girltalk Blog

Apr 7

What Happens to Beauty as You Age

2014 at 11:23 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

“In today’s culture, youth equals beauty. This means that one day, we will all fall short of the standard. Sure, we can try to forestall the effects of aging and fake the appearance of youth with creams and tucks and lifts, but Paul’s description of aging is as blunt as it is inevitable: ‘Our outer self is wasting away’ (2 Cor. 4:16). Aging pries loose the fingers that have so tightly grasped onto the physical beauty of youth, one by one. The aging woman no longer relies on her looks for happiness or friendship. She can’t bank on her figure to get or keep a husband. She isn’t striving to gain beauty, and she has stopped worrying about keeping it. While she doesn’t look as outwardly attractive as she once did, it doesn’t matter like it once did.

God’s Word doesn’t deny or mask the effects of aging (as do so many of our beauty treatments). Instead, it declares that growing old in God is a gift, a blessing….

Scripture looks at aging from the perspective of the finish line and rejoices with each milestone of maturity: congratulations, you are getting closer! From this direction, even the outward, physical signs of aging are seen in a different light: ‘Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life’ (Prov. 16:31). God’s Word celebrates aging, an we should celebrate it too. For every day brings us closer to the day when Jesus Christ ‘will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3:21). Even though our physical beauty will inevitably fade, we have the hope of the resurrection where he will change our lowly body to be like his glorious one. We will don a beauty beyond anything that we can imagine.

Though many women become hard and bitter as they grow old, a woman who trusts God, who pursues a gentle and quiet spirit through the many trials and temptations in her life, grows more radiant and lovely, even as she wastes away. Her beauty is an imperishable beauty, after all. This is the powerful, living paradox of true beauty.“

~True Beauty, p. 91-92

Apr 3

What is Your Beauty Secret?

2014 at 1:56 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

A dear friend sent me this beautiful story:

My daughter was hosting a baby shower for her sister-in-law, and I showed up at her house at 9 a.m. to help out. Thinking I would mainly be entertaining the grandchildren, I had already showered and was dressed for the event, although I planned on at least being able to freshen up before the guests started arriving around 2 p.m. Five hours later, sweat threatening to make its ugly appearance onto my clothes, I closed the storage room door behind the vacuum as the first guests arrived. Slipping into the bathroom, I ran my fingers through my hair and dealt with the sweat the best I could with some toilet paper! No time to run home for make up, perfume, or the curling iron. Years ago, this would have upset me. Now, in my sixties, I left the bathroom with an “oh,well” attitude, looking forward to connecting with people I hadn’t seen in years and to celebrating the upcoming birth of twins to a couple who had been praying for children for years.

Many of the women there were former neighbors whom I used to see when our children were all on the neighborhood swim/dive team. One particular woman arrived with her grown daughter, and my mind immediately traveled back in time, as this woman was always the most put-together, beautiful woman ever at any event, whether it was a 7 a.m. swim meet, when the rest of us all looked as though we had just crawled out of bed (which we had), or a neighborhood Christmas party. She was stunning no matter when or where I ever saw her. I had always imagined her as the woman who could vacuum in high heels without missing a beat and never sweating, of course. Now in her early fifties, she was still that put-together woman with perfectly applied make up and fashionable clothes. She was and still is easy to talk with and very kind, not intimidating at all, despite her appearance.

At the point we found ourselves in the same group of gabbing women, she began talking directly to me, asking those questions one asks to get caught up on another’s life happenings, as it had been ten or more years since I had seen her. As others in the group turned to direct their conversations elsewhere, I noticed her staring at me. Wondering if, perhaps, I had a poppy seed stuck in my tooth, I began to experience some embarrassment, even though I had no idea what she was staring at. Suddenly, she started questioning me as to how it was possible for me to look younger and more beautiful than the last time she had seen me! Knowing I had tried to give myself some semblance of eyebrows early that morning and had applied a bit of mascara as my only make up that day, and having a flashback of wiping the sweat from my brow and elsewhere just a short time before, I literally laughed out loud. Thinking she was simply being kind, I replied with some compliment to her looking beautiful as always, and I tried to change the subject. But she was not to be denied! She continued to ask me what it was I was doing to achieve my “youthful beauty,” as she called it.

