Written by Maggie McCarthy.
The quest for beauty leaves many women feeling empty and worthless. While Christian culture tells us that our beauty comes from within, society feeds us an opposite message. Constantly bombarded with images of beautiful, fashionable, and successful women, we feel that we will never measure up. This unattainable perfection tells us, “You are not good enough. You are not beautiful.” While standards of beauty shift from culture to culture, the burdens and pressures of beauty affect women everywhere. These standards are often arbitrary and force women into obsessive, unhealthy practices.
1 Peter 3:3-4
1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adorning be external, the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Although we know we should place more value on the development of our character than on obsessing over our outward appearance, we find ourselves immersed in a culture that tells us to do exactly the opposite.
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Some Christians take the verse in 1 Peter to extremes, claiming that Christian women should not attempt to make themselves look appealing or presentable. This claim misses the point of the verse altogether. Scripture does not tell us that physical beauty is inherently sinful, but rather that eternal beauty rests in something beyond our external appearances. As Christian women, we should strive to reflect God’s beauty not only in the way we dress and present ourselves but also through an inner sense of peace and with our God given identity and purpose.
When we focus on the pursuit of the “gentle and quiet” spirit commended in 1 Peter, we develop an imperishable beauty that will only blossom with time. This fruit comes from God alone, and no matter how hard we try we cannot cultivate it on our own strength. In allowing Him to work in us, His thoughts become our thoughts and we become more like Him. Only through losing ourselves in Christ can we find a true understanding of our identity. As C.S. Lewis states, “The almost impossible thing is to hand over your whole self, all your wishes and precautions to Christ… until you have given yourself to Him you will not have a real self.”
Freedom in Identity
In grounding our identity in the cultivation of Christ-like character, we free ourselves to express our confidence and contentment through the way we dress and put ourselves together. Our outward appearance must come neither from a place of pride or insecurity, but from an acceptance of where God has placed us and what he says about us. He cherishes us and has created each of us for a purpose. We must rise above a culture that tells us to find our sense of worth in our dress size, hair color, or physique and shift our focus from physical appearance to character. In finding peace with our unique outer and inner beauty, we each express different aspects of Christ and His character through our dress and interaction with the world.
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness; but still will keep a bower quiet for us, and a sleep full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.” ~John Keats
Featured image by SmartBuyGlasses | Media by Jenny Cayo