Recently a British Cabinet Minister, Jo Swinson, took some heat from the press on account of her comments that parents should no longer tell their daughters they are beautiful. The argument being that commending them on something that should not matter reinforces an unhealthy overemphasis on a person’s looks as opposed to their character, personality and intellect.
While at first glance it is easy to see why some people might take offense, there is a certain amount of wisdom here. We don’t, for example, commend our children for having a great blood type, having detached earlobes, being double-jointed or any other genetic or predetermined characteristic. Yet we focus on other equally unalterable (without surgery) characteristics of beauty.
If we are to curb the trends of self-harm, eating disorders and depression related to body image, perhaps this is in fact something that ought to be given our attention. We cannot suddenly tell an adult or teenager that they shouldn’t concern themselves over their looks, when in the formative years of their lives they were consistently commended for them.
While so many in the world might judge us for how we look there is great comfort in knowing that God almighty doesn’t concern himself with your physical appearance, but instead sees your heart and soul. The beauty he sees goes far beyond facial symmetry and balanced physique.
God speaks of a person’s inner beauty and is said to see humanity not as we see each other or by our mere appearances, but for who we truly are on the inside. Aside from the encouragement in knowing that I am not judged by God for how I look, I also wonder if there isn’t some teaching here about how we ought to see each other.
Perhaps we should, as Jo Swinson suggests, start to make changes in the way we use language that overemphasizes things that not only shouldn’t matter, but in most cases can’t be changed. We might do well to instead tell our children and peers about the qualities of their spirit, their personality, their ideas, their dreams and passions, etc.
While there is much beauty in the natural world as we look upon it, the greatest beauty of a person is not their looks, and thus arguably beauty is not merely skin deep. True beauty, the beauty that God sees, goes far deeper to our very heart and soul.
Let’s try to see that in others as opposed to sticking to surface level observation and judgements.
Peter Lublink is completing his Masters in Theological Studies with a focus on the peace teachings of Jesus while living and working in The Middle East with his wife Alison. Prior to packing up their bags and moving, Alison and Peter lived and worked in the beautiful city of Victoria, BC, leading a church community with The Salvation Army. Follow him on twitter: twitter.com/peterlublink.
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