My dear sweet girl,
I didn’t really expect to discuss this with you at the tender age of seven, but when after watching The Voice with Mommy for a mere ten minutes, you suddenly came downstairs after a commercial break with your hair down and brushed dramatically to the side just like a few of the contestants, I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach. Your innocent pony tail and head band had been replaced with a Lauren Bacall peekaboo. What I thought was an innocent, innocuous singing competition had already begun to teach you what our culture values as beautiful, and you didn’t even wait until the end of the show to model their ideal. Despite a steady diet of Veggie Tales and Gigi: God’s Little Princess, despite having never allowed “fashion” magazines into the house, I have realized that I can’t always protect you from “the world,” and since I’ve noticed that most retailers think seven is the right age for little girls to look like grown women, I think it’s time we had a chat about what true beauty really is.
The world is peddling a huge lie about what most of us value as beautiful, and it’s hard to miss what the culture is selling. Every time you walk into the mall, you’re met with the life-size image of those lovely angels from Victoria’s Secret clad in their underwear, selling the idea that true beauty lies in outward perfection. I see nothing angelic about it, though, and find it more to be a ploy of the devil to make women feel completely insecure. They taunt you with their perfect physique, but the real secret is that most of those girls are starving themselves and what few imperfections they may actually have are airbrushed away before their photos ever make it to print. While I wish I were immune, I must admit, I often pass these beauties and suck my stomach in a little tighter, wishing my muffin top would magically shrink into a thin mint.
Pumpkin, it angers Mommy that society desires to convince you that your worth is based on what you wear, how much you weigh, and how pretty you are on the outside. I’m sick of the world telling you that you are nothing more than an object to be ogled by men, so I’m lacing up my boxing gloves and getting ready to fight. I’m hoping some other Mommies will join me in this. I’m fed up with companies like Abercrombie, Aerie, and even, Target, attempting to sell you immodest clothing, stooping so low as to sexualize childhood. I can’t imagine I’m the only mom upset by this, but if the clothing is still on their shelves and if pictures of children modeling sexy, adult poses are still in their ads, then apparently someone is buying. This will probably make you mad when you’re older, but we will not be purchasing at many popular retailers, so get the whining out now. Mommy refuses to support companies that market trash to children.
I also need to examine the message that I’m sending you about beauty. While Mom may not be one to worry too much about her makeup (one glance in the mirror and one application of lipstick a day will do it for me) and although I’ve been known to roll out of bed and wear the same shirt I slept in out and about for the day, even to work, and yes, I’ve worn faded yoga pants to the grocery store with dress shoes, I’m guilty of spending a lot of time searching on the Internet for the perfect hairstyle because I somehow think it’s going to make me appear younger and prettier. I’ve also been known to spend more than I should on creams for wrinkles that probably do little more than smell nice. Do you see when I stare disapprovingly at my waist pouring over the top of my mommy jeans? Is there disappointment on my face when you opt for comfy pants instead of a cute dress? What message am I sending about what I really believe about beauty?
Society will tell you there’s no such thing as enough. Advertisers will convince you that happiness is a designer bag and shoes to match, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with purchasing beautiful things, sweetheart, those things do not define you nor will they fulfill you. There’s a really good chance that I will refuse to buy you Seven jeans or $300 pairs of boots. I’m frankly not that concerned with you fitting in. In fact, I want you to stand out; I want you to believe Jesus when he tells you to be in the world but not of the world. I hope you find your value in who you are not in what you wear, in which group you belong, or in what you look like. While it’s okay to take pride in your appearance (even Mommy puts away the blue jeans and yoga pants every now and then to doll up for your Daddy), when your desire to achieve physical perfection eclipses your pursuit to become more perfected in your relationship with Christ, then it crosses into idolatry. The latest fad will fade, and you’ll find yourself needing more and more stuff to fill an empty space in your heart that can only be filled by God. Listen, Mommy speaks from experience. I’ve chased and pursued then been left with a hollow heart and wallet.
Do you know, Punky, that before television came and ruined the world (just kidding, or maybe I’m not, no, I am…anyway), girls didn’t think that much about their appearance. Before World War I, girls didn’t even mention their bodies when they spoke of self-improvement. In fact, a girl’s diary in 1882 revealed that she “resolved….to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversation in actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.” Oh, the world before social media. I love that, right now, the women you admire are Queen Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Mae Jemison, Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Pocahontas, Gigi, Nana, Aunt Carmen, Aunt Amy, Aunt Jennifer, and Aunt G, strong women who embody true beauty. Don’t ever change, sweet girl.
I wanted you to see what real people define as true beauty, so I conducted a sample. Okay, I asked my Facebook friends to define beauty, and here are some of my favorite responses:
-Confidence with a sense of humility and kindness
-Smile and acts of kindness
-When a person knows Jesus and His love overflows to those around her
-Always humble, always kind, thinking of others
-Sincerity of heart and sense of humor
-Kindness and confidence
-Being kin to me (okay that was your uncle…..) but he also said caring heart, personality, and wit
-Sense of humor, morals, intelligence, and willingness to learn
Those were defined by men and women. Notice, sweetheart, no one said nice eyes, size 24 waist, or blond hair. No, these are real people who believe beauty is on the inside. While the world at large may define beauty in the most shallow, vain, hollow ways, the people who will matter will see beauty in the things that matter. Notice that kindness and humility topped the list, ideas that are contrary to what the culture says. The world says it’s all about you, but Jesus says it’s all about Him and others. While we’re searching for definitions of beauty, let’s go to the source, the Bible. Because, you see, my girl, your worth is ultimately defined by Jesus. Your worthy because God deemed you worthy enough to die for. He finds you so beautiful that He sacrificed everything to save you, to redeem you, and to love you.
-Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor Him for he is your Lord. Psalm 45:11
-Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
-Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
-People look at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Sweet A, true beauty is Katie Davis who left the comforts of America in her early twenties to move to Uganda and become a mom to thirteen orphans. Beauty is the woman with gray hair and deepening wrinkles who patiently spoon feeds the man she vowed to love, honor, and obey until death parts them. Beauty is the mother who lifts her child and gently kisses the boo-boo on his knee. Beauty is the cancer survivor who crosses the finish line of her first half-marathon. It’s the husband who kisses her bald head and swears she’s never looked more beautiful, and anyone who looks in his eyes knows he’s sincere. My dear, you are never more beautiful than when you toss your head back in laughter after sharing a joke with your friends at soccer practice. You are beautiful when you pump your fist after passing the ball to a friend then watch her score a goal. You are beautiful when you save the cookie you received at the grocery store for your brother who was at preschool and didn’t get one. You, pumpkin, are beautiful when you give your balloon to the little girl at Sweet Frog who is crying because she was overlooked. And when you make sure the napkins and forks are lined up perfectly for the women who live at First Light Shelter because you desperately want the meal we’re sharing to be special for them. You are never more beautiful than when you pray for orphans and the less fortunate each night before bed. You, my dear, will never be any more beautiful than when you mimic your Savior and strive to model Jesus. That, baby girl, is the ultimate definition of beauty. Let’s strive to make it our definition, too.
I love you,