To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. -- Isaiah 61:3
Calm self-confidence is as far from conceit as is the desire to earn a decent living is remote from greed. -- Channing Pollock
There is a trend that has settled so long on the Church that it has become a core belief of religious peoples. It goes something like this:
To think any positive or flattering thing about oneself is pride and, therefore, is a sin in the eyes of God.
There are so many examples of this, but one that I will always remember was some advice given in a girls magazine: "If you look in the mirror and have trouble with prideful thoughts about your appearance, you should get rid of the mirror." And what about the many women who dress in unflattering clothing and cover their head? No form is shown; no beautiful hair is let down; any desire other than a neat, tidy appearance is frowned upon. Men are to guard their thoughts about themselves just as sharply: no thoughts about attractiveness and definitely no thoughts about sexuality. The Amish are especially infamous for their strict guard upon their members; are the buggies too shiny? Could there be a smidgen of pride in the heart of the buggy owner? What about that apron or that hair cut or the roofline of that barn? Is it too different from the others? Could there be pride involved? Some Mennonite groups are also very similar in concept. The examples could go on.
And there is the other side of the coin: people never being content with how they look. People going through surgery to make themselves more attractive. People killing themselves because they are bullied or feel that they are too imperfect for this world. And what about people saying, "I am ugly" or other degrading statements about themselves. One thing all of these groups or individuals have in common is this: they believe they are acting in a meek and humble manner or that it's better/safer/more attractive spiritually to feel negative emotions about ourselves.
Before going on, I feel I must point something out: my thoughts are rarely conclusive these days. My current state is that I seem to always be searching for more answers and deepest truths. That being said, through the years I have seen a disturbing amount of unnatural thoughts and actions resulting from these beliefs and mindsets. I think it's time someone said something about it. Also I wish to digress by stating that I do not wish to judge others for their beliefs. All peoples are free to believe as they will, as long as their beliefs are not harming others. I simply seek to bring love and contentment to this world and I believe part of the change must come through seeing ourselves through the eyes of God.
I am writing from personal experience. Each day I struggle through loathing, self pity, doubt, frustrations, depression, pain... Lately, especially so. My dearest Jesse and my God have been very close to comfort and hold me. But I am learning! I am learning about my humanness and God's omnipotence. I am learning about forgiveness and love. I am learning about what it means for a broken heart to heal. I am learning that it is wrong not to acknowledge the truth. God created you and me uniquely with beauty in mind. When you look at yourself in the mirror and think, "I am attractive," it doesn't mean you suffer from a pride filled heart. It can be as innocent as a simple nod to the Creator that he didn't make a mistake when he made you.
I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. -- Psalm 139: 14
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. -- Psalm 27: 4
The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head. -- Proverbs 20: 29
There are as many verses in the Bible promoting beauty as there are verses warning against it. Where is the balance? There are verses that proclaim God's beauty and many more that tell us of his desire to create humans in his image. What does the Bible say about the image of God? In Ephesians, it refers to the glory of it. Colossians refers to the invisibility of the image of God. Other verses, as quoted above, refer to the marvelous beauty of the Lord. Scholars have discussed this concept a great deal. Most believe that this reference includes the creation of our spirits, souls and personalities, "the mirror image of God's essential nature." My personal belief is that it must be a balance of all: God created us, a human species, to have a certain type of appearance and He created us to have his personality, understanding and wisdom. Of course, all of these attributes work together to create something wonderfully rich in each of us.
Each day that I live and the more people I meet brings me more strongly to a certain realization: every person in the world has fears and insecurities. It might be about their appearance or their personality or people not liking them. There are some who struggle with their imperfections, because they can never be as good as they think they should be. These thoughts lead to depression and frustration; ultimately, unhappiness. All people in the world come from different walks of life: Atheist, Christian, Islamic, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, agnostic, Hindu... the list goes on. But the fact of the matter is: we all think we're not good enough.
It is true. We aren't good enough. We aren't nearly good enough. We will never be good enough. But we are perfect. We each have a unique mix of qualities and different opinions. We all have the beauty of true unique perfection. We all deserve to be loved and accepted for who we are. That love and acceptance must start in each heart: God loves you; God thinks you are perfect and beautiful; God wants you to be lifted out of your frustrations and realize your potential.
"Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure." Meister Eckhart
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. -- Ephesians 5:22
I'm talking about you. How are you going to walk your path today? Are you going to look in the mirror and think how ugly you are? Are you going to miss an opportunity to bring the oil of joy to someone who needs it because you feel insecure? Are you going to selflessly love others? Or will you not be able to do that because you can't love yourself as God loves you?
There is the danger of sin in every aspect of life. We all fall into sin through our humanness. We could concentrate on that and mourn over our foolishness. I know people who can only talk about how sinful they are; they think this attitude is one of meekness. But I personally know others who have risen above the ashes of their pain and confusion to embrace whom God created them to be. You know what the Bible says? God loves a cheerful heart and that we are to rejoice and be glad.
Be happy today. Embrace the beauty that is you. You see, it is a choice.