Thursday, October 19, 2006

Looking for Worth In All The Wrong Places

I've had the priviledge of providing input for a conference being planned by the men at my church for women. Kind of a "we care about you" event focusing on a variety of health-related issues affecting women. One of the topics we've discussed is "eating disorders" and the umbrella issue of "body image" as it relates to girls and women of all ages. Eating disorders are epidemic on college campuses today. And the ugly seed of thought that sparks this viscious disorder begins long before a young woman hits campus. I know of 10-year-olds who are starving to be thin.

Todd heard someone on Christian radio a while back talking about the differences between boys and girls as it relates to what motivates them. The man being interviewed said this:

"Girls want to be pretty. Boys want to feel they have what it takes."

Beginning at a very early age, girls in our society covet beauty above all other attributes. And boys are competitively comparing themselves to others.

It doesn't take much imagination to look down the road and see the problem. A society of women who are riveted on their appearance (and never satisfied). A society of men who are driven to compete (and never satisfied).

The Bible warns us about vanity and tells us beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). And we are not to compare ourselves to one another (Galatians 6:4). So as we and our children go about life, we are surrounded by cultural influences that fly in the face of how Scripture tells us to live (without vanity and competitiveness).

What does a beautiful woman do when she is no longer beautiful? How does a woman who is not beautiful feel about her worth? And how does this affect the choices she makes in terms of dating, marriage, career, friendships, etc.? How does a man who is overly competitive handle failure? How does a man who is not competitive find his worth? What are the earthly crutches and defaults people sink into when they can't be what the world screams they need to be?

There's a cold and sad reality around the world's response to these types of questions. Addictions. Crime. Suicide. Divorce. Prejudice. Hatred. I could fill up a page.

As Christians, we should know better. We have a Bible that tells us what we should be focusing on (Christ) and how to live our lives (morally pure). In this equation, there's not room for vanity and competitiveness.

Yet, we all go there.

What's the solution? Can we turn things around before we lose another generation of children to hollow lives of discontent and pain?

Coming Monday: Sarah Bragg, author of Body. Beauty. Boys., responds to this post.

(Sports photo by maddog. Woman and cosmetics by demetri just thinking out loud. See for restrictions on use.)


Della said...

I agree that most women want to be beautiful and most men want to have what it takes. So, why is this wrong? Why has beauty become associated with negativity? God created beauty.

We see and enjoy beauty in every sunset, in the wildflowers along the roadside, in the majesty of the mountains, in the peaceful calm of a quiet stream. Beauty is a part of God's essence.

Our problem, as a culture and as believers within that culture, is that we have allowed the creature, rather than the Creator, to define beauty. The enemy has perverted beauty and we have been deceived by his lies. And is it any wonder, since we are so frequently tuned in to his messages? "This is beauty. Here's what it looks like," he says. And we listen. We watch, we subscribe, we buy. And suddenly we realize we have allowed no time for the Author of beauty to refresh our souls by writing truth on the pages of our minds and hearts. As a result, we have become idolators; lovers and worshippers of self - always pursuing that American dream and coming up empty.

God has provided a solution. The question becomes, "Do we believe Him?" If we do, we will teach our children. We will teach our daughters that authentic beauty is found in the radiance of the Spirit of God living in us. Let's begin to show our girls that beauty is manifested in the compassionate heart of a servant. Let's remind them that beauty shows up and listens, comforts, and welcomes. Beauty radiates from every person who is a reflection of Jesus Christ.

This is beauty that never fades; real beauty upon which desperate people long to gaze. To place our focus on physical appearance is to have a temporal perspective.

How do we develop an eternal perspective? By faith; we must believe God. We must be willing to take that road less traveled? It is narrow and often difficult, but it is the real path of beauty ... the one that draws others to us and inevitably, to our God who is the creator of all that is beautiful. Only then will we grasp the words of the skin horse who said, "Once you are real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." (The Velveteen Rabbit)

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Della... this take my breath away. I'd like to move this from "comment" to a "post" so more people will find it. Will e-mail you. Wow... thanks.


p.s. Endnotes software is the enemy...

Guy said...


You have a gift for taking truth and whacking us on the head. Well done.

Boy do I have a great topic for family bible study this week with my two girls!


della said...

Thank you, Guy.

Family Bible study ... how wonderful! Every girl longs for the security of a father who will teach her the Bible. I believe that where there are husbands and fathers who are faithful godly leaders, there will be women who illuminate the beauty of God.