Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Questions and Answers: Is it Okay to Want to Look Pretty?

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We met recently and have talked a few times online. My husband is the preacher at the __________Church of Christ….anyway, I have been struggling with some things and wanted to get your input or see if you could direct me to some literature on the subject.
I grew up in a small town in south Alabama where beauty is #1. I’m talking tanning beds, fake nails, makeup, major hair-dos, beauty pageants, etc., etc. Now that I have moved away from that area, grown a lot spiritually, and hear my husband’s perspective on these things…..well, I don’t really know where the fine line is between what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to girls wanting to be pretty. I realize that tanning is bad for your health (don’t do that anymore), too much decor can be immodest, and that your inward beauty is of much more value to God. My questions come in now that my daughter is getting older and wants to use things like hair straighteners, lip gloss, jewelry (she wants to get her ears pierced), and the like. I am afraid I may be going too far in the other direction, but I really do not want her to get caught up in the same things I did when I was younger. I have recently come to realize that my lack of self confidence stems from the idea that since I was very young I was praised for physical beauty instead of spiritual beauty. Thus, that was all that I worked on and all that I became in my younger years.
However, it seems that there is something inside every girl that makes her like pretty things and want to be pretty. It is just a part of being feminine, right? So how do you find the right balance? My husband said he just could not relate to the “pretty thing” and that I should talk to another lady about all of this. I just want to do what is right and more than anything I want to lead my daughter in the right direction.
Thanks so much for helping so many of us young moms 🙂

Well, I think all of us agree that the inward spiritual beauty is the one that has the price that’s far above rubies (Prov. 31) and that the part of us that God looks on is the heart ( I Sam. 16:7). So our emphasis at home should be on the spiritual. I think we do have to work hard to remain in a state of nonconformity to the culture, since the media has turned our society on it’s nose in quest for the right “look.” I think, at the same time, there must be a balance between our determination to be spiritually focused and our natural and good instinct to look our best. Even the Holy Spirit speaks of distinguished looks or outward beauty several times in scripture. Joseph, Sarah, and Esther are some examples that come to mind. There are many references in a favorable light to outward beautification in the Song of Solomon. We don’t want to raise our girls to care nothing about the way they look. This is counterproductive to making a good first impression, which is sometimes, in turn, counterproductive to evangelism or the availability of other productive opportunities. Jesus also used the customary expectation of being dressed properly for a formal occasion in Matthew 22 in His construction of the Parable of The Wedding Garment. He would not have used such an analogy if it were wrong for us to be considerate of proper decorum for certain occasions. Thus, striving to look nice or pretty, is not sinful. The scriptures even show God calling for garments for his priests that were specifically for beauty:

And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty (Ex. 28:40)

Having said that, I believe our largest problem in raising girls today, is not putting in them the desire to look their best. I believe our culture has pretty much taken care of any deficiency on that end of the spectrum, albeit with worldly definitions about what “looking your best” might be. It’s the other end of the spectrum with which we generally have our parental struggles. It’s the desire to look beautiful at the expense or to the neglect of spiritual beauty that so often assaults the character of our girls in an ever more materialistic world. It’s the relegating “seeking the kingdom” to some spot below “seeking outward beauty” that gets girls (and many of their moms) today. It’s a whole lot easier to think of passages that tell us that outward beauty is nothing to even be compared with beauty of the spirit than it is to even come up with verses that put any emphasis whatsoever on physical attractiveness. Here are a few:

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price I Peter 3:3, 4)

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised (Prov. 31:30).

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.
All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more (Ezekial 28:17-19).

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. (I Sam. 16: 6,7)

I know the issues that surround the quest for the perfect body and the most fashionable look are complicated and dangerous. I have personally known too many girls with eating disorders, self mutilation tendencies, personality disorders, suicidal propensities and problems with promiscuity, all of which problems were strongly linked to childhood feelings of physical inadequacy. I want every girl to be able to grow up with a healthy “Christ-in-me” esteem. If our “selves” are truly operating in complete submission to Jesus, how can we help but love the “selves” into whom we are transformed (Romans 12:2)?

Here are a few precautions we took as parents with our daughter, Hannah, in our best attempt at relegating physical beauty to a position far down the list of priorities. But we were far from perfect as we strived to do this. These are just suggestions. They are certainly not biblical injunctions. We’d love to hear yours, too.

1. If you compliment the outward beauty of your daughter always include a true compliment about the heart even as you are speaking. Always verbalize the truth, that, although God made her beautiful on the outside, the “insides”—the part that she controls—is what’s vastly more important.

2. Go ahead and say the pithy statements like “Pretty is…is pretty does.” My mother and grandmother often said this and it is still impacting me.

3. Avoid beauty contests at all ages.

4. Never say to your daughter (or allow anyone else to say) “ You’re getting chubby’” or “My, you are gaining weight.” or anything of the sort.

5. When she first wants to get her ears pierced set an age you think is appropriate and stick with it. (We decided age 11, I think.)

6. When she is small, preschool and elementary, refuse to allow her to wear the Brittany Spears, Hannah Montana look, even though her little body is not developed enough to incite lust. Keep her “look” sweet and innocent, and child-like for as long as you can.

7. Allow her to choose what she wears (from the clothes you’ve put in her drawer and closet) part of the time, but you be in charge of Sundays. This rule saved a lot of Sunday morning stress at our house and kept Han looking like a little girl when we went to worship.

8. Just don’t go to the tanning bed. Come live with my cousin, who is doing some phenomenal suffering because of melanoma complications and you will think this one is a no-brainer.

9. Set an age early on when the first make-up can be worn (except for playing dress-up) and stick with it. (I think we were 13 on this one.) Then start out with the foundation and powder for the 13th birthday. Add lip color for 14. Then eye shadow for 15, etc…(This helps avoid the Tammy Faye look at 13, which is inevitable when they are given the works at age 13.)

10. Look for parents and daughters who are on the same page with you about preserving the innocence of kids and choose these girls to have over for sleepovers, etc… it is wise to choose younger girls for your daughter’s close associates, rather than older ones who are already into the full blown teen look.

11. Have a zero tolerance policy in your home about making fun of others because of the wrong brand of clothing or an unfashionable look. This should never be allowed. Get James 2 on your lap quickly for a lesson about what really counts.

12. Pray often in front of your girls that God will help “our family to always remember what things are really important, and if we let outward beauty outrun our desire to be godly, take our physical assets away, because they are so relatively unimportant.”

13. Never let immodest clothing get in the closet or the drawer.

14. Severely limit television in your house. It is a catalyst for materialism and premature loss of innocence. Be very judicious in allowing its use. (Apply the same concern about internet use.)

15. Don’t order teen magazines for your daughters, unless they are Biblically based (Kiao, for instance). Have you looked at Seventeen lately? It is the devil coming in the mailbox!

16. If you find your daughter morphing into the “worldly girl” in regard to her “look”, consider a conservative private school or home education if you are not already doing this. Be sure you understand, though, that the buck stops with parents. It’s your job to make the difference, at home, in her character.

17. Get the Pure on Purpose DVD series for your daughter at age eleven or 12. Watch with her and do the workbook together.

18. When she is old enough to be a wage earner (even at lemonade stands or baby-sitting), sit down as a family and help her make good and serious decisions about stewardship rather than being free to spend all of her earnings on clothes, frills and electronics.

19. Take her on a mission trip to a third world country.

20. Take time and time and more time with her as her mother. This is your best insurance against the insidious influences of worldliness in her appearance.

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