As a teenager, I craved attention–especially from guys–and tried to wear short skirts and tight shirts that attracted their eyes my direction (without being too revealing–I was a PK after all). Even though I wasn’t allowed to date, I still wanted to be wanted–craved to know I was appealing to the opposite sex. I carried that attitude forward into college, and didn’t realize until I was later (after a couple not good guys) dating a good guy (who eventually became my Mr.) that when women try so hard to be physically alluring, especially when they let half of their bodies lay exposed, that men aren’t valuing them the same way they would a woman fully clothed. Statistics and research proves that when men see women in bikinis, the part of their brain that lights up on the scan is the part used for tools and parts, not the relational part that says, “Engage with the person. See beyond the facade.” My husband continues to teach our boys the importance of giving women respect and privacy, even if they won’t give it to themselves, by turning their gaze away from half-naked girls on the beach. Sadly, many women just don’t get it; and what baffles me even more, is the men they are married to permitting their wives and girlfriends to traipse around, tempting other men. I don’t want to be viewed as a sex object.
Few would argue that we live in an oversexed culture that sells nearly everything through attractive bodies and tantalizing appeal. But some would contend that even the appetite for all things beautiful has become an idol as well.
We’ve so overvalued the ideal body that we’ve ceased to look at the person as a whole being anymore. And by so doing, have devalued who that person truly is (and could be).
“[The] satirical proverb begins with the picture of a beautiful gold ring. It’s so lovely you want to take hold of it. But if you don’t notice that it is connected to a pig covered in mud and slop, suddenly you will have a mess in your lap. You reached for something beautiful and got a pile of filth” (Timothy Keller, God’s Wisdom For Navigating Life).
Throughout our culture, we see people reach for the gold ring and pull back a handful of slimy mud, then defending the existence of the mud and then claiming its status as liberation, appreciation, and even charming–when it’s just stinky mud.
Also, our overvalued obsession with beauty damages relationships, develops cliques, lowers and distorts self-esteem, and diminishes the potential of future meaningful marriages. Women might also be tempted to put more time and energy into their outward appearance than their inner shape because after all, “That’s all men care about.” This outer beauty may allure a man, but it won’t keep him if he’s worth having. His character should be drawn to hers and visa versa. What we win them with we win them too, and what first “wins” won’t last, because it all fades eventually. “Addiction to beauty fuels the pornography industry, which confirms men in their delusion that only young and beautiful women are sexually alluring. The idolatry of beauty is ruining us individually and as a society” (Timothy Keller).
Now, I am not telling women, “Let yourself go. It doesn’t matter if you are healthy, if your hair is washed, or if you brushed your teeth and swiped some mascara on. He should only care about your heart.” Let’s not neglect outward beauty altogether. God did create it. He orchestrated immaculate design in his creation and made us to appreciate what’s lovely. But just like beauty should not be placed on a pedestal, so should beauty not be thrown in the ditch. May we utilize what God gave us and honor Him with our bodies, but first and foremost, may our beauty resonate out through an attitude of submission and love and truth to who God is and who He created us to be.
Whatever outward beauty God graced me with will fade; if I linger on this earth, my skin will wrinkle, my body will sag, and my hair will go grey. I will continue to wear make-up and exercise and style my hair, but I understand that my value doesn’t come from how alluring I might stay or how skinny my waistline is or how tight my shirt fits. Even though my husband affirms me, I don’t need to be assured or stamped as acceptable by men anymore because I have the deepest affirmation a person can receive: the love and adoration of my Creator and Father. His vision goes beyond and sees the whole of me and declares me His child, accepted and delightful. If women could only grasp what an incredible honor they are offered would they reach for these cheap second-rate awards?