Friday, March 2, 2012

Inner beauty vs Outer beauty. Is it one or the other?

I like clothes. I like make up. I like doing my nails.

In doing this experiment of Project 3:11, this shopping fast, this is one aspect I keep thinking about. I like all that stuff - is that wrong? 

Consider 1 Peter 3 -

'Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.'

I think a lot of people look at that verse and feel like its telling us to not think about those things, about 'adornment'. And so either we feel guilty because we took half an hour to do our hair this morning, or we feel high and mighty and decide other people should feel guilty because of the colour of their lipstick or number of shoes in their closet.

But something to notice about that verse is that Peter is not actually saying 'Don't wear nice clothes' or 'you're a sinful, vain person if you like jewellery.' 

He says your beauty should not come from those things. Don't focus on the outward appearance as the source of your beauty, as the thing you value most highly in being a woman. Your beauty 'should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.'

The emphasis here is more on what values you adhere to. In his time, women braided their hair ornately and this is what he was referring to - are you just doing that to your hair because it's fashion, because you are thinking about how others will view it, because you are wanting to fit in with what the world thinks is beautiful?

It is ok to like clothes, to like dressing nicely. It's ok to like physical beauty. I mean, look at the world. Look at a sunset sky - I think it's safe to say God doesn't hate things looking beautiful!

Even when the Bible uses the word modest in relation to dressing, it is a word that means 'becoming' more than it means 'sack cloth from neck to ankles'. 

It means not showy and flashy. It means not dressing to draw attention to yourself about how well off you are or how much money you have. It's about not dressing or living in a certain way just because everyone else does, or it will make you look 'in' if you wear this or buy that brand.

That's the problem - it's a slippery slope. It is very easy to find yourself focusing more and more on the outward as a large portion of your value, even if it started out innocently.

And that's why I started this experiment. Not because I think it's wrong to buy clothes, but because I wanted to check my attitude. If shopping was making me focus more on the outward appearance, if it made me worry what others thought of my fashion sense, if it made me - even for short periods - consumed with my worth based on appearance - then it was something it wouldn't hurt to give up for a while!

And what is any fast but a time to refocus on what really matters - God. To remove those things that are getting in the way - like shopping and buying new things to help me feel better - so we can actually deal with the emptiness we all sometimes feel. To actually take a look at my inner-self without the layer of emotional make up.

And I actually have had much more fun with making my own looks from what I do have. I can't care if they are old or out of fashion because I have no other options, but I kind of like it that way.

So don't feel guilty if you like clothes. Not everyone needs a shopping fast. Inner beauty does not mean throwing out all your mirrors. 

But it can't hurt to take a look inside and check that you are actually working on that inner beauty, and not covering it up with all the things the world says makes us beautiful and valuable. 

You may not be so admired by people if your clothes are out of season or you don't have the right brands. You know those people in the fancy shops who you feel like are looking at you like you don't really belong there...well, they probably are thinking that. But while people will often judge our worth by what they see, God values our hearts.

I'll take what God thinks of me over what a girl in a shop thinks of me, any day.

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