By Beth Bryant
Today’s “artificial” culture, preoccupied with outer beauty, aesthetic, and trying to make things look better than they generally are, can be pretty tough to navigate.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying attention to the outside, scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. We have to know what we’re dealing with. Two of the main areas of image obsession currently plaguing adolescent girls are physical appearance and social media.
Beauty and the Image Beast
It’s hard to battle the image beast when there are so many voices telling us to feed it.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Here, two truths are revealed: Humans tend to see the outside, and God sees our hearts. Often, when we look in the mirror, we have more negative thoughts than positive. We spend a lot of time comparing the reflective glass version of ourselves to other individuals, from models on magazines to the girls at school. These physical comparisons make it nearly impossible for us to have a healthy view of ourselves.
Outside pressures from advertisements, celebrities, shows, movies, social media, or even from trying to win affirmation from people at school or guys can all tempt us to make outer beauty our focus. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a new outfit, a manicure, or haircut. But it is of utmost importance to make our heart the focus—what God sees, and where true beauty lies!
…the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4
All the best that physical appearance has to offer can’t compete with the beauty of holiness. Real beauty is not dependent on image—real beauty comes from a gentle and quiet spirit that honors, obeys, and worships God.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 1 Chronicles 16:29
Social Media and the Façade
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
While Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media platforms have done good things, like increase our connection to friends and family far away and give us new outlets for self expression, one of the downsides is revealed in our natural human tendency for competition. Selfish pride motivates girls and women of all ages to try to present something that appears better than reality.
Filters can be fun, but it’s important to remember that edited images do not represent reality. When we see women who appear to be perfect on social media, remember that images rarely—if ever—tell the whole truth. When we feel a compulsion to edit and layer every single photo we post with filters just to create an “acceptable” image, maybe it’s time to take a step back.
Social Media Use Is Best When….
- We honor God with it. Post wisely, follow others wisely, and apply the principles found in scripture to your social media activity.
- We avoid the pride and comparison pitfalls. Don’t post to brag or self-promote. Don’t allow envy or comparisons to creep in when you see posts.
- We realize that it’s not usually the most honest picture. Remember that images are photoshopped and the person posting the photo took tons of pictures to get just the right shot. People mostly only post the good and leave out the bad, so social media doesn’t show the whole picture.
- We use it with moderation. Like many good thing, excessive use of social media can lead to image obsession and causes us to lose our focus on what’s most important—who we are inside.
Remember, it’s okay to care about how you look on the outside. Scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. Jesus doesn’t mince words. What’s inside is most important.
Bonus! Check out this handy list of tips for battling the image beast.