This is a difficult thing for me to admit, simply because it is wrong (a sin) and humiliating, but I learned a long time ago that our flaws and mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of when we repent and give them to Jesus. So this is me, telling the story of how I handed one of my sins over to him. This is me, divulging an imperfection in the hope of helping someone else.
I’m a girl. Well, a woman now. But I was a girl once. Even the most compassionate of our kind has at least one moment in her past that she wishes she could go back and redo—taking part in a snooty action that excluded another girl, or contributing to gossip in a way that was more comparable to Regina George from “Mean Girls” than Jesus. It usually occurs anywhere between elementary school and college. Most of us grow out of it, though in some cases, unfortunately, some of us never do. We pick out other people’s flaws because, maybe we have trouble accepting our own. Maybe there’s someone at home, work, or school bullying us, making us feel inferior, and hurting others is the way we make up for it—a malicious scheme that we convince ourselves makes us feel better.
I’d be a liar if I told you that—even as a Christian, even as nice of a person as I am—I never looked at someone and thought, “She’s ugly!” That’s an ugly truth in itself and it makes me cringe even typing it. But I want to share a story with you about why that changed, and what holds me accountable the instant my opinion of another person’s beauty crosses my mind.
I knew a girl once who I thought was immensely unattractive. Every time I thought, “She’s ugly,” I knew it was wrong, but it would enter my mind and I didn’t reign in that thought. It wasn’t like I told it to her face. It wasn’t as if I treated her differently. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm. It was just a thought in my own head that no one else knew about.
Except one day, I was with a friend. Somehow, we got on the subject of being ugly (probably pointing it out on ourselves), and I got a horrible idea. I told her about a girl I knew who was very ugly, and I wanted her to see. So I showed her a picture.
“Look!” I said. And what my friend responded with changed my life:
“But God can still use her,” she said.
It was like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me. I remember just sitting there, staring at her in awe. It was like my eyes had been closed all that time, before being violently ripped open in front of a bright white light.
“But God can still use her.”
I don’t think I understood the impact these words had on me right away. They lingered in my mind over the following days and I pondered on them often. Weeks, probably months passed, when I saw someone else and thought the same thing…but this time, something unexpected happened. My friend’s voice echoed in my head:
“But God can still use them.”
God was using the wisdom of a friend to change my heart. It’s almost like the Pavlov’s Dog experiment. Without any effort on my part, my brain had suddenly been conditioned to respond with, “But God can still use her/him.”
It made me feel very small and very ashamed. Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been made in God’s image? Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been handcrafted by God for a specific purpose? Who am I to call someone ugly when my heart had an even more hideous quality that God had to have been disappointed in me for? Since when did my opinion—or anyone else’s—about someone’s physical beauty determine their worth; what they are capable of in God’s will?
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve discovered this can apply to many different circumstances. It’s as if that awareness was water and my friend’s insight broke the dam that was holding it back. Now it flows freely inside my head and heart. Every negative thought I have about someone is now followed up by those words:
“But God can still use that person.”
There is a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe (though I don’t think it’s actually hers) that says something along the lines of, “To all the girls who think you’re fat for not being a size 0, you’re not. You’re beautiful; it’s society who’s ugly.” Well, I’m not sure who actually said it, but they had the right idea. We were created to live as innocents in the Garden of Eden. If The Fall had never happened, we women wouldn’t face a daily struggle comparing our physical images with an airbrushed woman on a magazine. The absolute only thing that we would be thinking about on a daily basis is taking walks in the garden with God.
But really, isn’t that the only thing that matters still? Society’s voice is not a voice of truth. It is a distraction.
God has woven His standard of beauty all throughout the bible. Physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it is also something that fades with time. Inner beauty—a beauty that is rooted in Christ—will last forever, lingering in the way your generosity, love and compassion affected the people around you. It will last in the way you brought glory to God with your selflessness and kindness toward others.
I hope I ruined you. I hope I ruined you the way my friend ruined me. I hope from this day forward, any negative thoughts you have about another person—or even yourself—are followed by God’s voice:
“I can still use them. And I can still use you.”
Are you beautiful in God’s eyes? It’s very easy to tell. His standards of what makes a person beautiful can be found all throughout the bible.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” – Proverbs 31:10
“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.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Solomon 4:7
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. 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
“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:5
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
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