I was dumbfounded. She was serious. She wanted to know my anti-aging regimen. Was there a certain product I was using? Was it a combination of things? She wanted an answer. She wanted to know the “secret.” Mind you, I had just completed two months of grueling 14-16 hour work days and was going to physical therapy twice a week as therapy for an autoimmune disease causing significant pain in my body. The doctors told me to stop my daily exercise program for the time being, so I had gained back the ten pounds it had taken me the last three years to lose. For someone to actually ask me about beauty secrets had to be a joke. But there she was in my face, actually staring at my face, demanding an answer. No joke here. She was obviously afraid of growing old and was looking for a clue to the fountain of youth. No clue here!

I have no anti-aging regimen or physical beauty secrets, I assured her. Gravity is affecting my aging body just like everyone else. Drooping eyelids testify to it. Wrinkles abound. Age spots are evident. The last time I really looked closely in the mirror, I made the decision not to do it again! Recently wanting to join in the fun of taking “selfies,” I immediately trashed the one I took as the woman in the picture was old and scary looking! No, there is no “youthful beauty” here. What in the world was that woman talking about?

It was actually that very night that I received and read your new book, True Beauty. I obviously could not and did not allay the fears my old friend was experiencing. But I do realize now that I do have a secret, shared by other Christian women, unknown to the aging women of the world who do not know the one most beautiful, our Lord Jesus Christ. The beauty she was seeing was Christ in me, the hope of glory. Yes, my life has been fraught with times of serious trials through which I have learned to trust my Lord and Savior, everything from a child with cancer, cancer myself, infertility, miscarriages, losing my husband to cancer, being a single mom of teenagers, financial struggles, to name a few. I have not felt beautiful through any of it, but I have felt and been loved by the one most beautiful. He has never left my side nor forsaken me. No, he carries me even now as I face losing my job. But in reading your book, I am excited about a new opportunity I will have to grow in godliness as my time opens up. I want to throw myself into those deliberate acts of kindness. I want to devote myself to good works and grow more beautiful doing so. As you wrote in your book, I want to do all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the ways I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can, as long as I can…for the glory of God…and with all the wrinkles and age spots I acquire along the way!

Apr 1

What Women Wish Men Knew About Beauty

2014 at 9:20 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

Men, This Is For You

Recently I was talking with a group of people about our book, True Beauty, when a husband and father of daughters asked me: “How can I convince my wife that she is beautiful?”

“She stands in front of the mirror and points out her flaws” he explained, “and no matter what I say she still doesn’t seem to believe that I think she is beautiful. And then she gets a haircut! Talk about a lose-lose for me! No matter what I say it is the wrong thing. You need to help husbands know what to say when their wives get haircuts,” he laughingly concluded.

I laughed too. Men probably do need a few pointers on what to say when their wives get haircuts. But as a loving husband, his concern ran deeper than that. He wanted his wife to live in the good of God’s truth about beauty and of his husbandly love and admiration, but he didn’t know how to help her believe she was truly beautiful.

As we were writing, Mom and I often said to each other: “If only men got it! If only men understood a woman’s struggles with beauty. If only men had biblical convictions about beauty.”

Of course we want women to read our book, but we almost want men to read it more. We bandied about ideas for a new cover with sports motif or neon “Men, Read This!” stickers. In the end we settled for this blog post.

What Men Need to Know About Beauty

For one, we wish men understood the pressure women face to conform to a cultural ideal of beauty. Our worldly culture is obsessed by an illicit and elusive ideal of beauty and daily bombards us with images and messages telling us what that beauty should look like—or else. It promises happiness to the few who attain this impossible standard and shame and rejection to those who fall short of its ideal. The pressure on women to attain and maintain an impossible standard of beauty is, as one author put it, “more tyrannical than ever before.”

