Having tried unsuccessfully to squash the excessive drinking of sweet sodas, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a new campaign last fall before leaving office. His goal was to promote self-esteem in young girls through billboards, ads, and after-school programs. The message: “You are beautiful just the way you are.”
A few months ago, the Dove skincare company celebrated the tenth anniversary of their “Real Beauty” campaign with a short movie in which mothers and daughters take selfies for display at an art show in order to “change the way people think about beauty.”
As the self-esteem crisis among young women intensifies, so do the efforts to find a cure. And while there are good reasons for a healthy skepticism of advertising campaigns or legitimate questions about the merits of publicly funded programs, we all agree: there is problem.
I can trot out facts and figures, but I don’t need to, do I? We all know young girls who are struggling as they grow up in a world with an impossible standard of beauty. And what makes us even more desperate is that we still haven’t dealt with our own beauty struggles. As one mother wrote to us: “When I try to talk with [my daughter] about true beauty, I stumble over my words because I have a hard time with the subject myself.”
The Nature of the Crisis
At one level, Christians resonate with the messages of well meaning campaigns from Dove, Bloomberg, and others, for we believe in the dignity and the beauty of every human being as created in the image of God. We abhor the shame, discrimination, and poor self-image that are a consequence of our culture’s obsession with beauty.
But we have to ask, why do these campaigns fail to change the status quo? As Dove celebrates its tenth anniversary, is the situation for women really much better? Has the objectification of women been eradicated in NYC? More to the point: can a billboard or a commercial, however well intentioned, really solve our struggles with beauty?
More significantly, why aren’t Christians better off? Why are our struggles with beauty as deep and intractable as the next woman’s? Why doesn’t the church seem to have a clear and compelling answer for the world’s beauty crisis?
For far too long, the church has been content with partial truths and platitudes about beauty. We’ve tried to tack “Christ” on the end of worldly solutions and called them “Christian.” Or we think we have tried Scripture’s answers and found them wanting. As one woman wrote to us, “Please don’t base your book on 1 Peter 3:4” about a gentle and quiet spirit. “This verse, misapplied in my life, left me very confused, hurt, and hidden for almost fifteen years.”
The Only Solution
But Scripture has spoken the truth about beauty all along. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message that gets to the heart of our problems with beauty and addresses all our body image issues, big and small.
As we write in our book, True Beauty:
Only God’s Word can promise a beauty as supernatural as it is satisfying, as attainable as it is lasting; a beauty that blesses and does not curse; a beauty that is precious, not worthless, that leads to happiness instead of heartache; a beauty that grows more becoming even as you become more beautify. Scripture is true and tells the truth. It alone reveals true beauty.
Selfies and mayoral ad campaigns won’t be able to throw off a tyrannical standard of beauty, but God’s Word shows us the path to freedom and joy. The truth of the gospel is the only answer to our beauty crisis.
Please join us in praying today for Hobby Lobby and their case before the Supreme Court. From Russell Moore:
This week, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the most important religious liberty case in a generation, and it’s time for us to pray. The cases are Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood specialties versus the United States government’s mandate that employers provide insurance for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Behind that is the larger question of what it means for the Constitution to guarantee the free exercise of religion.
And behind that is the even larger question of soul freedom for all…
So let’s pray that the Court listens to the case being made. Let’s pray for the justices. Let’s pray for the attorneys. Let’s pray, as the Apostle Paul commands us, for “all who are in high positions, that we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2).
“Scripture speaks truth about beauty for every one of us, whether we have failed to stick with our new diet or been conned into buying another worthless anti-aging cream; whether we feel guilty for our weekend shopping spree, or embarrassed by a bad hair day; whether we are vain and self-absorbed, or fed up with our insecurities. In all our struggles with beauty, whether nagging or consuming, God has provided the wisdom that we need in his eternal Word. Scripture shows us what beauty is and how to become truly beautiful. Above all, Scripture reveals our beautiful Savior, who had ‘no beauty that we should desire him’ (Isa. 53:2) but who hung bloodied on a cross for the ugliest of our sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ really does redeem everything, including beauty. It really does reach into the heart of ‘if only I could get this taken care of’ and takes care of it. Our beauty crisis is no match for the truth of God’s Word.”
The girltalkers are welcoming a new baby this week! No, you haven’t missed any pregnancy news. But this delivery was preceded by many months of aches and pains, and quite an arduous and lengthy labor. Today, I am super excited to announce her arrival. Her name is True Beauty and she is 128 pages long.
We hope and pray this book will help many women to see through our culture’s lies about beauty and to find freedom, joy, and true beauty in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome to the newly redesigned girltalk! Same girls, same talk, but now with a cleaner, fresher look that we hope makes it easier for you to read and explore our content.
We’re especially excited because now you can take girltalk on the go. Our new site is mobile responsive, which makes it easy to read and navigate on your phone. Now you can keep up with the latest posts and pictures, or search for advice, encouragement, or a recipe, no matter where you are.
Our deepest gratitude goes to Noah Welch who volunteered to give the site a much-needed makeover and did a beautiful job making it more accessible and aesthetically pleasing for our readers. Thanks also to our logo designer Casey Cooke and to Pierce Martin for all your behind-the-scenes expertise. We are in your debt, guys.
