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"I wish I looked like..."
For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. James 3:16
In day two of this national eating disorder awareness week, we turn our attention to appearance. Indeed, wishing, coveting and image are right there in our lives. The outside world displays some aspirational form of aesthetically pleasing and powerful messages; beauty,
especially within the definition of a rigid, thin beauty, becomes its dominant depiction.
This hierarchy of human value, intensified with its dangled promises of untold perfection, happiness and a problem-free existence, can often find us is a position to covet, to envy and to further exemplify less than positive character attributes in the process.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh:
but envy the rottenness of the bones. Proverbs 14:30
And it stems from a place of fear: we fear we are inadequate as is. Scripture, however, negates that concept...
Since thou wast precious in my sight... I have loved thee... Isaiah 43:4
Our eating awareness week continues with acceptability. Indeed, there is the pervasive lie out there which tells us how beauty equals acceptance.
And, certainly within our culture, we are inundated with more than enough evidence that this theory is "fact." Look how we fawn over Hollywood, the fashion world and particular image aesthetics. We are convinced "the beautiful people" are more valuable, more relevant and definitely more accepted than anyone who is not fitting that criteria.
…the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
This time of year assaults us with the obvious "too much" of the holiday season: red and green, Santas, nativity scenes, silver bells and sensory overload at every turn.
During this season, we also see the abundance of angels. It's almost as much of an association with Christmas as the Baby Savior Himself.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:13-14
Indeed, angels are everywhere throughout Scripture:
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalm 91:11
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." Matthew 13:41
And he saith unto him, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." John 1:51
Airbrushing is an all too common technique used in the fashion and beauty industries. In our current cultural landscape, you and I would be hard pressed to find a magazine cover which is not "retouched" in some way.
In 2003, actress Kate Winslet was quite vocal about her airbrushed body. She speaks of her experience with "GQ Magazine," along with their choice to feature her manipulated image on its cover...
"The retouching is excessive. I do not look like that and more importantly I don't desire to look like that. I can tell you they've reduced the size of my legs by about a third."
Okay, I'm attempting to simmer down. I just finished another viewing of the animated Disney classic, "Sleeping Beauty."
Like a lot females out there, I have a complicated love/hate view of this fairytale princess depiction.
Over the years, I have bought into, absorbed, aspired to be like and have been resentful of this ingénue archetype. I have run the gamut of emotions, largely because of the all-important beauty factor which is mandatory for our young princess heroine.
It was all I could do to get through this latest viewing of the film.
For, right off the bat, we have our staple Disney music, chiming in, emphasizing just how beautiful our "Sleeping Beauty" is...
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he... Proverbs 23:7
When I was a senior in high school, I had a caricature drawing done with a friend of mine. I remember as we sat for the artist, we tried not to laugh and squirm as we anticipated what the finished product would look like.
And, I'll admit it, when I saw the drawing, I was startled.
I looked at my ginormous head, stubby nose and large mouth and it certainly didn't look like a "beauty shot."
But, it was never supposed to. The caricature was, well, a caricature.
- "a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect."
I didn't quite appreciate the drawing for what it was: exaggerated. The shock to my system created feelings that confirmed, yes, I was grotesque.
And that drawing memory connects me to another one.
My high school art teacher repeated a motto as we, her students, attempted to draw anything, people included:
"Draw what you see, not what you know."
The concept, if embraced,
What's your reaction to this image? Can you relate? Did you and your mother actually participate in this activity together, treating it as a bonding thing, a game, a competition or a means of "self-improvement?"
Mother's Day. It is devoted to the remembrance and celebration of our mothers, those people who first loved us. And, perhaps, even, in the name of that love, diet and weight measurement were a part of that.
With my mom, I believe it was. She battled with her weight her entire life, certainly as long as I've known her. I discuss it in my book. Years later, I see how it wasn't intentionally done to harm me.
But, nevertheless, that focus on body image, weight and thinness did. It's not just my experience, not perhaps, not just yours, either. Studies have, indeed, shown its impact: I can relate.
"…The study, published this week in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found that when a teen-age girl develops an eating disorder 'the mother-daughter relationship appears to contribute significantly.'
Kathleen M. Pike and Judith Rodin, who wrote the study, say they concluded this after comparing the test results of girls with eating disorders with those of girls who did not.
'It appears that some of the mother's own dieting and eating behavior and especially her
"He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, 'Where is it?'..." Job 15:23
Within recovery, there is often the need to commemorate the struggle, the courage and the life-affirming process, via tattoos and piercings.
Indeed, I've encountered many young people who have significant dates and meaningful logos marked on their skin. Likewise, eyebrows, nostrils and lips are also pierced, in the declaration of some kind of personal freedom from pain.
The infamous mirror. We do battle with it every single day, don't we? How many of us pick ourselves apart, critiquing, judging and hating every feature? How many of us, upon seeing our reflection, are disgusted and disappointed with what we see?
There is a use for everything, mirrors included. They serve a purpose. Let's face it -- if it weren't for mirrors, there'd be more instances of lipstick on -- and spinach in --teeth. We'd look much messier than we do when we present ourselves to the world.
But mirrors are not the end all, be all to our eternal worth and value. They are far from it.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
The artist Jean-Leon Gérôme's 1884 work, "A Roman Slave Market" is a startling example of image on display. It portrays a naked woman, up for sale to an enthusiastic crowd. It made me think of how image, especially female image, is offered up so easily and cheaply in our culture today. Some of its most extreme manifestations, unfortunately, extend to disordered eating and body image issues.