Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Molly Bawn, 1878 "The Duchess," Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
Definition: Beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another.
While this is absolutely true, it is also a sad witness to the misplaced emphasis on social acceptance and the seeming necessity for compliance. Madison Avenue is the home to multi-billion-dollar companies whose only goal (besides making money) is to dictate and then satisfy the cultural definition of beauty. According to their insanely successful methodology, for one to have the right clothes, hairstyle, make-up, and body type is by far the most important consideration of life. The truth is (and the majority of people agree), that to get where you want to go you have to look the part.
Perhaps there is some merit to this view, in that it serves as an inner motivator. Let’s face it, in our world appearance is important and to most people, looking good feels good. This is not a bad thing; it can even be a good thing, but there is a darker, desperate side. For years, mental health assessments have noted the obsessive behaviors associated with social and cultural pressures. Anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known, but there is a score of emotional disorders related to “the need to conform” to social norms. At their core, these obsessive behaviors are built on a detachment from God and misunderstanding or ignorance of our relationship with God.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
Throughout Scripture, the love of God is presented as constant and pervasive. The standards of God are not our standards, and the requirements of God are not based on an economic model. God seeks us and wants us to know and seek Christ. God loves us and wants us to know and love ourselves. We can and should present ourselves in a fashion that makes us feel good; feeling good in this way is not contradictory to God. As we adorn ourselves, whether in diamonds or rhinestones, our feeling good should rest only on the foundation of God’s desire for us to find pleasure in ourselves.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7
God looks to our true selves and seeks to heal us there. Imagine going to the doctor for a stomachache and in response, he puts a band-aid on your stomach. A pretty little band-aid won’t help, and we wouldn’t tolerate that treatment. The beauty that God sees is the true beauty of who we are made to be; the rest is window dressing.
“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important. It promises a reward in both this life and the next.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Taking care of ourselves is important and a faithful response to our knowledge that God made us. We honor God by caring for ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. Our care for ourselves is an affirmation that we understand God’s initial plan and respect God’s companionship along the way.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
We are wonderfully made, and we should take care of the wonder that we are. Thinking about this draws us closer to God in the same way we are drawn close to others when they make sacrifices to help us. We thank them and are humble before them in our gratitude, how much more in our relationship with God!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, and the beholder is God—and in turn, us as well. We need to see ourselves as God sees us and love what God has made.
Peace in the Beholder,
Father Bill Burk†