Once upon a time a girl stood in front of a mirror. Her golden hair fell in waves down her back and her blue eyes sparkled in the afternoon light. She leaned close to the mirror, carefully examining her skin for imperfections and searching her make-up for hidden flaws. Finding none, she preened in front of the mirror, her beauty outshone only by her vanity. “I’m so glad I am a beauty!” she exclaimed with a smile.
Once up a time a girl stood in front of a mirror. Her dark her fell over her eyes as she scowled at her reflection. Examining her body from head to toe, she made note of each imperfection, even finding some that no one else could see. Glaring into the mirror she yelled, “Ugly, ugly, ugly! I’m a beast!”
Definitions of Beauty
It’s an indisputable fact that some people are considered beautiful, while others are not. But 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago, those who are currently labeled as unattractive were admired and memorialized on canvas and in marble for their great beauty.
In ancient China, the 4-inch foot was a sign of beauty, so girls had their feet bound. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Persians added heavy metal to their eyes to make them sparkle. Women in the Elizabethan Era plucked or shaved their frontal hairs to have a high forehead. Then in Victorian times it was a slender waist – made possible by corsets. Royal Hawaiian women ate excessive amounts of food, because obesity was a sign of fertility and power. Today, American women want to be tanner and get breast augmentations, while Chinese women want to be whiter and have double-eyelids.
Why? Because it is the current standard of beauty.
Clearly, standards of beauty change with culture and economy. The social concept of beauty is an always-changing, completely unattainable vortex of self-focused materialism. The need for beauty comes from God, the current perception of beauty comes from culture, but the lust for physical perfection is sin.
Analysis of Beauty
According to the Social Issues Research Center, we are constantly bombarded with ‘beautiful people’ through the TV, Internet, billboards, and magazines – so much so that we spend more hours a day staring at ‘beautiful people’ than we do our own families. The result is that exceptional good looks seem real, normal and attainable. Standards of beauty have in fact become harder and harder to attain, particularly for women. The current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population.
How unrealistic and unhealthy is that?!
Scripture, in contrast, gives us healthy and helpful advice about beauty.
- Beauty is part of our God-given design – God made man and called it “very good” (Gen. 1:26-31).
- When sin came into the world it corrupted our view of self and beauty (Gen. 3: 7-8).
- It is a gift to be enjoyed between husband and wife (Gen. 2:20-25, Gen. 24:16, Song of Solomon).
- We are to enjoy the beauty God created, but not worship beauty as an idol and dedicate our lives to it (Ex. 20:3-6).
- Physical attractiveness should not be the source of our beauty, rather a complement to our inner character (1 Peter 3:3-4).
- We are not to trust in our beauty (Ez. 16:13-16), but we are also not to deny the beauty God designed in us (Ps. 139:14).
Understanding of Beauty
Beauty is not inherently good or evil. It is subject to the heart motives of the person who has it – which is why beauty is so often used for selfish gain, because the heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) A right understanding of physical attractiveness requires a heart being sanctified by God.
Beauty & Idolatry
Whether we worship what we see in the mirror or what we wish we saw in the mirror – both are idolatry. To look in the mirror and see nothing good is to be ungrateful to our Creator. To look in the mirror and see an idol that we fawn over, that controls our lives to maintain, is to worship the created and not the Creator (Rom. 1:25).
Our hearts were created for worship. We were created to worship a beautiful, holy, powerful God. But when sin entered the world, our hearts found a new object of worship – ourselves. Our view of beauty has not been the same since then. But thanks to Jesus, through His saving grace, we are now redeemed, our hearts are being sanctified and our understanding of beauty can be transformed.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:13-14)
Beauty & Pride
Pride and beauty are dangerous friends, leading to all sorts of sins. Adoring how we look is vanity – pride. But so is hating how we look, which is rooted in false humility – also pride. To compare our appearance to others and feel inadequate is focusing on self and is rooted in pride. To compare others to ourselves and find them wanting so that we feel better is being slave to our insecurities because we do not have a godly view of self.
Focusing on anything other than God –especially physical beauty – will lead to distortions in our understanding of beauty, self and our Lord.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
You are neither beauty nor a beast. You are not a beauty – defined by your physical appearance. You are not a beast – held captive by the world’s definition of beauty. You are created in the image of God, beautiful in your uniqueness, with the lofty purpose of glorifying God to the world. And through Christ, your understanding of beauty can be transformed!
You are neither beauty nor a beast. You are redeemed. You are saved. You are loved.