Saturday, April 20, 2013

Looks Aren't Everything.


I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of Facebook. In recent times, I have been on there quite a bit. Why? I crave human connection. That is, with humans older than seven. Obviously, there isn’t a ton of real deep connecting happening on the newsfeed on Facebook. In fact, a lot of the posts I could do without. But the other day I saw something that I just couldn’t skip over and it got me thinking. It had to do with beauty, though I have been pondering this subject for the last few days.

What started my thought process in the first place was my sister’s dog. He is currently a houseguest with us while they are away in Hawaii. Actually, he is not allowed in our house, so he is more of a yard guest. Here’s the thing about Bandit. If you saw him, you would most likely be struck immediately with how beautiful he is. Bandit came from a German Shepherd rescue as a puppy, and his mom was most definitely a Shepherd. I’m not sure what the story was on his dad, but it is clear from looking at Bandit that he is most definitely a Husky. Not purebred, but there is either Husky in him, or wolf. As I said, he is striking. He almost makes me drool. I love Huskies, and Malamutes too. They are my dream dogs…in the looks department. When I look at Bandit I have an intense desire to own a dog as gorgeous as he is. (Sorry Radar! I think you’re beautiful too!) Here are a few shots of Bandit, so you know what I'm talking about. 





But here’s the catch. If you knew Bandit’s personality, the first thing you may think is that he’s a bit of a turd. Sometimes a big turd. Yes, he is young, and he could certainly benefit from some more training, but that is not the point. The point is, I had to admit to Mike, and more importantly, to myself, that beauty is not everything. Would I really want the most beautiful dog in the world if his personality stunk? Bandit is endearing in some ways, but he sometimes bites and he refuses to obey any female. He is not trustworthy around our kids or our cats. He also runs away. Those are a few deal-breakers for me.

Perhaps with more training and a little maturing, Bandit could be the ideal dog. But that is irrelevant. His presence here has got me wondering why we are so obsessed with beauty. To behold something truly physically beautiful triggers certain emotions in us. We feel pleasure, and at times we are touched deep in our souls. I believe that’s because all of God’s creation is beauty, so when we experience it, we connect with Him.

As with everything else good, our hunger for beauty has been warped. Men are obsessed with women who look a certain way. In North America, that way is defined by the media, and particularly Hollywood. Women are even more obsessed by that standard than men are, and we women are not easy on ourselves when it comes to living up to that definition of beauty. This is an issue that has plagued me my entire life, as someone who has never been “skinny”. From very early childhood, it was made clear to me that I did not look good enough, and that message came at me from every angle. Kids at school, relatives and even perfect strangers of all ages felt free to express their disdain at my imperfection. Is it any wonder I have felt ugly my whole life?

I used to feel alone in this, but as I have grown older, I have seen that this issue plagues most, if not all, women and girls of all ages. This is why I was so touched by the video I saw on Facebook. It was done by Dove, and pertains to their new campaign for true beauty. While I am one hundred per cent a Mary Kay girl, I applaud Dove for trying to address this tricky issue. The video shows a series of women expressing genuine dissatisfaction with various facial traits of theirs. Then an experiment is done where each woman has to describe her face to a forensic sketch artist who has never seen them, but can hear them. (A curtain separates him from them.) He draws each of them according to their own descriptions. Then a stranger who had been instructed to spend time with each woman, getting to know her a little, was asked to describe her for the same artist. The artist, in the end, reveals the difference in a stranger’s (or acquaintance’s) perception of each woman versus her own. The video can be viewed at http://realbeautysketches.dove.ca.

In all honesty, the video made me cry. I do find it very sad that women have been devalued to such a degree that they are more focused on their flaws and insecurities than on their God-given beauty and worth. But more disturbing yet has been the reaction to this video. It seems the majority of people either find it to be a joke, or they are offended at the implication that women have low self-esteem. I had to respond to this. I apologize if this post seems a little out of place on this blog, but this issue is real and it breaks my heart to think that one day, my precious and beautiful little Lauren may view herself as ugly, or worthless because she doesn’t fit into some Barbie or Hollywood actress mold. Somebody I know posted on Facebook that the video was merely “cute”, but not really valid because the strangers were deliberately kind in their description of the women. To that, I responded that even if that were the case, why can’t we, as women, extend that same kindness to ourselves? If we have a mole on our face, why is that the only thing we think of when we picture our face? If the strangers focused on the good traits but were inwardly disgusted by all the flaws instead, then I say this world has no hope. Are there people out there like that? I have no doubt. But I have to believe that for the most part, we are harder on ourselves than other people are on us. Please, God, let that be the truth.

At the very least, the people who love us see us very differently and with a less critical eye than our own. Why? Because our beauty is more than physical. People who love us, see all of us, not just our physical appearance. They see us spirit-to-spirit. In other words, they see us with their physical eyes, but also with their spiritual eyes. We are so much more than just our bodies. I dream of a world where everyone truly believes this, and sees the value in each other and themselves because as humans we are intrinsically valuable. If God values us in all our flaws and while we are still under the ugliness of sin, enough to sacrifice His only Son to redeem us, we are valuable indeed.

Whether you believe in God as I do or not, I hope you can see beyond the surface and know that your flaws, real or perceived, do not define you. That is all.

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