We are enjoying some family time out and about today. Enjoy this repost from by Ed from January.
A guest post by my husband, Ed Nicholson.
There is a parallel between nourishing food and nourishing beauty, and I fear we live in a time of extreme malnourishment.
I was thinking the other day about how this sickly spiritual condition has become so widespread, and I wonder if it isn’t because of the abundance of what I call “junk beauty.” Junk beauty is anything that looks good on the outside but isn’t really nourishing to the soul. Maybe the most prevalent example in our day comes in the form of sex appeal. The beauty of the human body is a gift from God, as is sexuality itself, but the world mixes it with the poison of lust and repackages it. The quick fix of this poor substitute fades quickly and leaves the consumer feeling awful. We’ve all heard reports of the negative side-effects that fashion magazines can have on our children. Just as eating too much junk food leads to bad physical health, a poor diet of junk beauty leads to poor self-esteem, unrealistic expectations and emptiness. Another example is the way families, ideally a beautiful thing, are portrayed in American sit-coms. The father-figure is almost always an idiot, the mother is cutting and sarcastic and the children are completely self-absorbed and disrespectful. This is the typical picture of the family on TV and it is not beautiful. Speaking of comedy, there is no shortage of junk beauty comedy in the world today. Laughter is a good thing, but like sexuality or the family, it can be twisted by the junk beauty industry to become absolute filth. It is easy to be deceived when we are laughing. We think that if something is funny, it must be good for us. But there is a malnourishment happening at a deep level when we are made to laugh at something evil.
- Mix the true beauty of sex with the poison of lust and you get pornography, which is junk beauty.
- Mix the true beauty of family the with poison of self-centeredness and you get the modern TV sit-com family, which is junk beauty.
- Mix the true beauty of humor with the poison of crudeness and profanity and you get shock comedy, which is junk beauty.
If this stuff is bad for us, then why is it so popular? I think the answer is that we are designed to consume real beauty, so there is a natural hunger in us for the genuine article. In the examples above beauty is mixed with poison. That’s because the marketers know that we are wired for the “real thing” so they have to put a little of it into the mix, or at least pretend to do so, in order for their garbage to sell. Back to our parallel with actual food, junk food has “food” right in the title! It’s unlikely that Little Debbie would sell many products if the box read, “Individually Wrapped Chemical Patties.” They know humans get hungry, so they call it “cake” or “snacks” or “treats” – essentially, “food.” Like regular junk food, junk beauty is cheap to make, easy to get, provides a fast fix, and is, in general, horrible for you. Sadly, it is also addictive.
So what can we do? How can we wean ourselves off of this junk beauty and begin filling ourselves up with God’s true beauty?
First, we need to ask ourselves how close the things we consume are to their original, unperverted forms. The less of the world that is mixed in, the better. Secondly, we need to ask ourselves wether or not our hearts are truly being edified. Like the verse in Phillipians says, “true, beautiful, pure, lovely.” And contrary to the teaching we’ve all been fed for years, these things are not subjective. The truth is an objective fact just like it’s a fact that eating plenty of vegetables is good for you, or that drinking a bottle of whiskey for breakfast is not. In this sense, beauty is no more in the eye of the beholder than nourishment is in the tastebuds of the eater. Finally, the best test I have found for determining real beauty is that when you experience something, no matter what it is – a decaying leaf, a marriage that has stood the test of time, a dog laying in a sunbeam, a face, a visit from a friend, something that makes you laugh – anything – ask yourself if you can genuinely say to God about it, “Thank you.” If it makes you really thankful to Him, then it has turned a part of you toward Him. It is then that you have experienced real beauty, and you will likely be a little less hungry for junk.
Fortunately, God’s beauty is all around us, and with practice we can tune our appetites towards it. We need to find and consume beauty that orients our souls toward the source of all true beauty, God Himself.
11/25/2013 Ed Nicholson
This is very interesting and so at the core of something I have been noticing: a conflict in the mind of what we see vs our values. For example there was this show in ABC about a couple of married people who fall in love with each other. Now they were beautiful and is some level the writers made it so the viewers (myself included) connected with their unhappiness in their respective marriages. And I remember being on Twitter and we were all cheering for the “star-crossed” married lovers. And suddenly it hit me: I was cheering for cheaters! It really stunned me. I stopped watching the show because I felt like a hypocrite watching. And the thing is that many people on Twitter felt the same way and were surprised as me.