2014 at 8:13 am | by Nicole Whitacre
My neighbor and I stood in our cul-de-sac, watching our kids ride bikes and try to fly kites without a breeze. “My son is having a hard time making friends at his new school,” she told me. “When I went to pick him up the other day he was standing all by himself. It was so hard to see him be left out.” Her mother’s heart was breaking for her child.
Few things hurt like watching your child get rejected. I’ve been surprised at the strong emotions that well up inside me at those times. I hurt when my kids hurt and often I hurt even more than they do.
With all those strong, mama-bear emotions we can lose sight of a biblical perspective. We forget to view the situation through the lens of God’s Word. But if we are going to help our child navigate these moments, we must think about them biblically, and we must help them to think that way too.
When your child gets left out, it is an opportunity for God’s grace to come in.
This relatively small trial brings with it big gospel opportunities for parenting our children. In fact, you could argue that there are more blessings than pain to be had, when we view being left out in light of biblical truth.
(Disclaimer: Although some of what I say may apply, this post is not about bullying or deliberate unkindness which requires appropriate parental action and protection for our children.)
1.An opportunity to develop character.
Often, being slighted or rejected is one of the first trials that our children experience, and as much as we hate to watch them hurt we need to maintain a biblical perspective. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character,” it says in Romans 5:3-4. Suffering, even in small ways, helps to strip away the sin that “clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1), and it forges godly character you can’t get any other way. So while we will feel sad that our children must know pain, we can also rejoice in the good that pain will produce. Before he joined our family, my son, Jude, experienced the harsh realities of poverty as a very small boy. I often wish I could reach back and rescue him from those difficult experiences. But I also see how those early trials made him into the remarkably mature young man he is today. I’m not happy he had to go through those difficulties, but I delight in the thoughtful, strong, wise, and responsible boy that suffering has produced. In age-appropriate ways, we as parents can begin to help our children see some of the purposes of God in suffering: to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God. And hope in God does not (like people so often do) disappoint (Rom. 5:3-5).
2.An opportunity to become others-focused.
It may be the first time your child has been left out, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. We all, at one time or another, know what it is like to be rejected, uninvited, or lonely. These are unpleasant experiences in an unkind world. But they are also blessings in disguise. As parents we can turn these experiences into valuable teaching opportunities to help our children peel their eyes off themselves and live to serve God and others. Let’s help our children use the experience of being left out to look out for others instead. Feeling rejected can, with help from Dad and Mom, make them more sensitive to others who are lonely. They can learn how to reach out to the loner and show compassion to the outcast. The question is not, “will I be included today?” but “who can I include for God’s glory today?” Being left out is an opportunity to experience the blessings of serving others (Is. 58:10, Pr. 11:25).
3.An opportunity to escape the fool.
Every Christian parent wants his or her child to grow up to be a godly young man or woman. But sometimes we secretly (or not so secretly) want them to be popular too. If we learn anything from Scripture and experience, however, it is that popularity and godliness don’t often mix too well. Few adults can handle the headiness of popularity and fame, much less so children. It is a test of prosperity few can pass with flying colors. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to raise popular children or commended for wanting to do so. Instead, we are told to raise wise children who stay far away from the fool (Prov. 14:7). If the companion of fools comes to harm, then being rejected or left out by said fools spares your child (and you) all kinds of grief and consequences (Prov. 13:20). If our children are left out, we have to ask ourselves: do we really want them to fit in with that group in the first place? Far better that our children have no friends at all than have foolish friends. In other words, rebellion is worse than rejection. Of course we aren’t trying to raise loners. Godly friendship is a gift and we want to cultivate and encourage wise and helpful friendships for our children. But it is our job as parents to guide them toward friends who will point them to Christ. Any distance we can put between our children and the fool is a blessing from God.
4.An opportunity to draw closer to God and family.
So often, God uses loss in our lives to draw us to himself. The same is true for our children. When our children are well liked and comfortable and have all their hearts’ desire, they don’t often have a hunger for God’s Word or his presence. It is when those things are taken away that they often (by the Spirit of God) are drawn to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ps. 119:67). As parents, we must point the way. We must tell our children that God is using this trial to call them to himself and encourage them to seek his face. Also, seize the opportunity to strengthen family relationships. I’m so grateful for the way my parents insisted that my siblings and I always look out for each other. “Friends will come and go” they said, “but you will always have your family.” You may not have that relationship with your own parents or siblings but you have an opportunity, by the grace of God, to create a family where that is the case. Fill the empty social calendar with more family time. Eat meals together and make memories and have fun together. Teach your children to rally around and support each other. This doesn’t make all the pain go away, but it does make your home a haven from the pain.
5.An opportunity to learn courage.
More and more each day we realize that we are parenting our children through great cultural changes. The world they are growing up in is far different than it was ten or twenty years ago, and we must prepare our children to engage a hostile world with the gospel in a way that is loving and winsome but also bold and wise. Our goal is to raise, as John Ensor once put it, “non-conformists”: children who do not conform to this world but who are transformed by the renewal of their minds (Rom. 12:2). Being left out teaches our children how to stand alone. It teaches them what it means to live without the affirmation of others but solely on the truth of God’s Word. We have a tremendous gospel opportunity when our kids get left out. In fact, we should want them to get left out if the ticket to “fit in” is disobedience to God’s Word.
To seize these gospel opportunities we must be sympathetic and understanding toward our children. We must enter into our children’s pain before we can lead them to see the gracious opportunities it provides. “Those kids may have meant evil against you,” we can tell them, “but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).