The Standard of Beauty We Should Follow
Let’s say you’re buying your groceries for the week. You go through your list, find your necessities, and head over to the checkout line to make your purchases. It’s then that you glance to your right or left and find a magazine rack, just below the gum you briefly consider buying. On the front cover of one of the magazines is a celebrity, dressed to the nines in the latest and greatest in fashion. You very briefly think to yourself, “Wow, I kind of wish I looked like her.”
Many of us think these thoughts in passing so often that we don’t realize how much they affect us. If we dwell on them long enough, they can slowly weigh us down, when we should be focusing on serving God to the best of our ability. The human appearance is a powerful thing; our first impressions of people often come from it. While we should honor the temples that God blessed us with – our bodies – we shouldn’t be so consumed by them that they hinder us from focusing on His love for us.
So, as Christians, whose standard of beauty should we follow? Before I answer that question, I want to talk about some aspects of beauty that affect us as we walk the path Christ has set before us.
1. The “tricks of the trade” of physical beauty only truly touch the surface.
I’m definitely not the first (or the last) to admit that I enjoy watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. It’s nice to find instructions on how to use a product from a real person instead of a brand’s marketing manager, who is likely more interested in selling a product to me than if I actually like it. However, there’s a caveat to the accessibility of these tutorials: they can still make you want to buy more makeup to get the exact makeup “look” that the YouTube “beauty guru” creates, and achieve the same kind of beauty they created with cosmetics. There are also tutorials that span beyond makeup; examples include “how to dress skinny”, and – one I saw just recently – “how to look expensive.”
Those two headlines alone are so superficial-sounding that it’s almost baffling, and I worry for younger girls if they see those titles. It’s very easy to be consumed by the novelty of beauty advice, whether it comes from videos, blogs, or elsewhere, but we as Christian women need to remember that we are not the sum of our appearance, nor are we the sum of the amount of cosmetics we have. As the Lord gently reminded Samuel as he considered anointing one of David’s older brothers to be king of Israel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV).
2. The appearances of celebrities are not hard and fast standards of beauty we should adhere to.
Not only is the content not steadfast, but neither are the physical appearances of the celebrities and models themselves. A typical celebrity has a team of people dedicated to making sure they look their absolute best, from personal trainers to makeup artists. Then, comes the Photoshop. This program – which can be helpful in some instances, and notorious in others – is capable of so many things when it comes to appearance, from eliminating blemishes to aging a person backwards a few years. The thing to remember is that the digital enhancements are artificial, and in no way, shape, or form reflect the person underneath.
Does that mean we should avoid following fashion trends altogether? When Paul writes “that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” in 1 Timothy 2:9, he does not mean that they should refrain from adorning themselves at all. Rather, he meant that those things should not impede their worship. He emphasizes this in the next verse, saying that such behavior “is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:10 NKJV). No matter what, we need to make a point to show Christ to others through our actions. Plus, at the end of the day, we’re all human; we just need to decide to act so that we let our light shine for Christ.
3. The easiest way to feel great about yourself inside and out is to think outward instead of inward.
I’m actually not talking about outward appearance, here. I’m talking about serving outward. There’s something about giving up your time to help others that not only helps the other person, but helps you, too. Making another person feel better about themselves or meeting a need they may have – whether that’s paying a simple compliment or helping them with a task they otherwise couldn’t complete by themselves – are just a couple of ways we can serve His kingdom. God already loves us beyond what we can imagine, and he makes that abundantly clear in His Word. If we value others the same way Christ values us, we can show them that they are indeed beautiful on the inside.
In fact, any sort of accentuation of personal appearance should really pale in comparison to the love reciprocated in a relationship with Christ. In Luke 7:36-50, a woman who had sinned tearfully anointed Jesus’ feet with her alabaster flask of fragrant oil. She was seeking forgiveness by offering up the best she had, and even with Simon’s skepticism in His midst, Jesus forgave the woman’s sin and told her to “go in peace” (Luke 7:50 NKJV). We can find that same peace if we place God first and offer up the best we have when we serve Him, especially when we fall short.
In conclusion, I believe that the standard of beauty we should follow – the standard that lasts and transcends beyond culture and societal expectations – is God’s standard. Think about this: He created us, and He also designed the universe. He designed the ground we walk on, the landscape on which we live, and every sparkling star in the night sky. God didn’t say “it’s alright, but an Instagram filter would make this amazing” when He created the world. He saw that “it was good” (Genesis 1:4 NKJV). God lovingly created us, and His love is greater than any societal recognition for our outward appearance.
By Savannah Cottrell