We also wish men understood just how susceptible they are to the lies about beauty. The world doesn’t just tell women what they ought to look like, it tells men what to look for. After speaking about beauty, my mom had a woman approach her: “God’s perspective on beauty is all fine and good,” she said, “and I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”

She’s right. Every day, men are blasted with messages about what kind of beauty they should desire, and all too often Christian men are unaware of how much this shapes their opinions and desires about beauty. Can we appeal to you? Don’t look at, long for, or buy into those messages. And be quick to tell your wife and daughters why you don’t.

Finally, we wish men understood what God’s Word says about beauty. If you really want to help your wife or daughter or the women in your church to overcome their struggles with beauty, you will study God’s Word. So often Christians have accepted partial truths and platitudes in place of a robust biblical vision about beauty. But these “solutions” don’t satisfy, which is why your wife returns to the mirror and ask you the same questions again.

Gaining a biblically informed understanding of beauty will help you the next time your wife gets a haircut or asks if she looks fat—not because you have a carefully crafted comeback, but because you understand what she is going through and have truth that will help.

3 Practical Ways to Encourage Your Wife

So what can you do?

First, start by asking your wife or daughter about the beauty pressures they face. Granted, some women may be more affected than others, but beauty issues touch us all.

Second, study Scripture. Labor to read good resources on this topic so that you can encourage, cherish, and lead your wife and daughter.

Third, encourage true beauty. Lavish your wife with affection and adoration. Be your daughter’s biggest fan.

Men who take the time to understand—or at least try to understand—the pressures women face will be able to help them resist the lies from our culture and pursue a biblical vision of beauty. Even if you don’t feel like you get it, I guarantee the effort will be greatly appreciated.

We know you may not want to be caught dead reading a book with a girly cover called True Beauty, and we respect you for that, but learning about true beauty in order to serve your woman is one of the most masculine things you can do.

This post originally appeared on the Crossway blog.

Mar 31

Do Our Looks Dictate Our Destiny?

2014 at 9:24 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

“All of us, men and women, are affected by a world that idealizes youth and physical beauty. In such a world, it can feel as if our looks dictate our destiny. But that is not true. It is God who sovereignly rules over all men and women. He has determined our looks and our marital status.

We must shift our focus by fixing our trust not on our appearance or men’s expectations of beauty, but on God who directs our lives. Physical beauty does not have the last word and neither does a man’s ideal of beauty. God’s will determines all.”

~True Beauty, p. 88

Mar 27

The Solution to Our Beauty Crisis

2014 at 10:56 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

Something Needs to Change

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.

This post originally appeared on the Crossway blog.

Mar 24

The Truth about Beauty

2014 at 8:43 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

“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.”

~True Beauty, p. 23

Mar 20

New Arrival: True Beauty

2014 at 8:30 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

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.

You can order now, or go to Crossway.org to read an excerpt from the book.

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” Psalm 90:17

Aug 26

Guarding Our Children’s Understanding of Beauty

2013 at 8:24 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

As a parent, we must do our best to protect our children from the influence of our culture’s false and destructive messages about beauty. But how? Here are a few suggestions:

Guard their heroes.

Children collect heroes: people or characters they want to be like. This means that we as parents must watch over and wisely supervise our children’s affections. Who are our child’s heroes? Who do they admire and try to imitate? Often, children’s first heroes are the characters they see on television or the toys they play with. As they grow older, they may look to athletes, actors, or musicians. These personalities can shape the development of their desires and beliefs in profound ways.

As our children identify with these “heroes”—wanting to dress like them, talk like them, be like them—they imbibe the messages about beauty that these characters display. Consider: what do the TV, music, and toys you allow in your home say about the beauty of God and the inner beauty he requires? Do the characters in your children’s favorite television shows flaunt their immodesty or vanity? Do the toys they play with promote an ungodly perspective of physical beauty? As parents, let’s wisely help our children choose their heroes.

