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 tothe 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.
“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.”
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.
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