Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 (MSG)
“You’re so pretty.”
Hang on, isn’t that a compliment?
Sure, it is.
My five-year-old daughter is beautiful. She has ringlets and a bouncy personality to match. Her eyes sparkle. Literally. When we are out, I get comments from strangers all the time: “She’s so pretty, How gorgeous is your little girl?” And they’re right. Every mother believes that of their children. But I’m watching, in real time, right before my eyes, what this statement is doing to her. She’s becoming concerned about her looks, and asks me constantly, “Do you think I’m pretty, Mummy?” It's not a casual ask either; it’s like a longing.
Words create worlds, and I’m nervous (terrified) that we’ve created a world where “pretty” and “hot” is the ultimate goal.
If I see one more post on social media about how “blessed” someone is because their wife/husband/partner is hot, I’ll have to write a devotion about it (wink)!
After I had my second child, my body did not recover well. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue; sick all the time; struggled with depression, and yet, doing my best to get well and take care of my family. In this season, a celebrity Pastor posted a photo of his wife on Instagram, bragging about how hot she looked just five days after giving birth. That’s literally what the post was; “How blessed am I that I have a hot wife, even five days after childbirth. You can’t even tell!” The picture was of said wife posing, made up, looking fresh. I melted. I had no energy, I felt like I was bled dry, and here in front of my eyes was a banner declaring what is valuable in the eyes of a Pastor.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not an insecure thing. I think my husband is handsome, and I call him hot all the time. We should be attracted to our loves. This is a, “are our values in check” thing. What world are we creating with our words? One where men and women, boys and girls, learn to value themselves and others primarily on their looks? An image driven world? Or one that values brain activity? Critical thought? Hard work? Learning and character and love and inclusion?
I say to my daughter that yes, she is beautiful. But having people think you’re attractive is not the point. Not even close. There is so much more to life than looks. You have a brain, use it. You have a heart, open it. You have hands, extend them. Value people for their humanness, not their hotness.
And dear friend, let me say this to you:
No matter where you think you are on the scale of beauty; whether you get called pretty, whether you feel ugly or attractive or somewhere in between, you are down right beautiful. Why? Because you are a unique human being.
As Dr Seuss says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” You’re it, babe, friend, person reading this. You are the only you who has ever been and who will ever be. You are a unique picture, reflection, representation of the Divine. God is threaded in you and through you like his through no one else.
I tell my daughter that what makes people beautiful is their heart. And if we could learn to see people’s hearts, behind all the disorder and baggage (even because of it), you’ll glimpse true beauty. It’s what I love most about the movie Moana when she sings to the beast: “They have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.” And afterward, when the grotesque beast is reminded of who she truly is, an incredible transformation takes place revealing beauty buried deep.
Pretty is not the rent we pay to exist in the world.
If you want to see beauty, get off Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, talk to the person sitting next to you and look at them. Then, look in the mirror.
(True Beauty series in the works… I'm a little fired up.)
Written by Lizzy Milani