Guard their childhood.

Children are beautiful, largely because they don’t know it yet. A young girl is fascinated by the world, not trying to fascinate others with how she looks. This lack of self-awareness is a gift from God and meant to be enjoyed. But sometimes, as parents, we prematurely interrupt our daughters’ blissful ignorance by paying excessive attention to how they look.

Let’s seek to guard our daughters’ childhood instead of following the cultural trend to prematurely rush young girls into womanhood. Be discerning about your daughter’s unique temptations to vanity and self-focus. Intentionally limit the time, money, and conversation you spend (or allow them to spend!) on their appearance. If necessary, consider delaying certain beauty enhancements such as jewelry or cosmetics. Focus their attention on God and others. Start out as you mean for them to go on.

Guard their friendships.

True friends teach us to love true beauty. Conversely, vain and self-focused friends may encourage those sinful tendencies already at work in our hearts. A wise mother will carefully watch over her daughter’s friendships. Consider: what do your daughter and her friends talk about most when they are together? What are their favorite hobbies and activities? Does time with friends make her more consumed with herself, with the latest styles, with being physically beautiful? Let’s help our daughters choose friends wisely and to become the kind of friend who influences others to serve and to obey God. This may mean limiting the time two girls spend together, or taking a more proactive role in choosing their activities when they are together.

As moms we should seek to create a culture of friendship between our daughter and her friends that promotes and cultivates true beauty. Friendships that are built around trusting God and doing good works will help our daughters grow up to be truly beautiful.

Related posts:

Talking to Our Children About Beauty, Pt. 2

Talking to Our Children About Beauty, Pt. 1

Showing Beauty to Our Children

Teaching Our Kids About Beauty

Aug 19

Talking to Our Children About Beauty Pt. 2

2013 at 7:32 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty | Speech

Not only should we talk to our children about God’s definition of beauty, we must also teach them to recognize beauty’s counterfeit: the charm and outward beauty that is fleeting and deceitful (Prov. 31:30).

Our children are desperately in need of discernment. We must train them to recognize the false beauty messages of the world that assault them on a moment-by-moment basis.

This means, in age appropriate ways, we begin to talk to them about the unattractiveness of immodesty or vanity that they may observe and encounter. Our words should counteract and undercut our culture’s deceitful messages about physical beauty.

Finally, there are words that are better left unsaid. Drawing our children into negative dialogue about our appearance, “Do you think Mommy looks fat in this dress?” “Mommy wishes she was young and pretty like you,” etc., will only give ungodly shape to their developing beliefs about beauty.

Commenting about others to them, “Can you believe what she was wearing?” or “That girl really needs to lose some weight,” is not only unkind but teaches our children to judge others based on outward appearance.

Not only do we need to be careful how we speak to our children about beauty, we also must be careful how we speak in front of them, even when we think they aren’t paying attention. Little children have big ears. Conversations with our husband, with a girlfriend, or mutterings to ourselves that communicate an unbiblical message about beauty can all make an outsized impression on our children.

Also, we do not serve our daughters by dropping subtle hints (which are never as subtle as we think) about their appearance. If we observe that our daughter needs to change her eating habits or care for her appearance in a more God-glorifying manner, then we can provide practical diet help or graciously show her how Scripture should influence her beauty pursuit. But nagging and carping will only stoke discouragement or resentment.

By contrast, as our daughters grow older, humble and age-appropriate admission of our own struggles with beauty can go a long way toward helping them make progress in their own pursuit of biblical beauty. As we help our daughters see how we are seeking to apply God’s truth, we can impart to our daughters the discernment and conviction they need.

Up Next: Guarding Our Children for Beauty



Related Posts:

Talking to Our Children About Beauty, Pt. 1

Showing Beauty to Our Children

Teaching Our Kids About Beauty