful when you curl it.” Or even, “You have such nice eyes.” It’s not wrong for people to be outwardly beautiful. God creates each of us individually, and he even creates the people who fit our cultural idea of beauty. He made models the way they are for His purposes. It was us who decided that that’s what “beauty” is. But I can’t help but wonder, even within many Christian communities, why we never hear someone say, “You’re so kind and beautiful,” or, “You’re so beautiful and patient.” Or even, “You’re such a beautiful listener.” Why do we not compliment people on their generosity? Their kindness? Their goodness? Their godly ways? The way that a wife serves her husband, rather than how lucky he was to find someone with her particular set of physical features? Or the way her husband protects and cares for her, rather that telling him how lucky he is to have such a good-looking wife? We’re only reinforcing what is forced on us daily through advertisements, the way worldly women dress, and the way worldly men treat women. We clearly value external beauty over internal beauty just based on what we attach the word “beautiful” to in a compliment.
When we tell our daughters that they’re “skinny and beautiful” we’re telling them that skinny is beautiful. When we tell our daughters that their skin is perfect and beautiful, we’re telling them that imperfect skin is ugly. And then we wonder why we have so many young people with eating disorders, various mental disorders (namely depression and anxiety), why girls are so obsessed with outer appearance, and why men only tend to go for girls who look a certain way. Once I even had a boyfriend (not a Christian man, mind you) tell me that his “ideal” woman would have a C-cup breast, weigh 140 pounds, and have short, dark hair. I had none of these, being rather above a C-cup, weighing much more than 140 (if I weighed 140, I’d have some serious issues), and I have blonde hair. I was crushed when he basically told me to my face that I was not what he was looking for in a girl, and when I realized that what he was looking for was almost entirely physical.
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. So why do we still choose to emphasize those things in our definition of beauty? However, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31). So why do we not tell our daughters that they’re beautiful because God gave them each feature that they have, regardless of whether it fits culture’s idea of beauty? Why are we not telling them that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control are all beautiful things, and that their sexuality (the thing that the world tries to exploit) is something intimately connected to their soul and being? We let the world tell them that if they’ve got it, flaunt it, when we should be stepping in and telling them (and ourselves), if you’ve got it, protect it.
Ladies, you’re beautiful because God made you just the way you are, and He loves you even with acne, frizzy hair, and a few extra pounds around your waist. You are not ugly. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of an almighty God who loves and cares for you. Think about that for a minute. God made you in His image. So what are we saying about Him when we call ourselves ugly? What are we saying about His handiwork? The same hands that created every star, the same God who knows all of those stars by name, also created you and knows you by name.
And men, treat your woman as if she is that beautiful treasure given to you by a loving Father. She is not something to be used or thrown away. She is to be protected as if she is the most precious jewel ever discovered. God gave her to you for a reason. And if you’re not married, protect what you’ve got for the person God is going to give you.