I expect you’ve heard the phrase “beauty is only skin deep.” I wholeheartedly reject this phrase! I understand the implication is that what is inside a person is much more important than how they look on the exterior. However, our culture has established standards of beauty that are Euro-centric, White-centric, and profoundly damaging to the internal sense of self for people of all races, ethnicities, and genders.
Many years ago, I created and facilitated a workshop called “Sex Sells” for a sexuality education-focused youth conference. As part of this workshop, participants created collages that explored the ways magazines use images of people who appear to offer a standard for “perfect” beauty in their articles and advertising. They do this primarily to sell their magazines and the products of their advertisers.
We had a very deep conversation about how these images affect our own self-images and our ability to love and appreciate ourselves, as well as how people have been bullied because they don’t fit the “norms” for beauty. We talked about how this also separates us from one another when we judge or avoid some people because of their external appearance. There were many tears, some laughter, and, above all, profound insights about how we either resist or succumb to these influences. Together, we came to realize that true beauty is not on the surface, but rather what is in the heart and soul of a person.
What makes a person beautiful inside? I can think of many qualities … kindness, compassion, tenderness, curiosity, and joy come to mind right away. What else makes someone a beautiful person?
As we engage in conversations about Beauty this month during our 10:00 faith development programs for teens and adults, the covenant groups, in our worship services, and in other gatherings, I invite you to look at what is beautiful inside you, and what is beautiful inside those around you among family, friends, co-workers, and co-students. Perhaps if we all look more deeply for the beauty in ourselves and in those around us, and cultivate that beauty, the world will become a more beautiful place for all beings.
With a grateful heart…