The other night I saw a report about the trend among high school girls to request breast implant surgery as a graduation gift. It got me thinking.
Though we would not choose to walk out of our graduation ceremony and into the plastic surgeon’s office, I don’t think there is a woman alive who hasn’t wished she could change at least one perceived physical flaw. I probably think about it more than I want to admit.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t think these girls—or any of us for that matter—want a different body for it’s own sake. Rather, because of the sin in our hearts, we long to find happiness in the applause (worship) of others. We think beauty is our ticket to bliss.
But it won’t take us anywhere. Beauty doesn’t satisfy. Proverbs says that it is “fleeting” (Prov. 31:30, NIV). Charles Bridges elaborated: “Beauty—what a fading vanity it is! One fit of sickness sweeps it away. Sorrow and care wither its charms. And even while it remains, it is little connected with happiness.” (Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Proverbs (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1846, repr. 1998), p. 627.)
This is why the well-meaning advice to simply “learn to love your body” doesn’t cut it. Even with supposed “Christian” packaging (“Jesus loves you just the way you are, so you should love yourself”)—it’s hollow. It’s an erroneous diagnosis. It doesn’t satiate our desperate, sinful thirst for attention. Even if it seems to for a moment, it won’t last. You might as well hand an exhausted marathon runner an empty water bottle.
But there is hope—for these high school girls and for every woman consumed by the quest for physical beauty. There is hope for me. For “[Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Because of the gospel, we can be free from this fruitless and rebellious search to find satisfaction in receiving admiration for our physical beauty. We can live for Christ instead. And thus our hearts can “be fixed, where true joys are to be found” (Book of Common Prayer, 1662).
So what difference should the gospel make in how we think about beauty today?
First, instead of complaining to the mirror about our imperfect body, let’s consider how we can live for Christ by trusting Him and serving others. True joy will inevitably follow.
And secondly, if we’re tempted to envy (or self-righteously judge) the beautiful, immodestly dressed co-worker, classmate, or fellow mom, for the attention they receive, let’s pray for them instead—that they too would find true joy in Christ.
(This short post only begins to address a biblical perspective on beauty. We’ll no doubt return to this topic. But if you want to read more about it, Mom has taken a closer look in our book, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood.)