Often when I talk with young moms who have young daughters, they share about their desire to teach their precious little girls the true meaning of beauty. They want them to focus on the inside and not merely on physical appearance. They are concerned about the influence our society will have on their daughters, and I understand their concerns. I felt the same way when my daughter was young.
Let me tell you about my girl…
Her name is Brianna, and she was born all girl. I mean ALL GIRL! (She is very much like her mother!) Almost from the moment she could recognize herself in the mirror, she liked to be clean and make her hair look pretty. As she was growing up, we worked hard to help her focus on inward beauty. We kept her as far from our society’s standard of beauty as we could. We told her that she is beautiful just the way she is, that she is precious, that she is gifted, and that God made her to be very valuable and precious.
As a toddler she had a pair of favorite shoes that she loved. She would have slept in them if we had let her. She loved them and wore them all the time. Then it was a shirt or a dress that she became attached to, not to mention the trunk full of dress up clothes, hats, and purses that she loved to play with. She would ask to play with my makeup and wanted me to do her nails, and when I was putting in my contact lenses she would sometimes stand on a chair, put her face right up to the mirror and tell me she was putting in her “tick tacks!”
As she got older she began to pick out her own outfits and develop her own style, favorite colors, and taste. It wasn’t something I taught her or something she learned from others—remember, we kept her somewhat protected. It was something that was already present when she was born, because that is how God made little girls, girls who eventually grow into women. She developed into a pre-teen and then a teen. She started to become more aware of those around her and more aware of herself. Insecurity crept in.
Humanly and logically speaking, she had no reason to feel insecure or unattractive. That is, if we as her family were the only influences and voices in her life. But that was not the case. At church, people told her that her dress was pretty. If we went to get a hair cut, the hair dresser exclaimed over her blonde hair. As she got older, her friends would compliment her clothes or hair style.
The first time she told me that she sometimes felt unattractive, I thought to myself, What in the world is this girl’s problem? Why on earth does she feel this way? We have done nothing but affirm and teach her the right way to think since she has been born. She has been so loved.
You see, we couldn’t stop other voices or influences from entering our daughter’s life. We couldn’t keep our daughter from the pressures of this world. We couldn’t stop what was already a part of who she was.
We couldn’t stop what was already within her heart.
As she has grown into a young adult, she’s had to be reminded of the truth she’s been taught all her life. She has to make that truth her own. I have found that I cannot protect her from the pressures of society if she is going to be an active member of that society and a light to this dark world. She has to learn how to function responsibly (and beautifully!) in this society, and she must learn to do it with her mind set on Christ and His standards. She has to actively engage in the battle. I cannot do it for her.
And it is a lifelong battle. I am in it. She is in it. It is unavoidable.
My daughter began to feel insecure because she is in her own battle with the flesh, the world, and the devil. I could have locked her in a padded room, and she would have still been in a battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. I could have taken her to another country or to the middle-of-nowhere-mountains, and she would have had to deal with the battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The pressures might be different in other locations or cultures, but they still exist. There will always be a standard of beauty to measure herself against. Her self-focused and sinful heart will still be there, and she will have to learn to fight.
No matter what location we may live in, we have to learn to fight the battle and deal with the pressures of that particular society. No matter where we go, the pressure of being beautiful will be there. The definition of beauty may be different from one culture to another, but it will be there.
In thinking about the definition of true beauty and how to teach our daughters this concept, I was reminded that beauty is defined differently from culture to culture. Then this question came to me:
Is it wrong to adopt some of our culture’s ideas of beauty, as long as it is not sinful and doesn’t become our focus?
No matter where we go in this world, there will be a standard of beauty that is upheld. We need to decide how much is okay to adopt into our lives. Much pull does come from our society (the world), but the reality is that the biggest battle is right within our hearts (the flesh)! We can choose to allow ourselves to give in to the pressure (the flesh/the devil), or we can choose to be who God made us to be and enjoy the things within our culture that are beautiful. We can choose to give in to the temptation (the flesh/the devil) to compare ourselves with others, or we can choose to accept our individuality and make God our focus.
Not everything in any particular culture is sinful. We are free to enjoy certain aspects of our culture, even the dress and some of the ideas of beauty, as long as we implement Biblical guidelines.
Six things we can teach our daughters about culture and beauty:
1. We must be careful to choose not to make any standard of beauty our primary focus.
2. We must reject any immodest, sinful, or unhealthy aspects of the culture.
3. We must reject any aspect that is blatantly in opposition to God’s Word.
4. We must be in the Word regularly, seeking to have the mind of Christ.
5. We must purposefully allow God to create within us the inner beauty that He sees as being most precious.
6. Ultimately, (as my daughter and I try to remind each other) we must do what we can to look the best we can, and then we need to move on from ourselves and purpose to serve God and others!
As parents, we can teach our children biblical truths and keep them from as much of this world as we possibly can. In the end, though, they have to decide to apply the truths themselves. They must learn to fight the spiritual battle. We cannot do it for them. We can strive to be godly examples, but ultimately, their hope and joy will be found only when they choose for themselves to focus on God amidst all the pressures that might come from living in this world.
We will never be perfect in any of this, and neither will our children. We will be in this battle until we die, but I find it encouraging just to know that we can strive to be the best we can be, both spiritually and physically, and that it all can be used to glorify God and to help us to be a light in the culture that God has called us to live in.