What is true beauty?

Photo: Michael King

– The Guy

True beauty… the stuff of legend. It is said that one may find true beauty in the fountain of youth. Or, for lack of magical enchantment, at your local Bath and Body Works. Or the tanning salon. Or maybe if you got the perfect outfit… right down to the color of the paint on your toenails or the style of your socks. But all these things miss the mark.

People know they can make a ton of money when you believe that outside beauty matters most, so they sell you on the idea any way they know how. In the TV show, they cast a girl with outside beauty to be the girl who gets the hunk. They sell their products as ways to perfect and showcase your body so that you can get your own hunk. But what is a hunk except a male with shallow outer beauty? You know, the guy who has muscles a foot thick but his character is shallower than a mud puddle? Yeah, hunk.

It’s not that outside beauty is wrong, it’s just that it is worthless when you ask it to stand alone. Outside beauty needs inside beauty to back it up – to make it real. That’s why beauty pageants ask their competitors questions about character, ideals, and such; this is where true beauty lies. Character traits such as honesty, kindness, true humility (see, “Mice and Lions”), generosity, and faithfulness are the building blocks of true beauty. True beauty stands on its own, whether you have the perfect body or whether you are a burn victim, you can have the same inside beauty.

True beauty is an inside job; it requires the heart and soul to exude a glow.

Take, for example, Cinderella and her stepsisters. Cinderella has a heart of service and faithfulness that outshines any pearls and fancy dresses her stepsisters may wear. When the prince gets a chance to meet Cinderella, he knows he has stumbled upon someone valuable, and when she goes AWOL on him, he searches the kingdom to find her again. He did not go in search of the other glass slipper; he was interested in the girl who had worn the slippers.

But, in my opinion, the most beautiful person in history is Jesus… Why? He didn’t look any different from any other Jew who was alive at the same time He walked the earth; but His actions, His attitudes, and His priorities proved that His heart motives, attitudes, and character were absolutely flawless. That is beautiful.

So, how do you get true beauty to back up your outside beauty? Well, you become like the people you hang out with the most, so I figure if you spend a lot of time with someone who has inside beauty, those traits will rub off on you. And there is only one person I know who has an absolutely flawless inner beauty. Jesus.

And being resurrected, He’s alive today. Being the Son of God, He’s available all the time. When all your friends are busy or sleeping, He’s ready to have a chat with you. It’s easy to end up spending a lot of time with Him. So, the best way I know to gain true beauty is to be in a real relationship with Jesus, the prototype of true beauty.

It’s not easy (just think of what Jesus had to go through!) but I have found it totally worth it.


Mice and Lions


– Rebekah Burcham
In a bad-informed attempt to make myself more  “humble,” at fourteen I began to make sure I thought absolutely nothing about myself. Every compliment I received was painstakingly undermined by a close examination of my faults. My burgeoning talent at writing wasn’t allowed to be acknowledged. I compared myself to everyone prettier, smarter, faster, sweeter than myself and nodded smugly at my deflating pride.
My idea of a humble girl was a mousy, demure creature who thought of herself as worthless, no matter how grand she might be. So with one eye I made sure everyone thought I was incredible, and with the other I made sure I didn’t.
But, as C.S. Lewis, the brilliant apologist and creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
My humility was more self-absorbed than my pride. Oops.
Humility has a bad reputation. We have images of monks eating only butterless bread and drinking only water, hanging their bald heads, and pacing glumly through blank halls. We see spineless cowards bending humbly to villainous wills. We see girls staring at mirrors and saying, Oh, me, little me…
But if humility is thinking of ourselves less, we have no time to think less of ourselves. We’re out there being lions for the weak, swinging at the giants, strangling the goblins. We’re on our knees building houses for those who live in cardboard boxes. We’re serving hor d’oeuvres at a party to raise awareness for the lack of life-giving water in Africa. We’re chatting about mystery thrillers over tea with an eighty year old woman who doesn’t have much time left. We’re spitting in the villains’ faces and overcoming our phobias and walking the poles on bridges.
Don’t hang your head. Look up and see the people.
The beauty of humility is that it erases the need for masks and acting. You aren’t thinking of yourself, so you’re real. Instead of monitoring your image and inspecting your “humility”, you’re suddenly free to love people.
Humility is being outside of ourselves. And as soon as we are outside of ourselves, well, the inconceivable happens.  We see truth. We see the real world, clean of the film of self-consciousness. We see people, people that comprise a whole earth of hope and need. And we can change the world. Not as an individual throwing hammers at a Jericho, but as a part of something so much bigger than just us, an army of thousands stepping out of their skins and being truly humble.
And you know what? That’s beautiful.
“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Body Lies

– Robyn Pittenger

We all say Blasphemy
But we all do the same

For shame
The soul doesn’t fit
and there’s nothing to fight

A shape you detest
But you don’t want to deny Him

Look at her heart
The body lies.

Natural Artifice




– Robyn Pittenger

Look at any fashion magazine cover and what do you see? Flawless skin. Silky hair. Long eyelashes. Full, shiny lips. Large, well-shaped breasts. Slender waist. Shapely legs. Tiny feet.

Perfect, right? According to anyone.

According to anyone.

Hold on a second.

First off, like we said in “Not the Boss of Me,” who gets to decide that this is perfection?

And regardless of what individuals made these standards, they are human.

Breast implants, liposuction, botox, plastic surgery (Dare I say it? Gender changes,)— these procedures that are designed for drastic changes to the human body are to re-form something that God created and pronounced good into the shape of man’s desires.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” -Genesis 1:27

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” -Genesis 1:31

Creativity is a God-give talent. It is man thinking God’s thoughts after Him. But when we attempt to rework one of God’s creations, we are attempting to play God.

For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” -Psalm 86:10

Imagine you are sitting at a table doing some random doodling with a pen. You’re not truly paying attention to what you’re doing, just letting your mind wander and your pen wander with it. You sketch a little stick man in a field with a cartoon sun coming up behind him. Then suddenly that little stick figure…moves. It looks at you with its two little dotted eyes and suddenly you hear it saying: “Hey! You! Yeah, you! Why did you have to draw me this way? Are you stupid?! I don’t have any hands or feet, I can’t move! I don’t have a tongue! And why’d you put me out here in the middle of nowhere? What did I ever do to you, huh?! Gimme that stupid pen, I’m drawing the rest of this myself.”

You might not have been considering or planning the way you drew your irritable little stick-man, but God put an infinite amount of care and creativity into making each and every human being. There may be similar faces in the world, but no two fingerprints are the same. There may be similar personality types, but no one is going to think exactly the same way. The God who loves us and sent His only Son to die for us assembled us in a certain way…and we repay Him by taking a scalpel and silicone to augment what He created? Soon what we’re looking at is no longer a creation of God but a construction made with synthesized material to satisfy an ever-changing social ideal. A plastic model. Not even a doll— a Frankenstein. We’re living the ultimate horror movie. And the poster is everywhere.

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?’ -Romans 9:20-21

There is a difference between truly cosmetic surgery and using technology wisely, as good stewards of the gifts God has given us. Some girls need breast reductions for health reasons because the weight is hard on their back. Some birth defects such as cleft palettes and tongue-ties can be harmful to eating habits and speech. And at the risk of being controversial, hermaphrodites (people born with both male and female body parts) are painful examples of the way sin has infected the natural growth process of children in the womb. God has given us the technology to treat these things, a small means of counteracting the consequences of the sin mankind brought into the world.

But not to force mankind into the mold of our imagination. Not to re-form, remake or revise—not to play God.

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