Friday, May 10, 2013

Easier Said Than Done, Part 1

Lately I have had many conversations with women about beauty. Earlier this week a group of women met in our local coffee shop (a gorgeous place by the way: The Cairn). Six women. Eighteen and nineteen year olds and forty- somethings. The conversation meandered and found its way to a topic for the day: are we beautiful? Am I beautiful?

I’m not sure how the conversation meandered to this subject. I just know that every woman at that table had struggled with this question.

“Every woman wants to be beautiful,” said one of the forty-somethings. “All of us, deep down, want to be beautiful. All little girls need to have their daddies telling them they are beautiful.”

She is right. And the enemy knows this. He preys and feeds with great frenzy on the tender flesh of this fact. The enemy has distorted, warped and bent the definition of beauty until it is unattainable.

We have bought into the lie.

The lie that beauty is equivalent to model perfection.

Often we have traded beauty for slick, cool sensuality—not even feminine allure, but an empty sexual magnetism that is for exhibition and exploitation.

And we find ourselves and our daughters struggling and grappling with devastating disappointment.

Beauty is examined, discussed and touted in magazines, talk shows and in the media as if it were a commodity to be bought or attained at all cost. But it seems that the media and the fashion industry hold the only acceptable definition of beauty. And they keep it ever beyond our reach.

Little girls want to be sexy before they even understand sexuality. Young girls and women are starving themselves to whittle their bodies to look like the glossy magazine photos of women who without the aid of photo shop would never appear as they do. Women are looking into the mirror and hating, even loathing, what they see because the image reflected does not look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

Women often cry fat and ugly because they are constantly comparing and being compared to a standard that is arbitrary and unrealistic. Men do not escape. Men are bombarded by these images and they look and find that very few women in their lives meet this stringent definition of sexual allure and beauty. This creates a huge gap between expectations and reality.

As I listened to the conversation earlier this week my heart broke. It just split right apart.

I’m very sorry to say I believe with conviction that the church has bought into this lie too. Perhaps not as blatantly. Maybe not as openly. But allow Beth Moore to gain a size or two on her small frame and see what happens. Let Priscilla Shirer cut her ebony locks into a short bob and hear the talk. Doubt me? Ask Mandisa about the sting of the image censor on American Idol several seasons ago.

A new friend and I were discussing this same subject. We talked about how this image mentality affects us regardless of age. She is a nurse. She shared something so sad that it actually made me ache. During her rotations as nurse and caregiver to the terminally ill she encountered this negative image consciousness: women in their eighties would want their gowns pulled and fixed in a way not to show the fat of their bodies.

The image of a worn, wrinkled and dying woman pulling at a hospital gown so that a nurse couldn’t see her fat just tears at my heart. What have we done?

The enemy wants us to believe our value comes from our appearance: the right body size, the right body shape, and the right clothes. Not only do we need all of this, but we also need straight teeth and perfectly arched eyebrows and luscious locks. If one or any of these are absent then we are lacking. Even if we have ALL the others, the one lack will be our focus.

This isn’t news to us, is it? We have heard this before. We know this is not the truth, but when you hear a lie so often and coming from so many places you begin to dance along the edges of it. Eventually you find yourself entertaining the lie on your porch.


Is it really that elusive? Is it reserved for only a few? Is it only physical? Is it a quality that only the elite can afford or obtain—whoever the elite might be?

Can real beauty be achieved by manufactured means?

For our sakes and the sakes of our daughters, and for our sons and husbands, we need to redefine beauty.

We need to decide—not Vogue, not Seventeen, not Oprah, not Victoria’s Secret and not Abercrombie & Fitch. No vague faceless they needs to decide.

Someone at that table this week said, “Easier said than done.”

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