A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. — Roald Dahl
It goes far beyond the makeup, ladies.
There’s a movement afoot reminding women that we don’t have to paint our faces to be beautiful, and that’s a great start, but there’s a much more important question that needs to be asked by women everywhere, and men as well:
Who gets to define beautiful?
At a luncheon recently I heard two women chatting about their hair. The first, who had a lovely mop of naturally curly locks said, “I’ve always wished I had straight shiny hair like yours.” The other replied, “I hate my hair, I wish I had your curls.”
Why, when we look at ourselves, do we want to see someone else? And worse, why do we go to such lengths to change what we have for the sake of fitting someone’s definition of beautiful?
I read an article about the Lahwi women of Thailand, who put coils on their necks to enhance their beauty. These coils, which are rarely removed, weaken their neck muscles and deform their clavicles to make the neck appear longer. In another article I read that Chinese women used to bind their feet (beginning at age 4!) to keep them small and ladylike. The process involved repeatedly breaking the foot at the arch and letting it re-heal in a bell shape. Do you think that’s crazy? Well you’re likely doing something similar. According to the Spine Health Institute, 72% of American women force their feet into high heels, taking their hips and spine out of alignment and putting excess pressure on the knees—just for the sake of appearance.
Why can we not be satisfied? It’s nonsense, the way we stare at ourselves with such criticism and question God’s design. It’s like looking at the painting of the Mona Lisa and zeroing in on her receding hairline. We must get past appearance altogether if we’re to truly see ourselves the way God sees us.
When I was a teenager, I was ashamed of my crooked nose and the dime-sized brown spot on the side of my chin. My friend Tanya had three birthmarks in the middle of her cheek that formed a division sign, and she loved it! Guess which of us smiled more. Today I don’t give them a thought.
Consider international supermodels, Cindy Crawford and Lauren Hutton. If moles and gap teeth matter, how does one explain their success? In France, people with gaps in their front teeth are actually considered lucky, and in Ghana, they are beautiful. In fact, in many cultures, physical features that deviate from the ordinary are held in high esteem. They mark a person as unique, not ugly. Why then, in our Western culture do we buy into the lie that we are anything other than Created in the image of God?
…Which might make one wonder, what does God look like? I propose that He has buck teeth, ten thousand freckles, and radar-dish ears. It doesn’t matter. Since we cannot answer that question with any degree of certainty by describing physical features, we must instead draw from what we do know about God’s image. We know God is love, light, and peace. And I can assure you, when you get that first glimpse of Him, you won’t see physical features. You’ll see beauty, perfect beauty.
And to my new friend Maude: I haven’t met you face-to-face, but I know that if I ever do, I won’t be staring at that gap in your front teeth you fret over. Instead, I’m quite sure I’ll be drawn to the light in your eyes that I know is there, because the love in your heart for hurting young women comes through the phone like a beautiful beacon.
If you want to work on something, work on your health, on your mind, and on your thoughts toward others. Keep yourself physically fit for whatever comes at you, and mentally prepared to have meaningful conversations. Look for ways to shine your light in this dark world by caring for others and spreading joy. If you do these things, you will be considered lovely indeed.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7