Is beauty really skin deep?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching a debate unfold on “Biblical” standards for beauty among a couple of bloggers I really respect…
Recently, Mark Driscoll, commenting on Ted Haggard’s infidelity, implied that women who “let themselves go” are partly to blame for their husbands’ behavior (he later apologized.) Rachel Held Evans responded by saying that emphasizing beauty as a woman ages is a misogynistic, “unBiblical” standard for beauty. Tim Challies fired back that outer beauty reflects inner beauty. And Rachel returned the favor to Tim.
Here’s the truth:
No, outer beauty does not reflect inner beauty. Being hot and having a great personality are two different things, so we can stop pretending otherwise. However…
Beauty is not just skin deep. It does reflect something inside. And…
Yes, men and women, Christians especially, have a responsibility to keep themselves attractive to their mates.
Now that I’ve probably got you a little self conscious, here’s what I mean…
We’re Wired For Beauty
Beauty gets a bad rap.
We admit that we are obsessed with it. But we admit it in a self-loathing way. We love beauty, though we know it’s superficial and temporary. We’re embarrassed to admit that we love beautiful people. It’s like admitting you like the Black Eyed Peas.
We think that caring too much about beauty makes us shallow. Yet we can’t deny it. If we didn’t think it was important for people to be attractive, we wouldn’t even think to discuss it. It wouldn’t occur to us. The very fact that this discussion has happened proves what we know: that physical beauty is important. As “evolved” and “enlightened” as we are in our twenty-first century, scientific, politically correct culture, our brains still respond primally, sub-consciously, instinctively to beauty.
Here’s To Your Health
Outer beauty doesn’t reflect “inner beauty.” But a good chunk of beauty is not merely skin deep.
Think about people who don’t take care of themselves; people who smoke or drink too much or don’t eat right or work too much; people who don’t care about their bodies. These people get sick often, age quickly, and probably don’t look as good as they could either.
Let’s say you’re married with a few munchkins. Your first job is to take care of those people, put them before yourself. You work and slave and sacrifice for them to the point of exhaustion and burnout. You do nothing for yourself, and it shows. You’re too busy sacrificing, so you have the perfect excuse to not be beautiful.
But how can you take care of them if you’re abusing your body to the point of illness, depression, and premature aging? You can’t. If you’re married, you have a responsibility to keep yourself healthy and not die before it’s your time. A martyr doesn’t do a family any good.
So guys, get some exercise. And your ladies will appreciate it if you had your prostate checked too. Ladies, make time to have a bubble bath and some Jazzercise. And there are only two boobs in a marriage, and hopefully one isn’t your husband, so get them checked out so you both can enjoy them as long as possible.
Get healthy for the sake of your helpmate. You’ll probably look better too.
What’s Mine Is Hers
One thing that was brought up by Tim Challies was Paul’s command that husbands and wives shouldn’t be frigid with one another in bed. Why does he say that? He reasons that if you are married, your body belongs to your spouse.
Rachel rightly pointed out that Paul’s advice doesn’t mention beauty. But Paul’s point can be taken beyond making sure your sweetie gets some once in a while. If I really submit my body to my wife’s authority, then of course I have a responsibility to try to be attractive to her. She’s the one who has to look at this “physique,” (a term I use loosely on myself.) When you make yourself more unhealthy and/or unattractive, it’s not just your body that you’re abusing.
Beauty isn’t about makeup or clothes. It’s not about an obsession or measuring up to some standard of beauty or getting plastic surgery or getting attention in public. It’s not about defying age. It’s about being as attractive and healthy for your mate as your genetics and age allow.
And remember the most important thing: beauty isn’t everything. It couldn’t have been when my wife married me.
What do you think? I’ve tried to approach this fairly and sensitively. Is that a fair standard for beauty? Do Christians have an extra burden to be beautiful, or is the mark of good Christians to be plain and piously “unconcerned” about the exterior?