The Mahaney family are experts at writing short, readable and practical books that pack a punch. I recommend True Beauty to you, which despite fulfilling all the Mahaney criteria took me four months to read (well, just over two years if you count from when I blogged that I was going to read it.) But hey, I had a baby.
I don’t really need to take what I learnt and package into a parenting article because there is actually an appendix in the book in which they apply the lessons to parenting. So please do read the book. However, here are some thoughts from me. I’m afraid they’re a bit jumbled up, for which I partly blame the school holidays.
I don’t know about you but the issue of beauty seems to me like a bit of a minefield. I don’t want my daughter to be vain, but I want her to know that she is beautiful. And is it alright to tell my son he is handsome? And how can I encourage the boys to value true beauty and not just long lashes and Disney manes?
We’re so bombarded with the world’s idea of beauty, however ugly that may be in God’s sight, that it’s tempting to avoid the topic of “beauty” altogether. But if I do that, then my children will only have the world teaching them what is beautiful. And if I try to shield them completely from that, they will either think that all beauty is wicked or they’ll crave worldly beauty like a child craves refined sugar. I don’t want my daughter to spend all of her (potential) pocket money on lip gloss and teen fashion magazines because I never even let her have a mirror in her room. So, how do I navigate all of this without anything blowing up in my face?
What I know in my head if not always in my heart is that true beauty comes from the Lord, because he is the Beautiful One, the source of all beauty and creator of everything beautiful. He defines beauty, and he is right. (You should have been there when I tried to explain this – although not in those words – to my hairdresser… awkward!)
As with all of the good things in this world, beauty has become warped and corrupted so that our own view of beauty is spoilt. But beauty is a good thing, from God, so rather than avoiding beauty we need to celebrate it. We will spend eternity gazing upon the beauty of the Lord, so it must be worth thinking about now!
I really think my children are likely to pick up on and inherit my own attitude on this issue. If I say “Beauty is on the inside” but don’t walk the talk, they won’t buy it. If my husband tells me I look lovely and I say “No I don’t,” and if the only compliments I ever give people are about how they look, and if I spend huge amounts of time and money on my own appearance, then that’s a pretty powerful message to my children.
I think it would really help if I did promote true beauty in the way that I spoke to the children and acted in day-to-day life, rather than just focusing on the false versions of beauty we see every day. I can point out when someone does something beautiful; I can admire true beauty in others. I can talk to my children when we come across examples of worldly beauty which I don’t think the Lord would value, such as saucer-eyed ice princesses having tantrums to music (“the cold never bothered me anyway”). But I can explain those things in a measured way, rather than just banning all things Frozen or Barbie – unless I really want to.
Ezra: “What’s Barbie?”
Miriam: “It’s a doll, like Hannah got for Christmas.”
Ezra: “Ha ha, Sweeney Todd’s a barber.”
You can’t argue with that.
The Lord’s version of beauty is so much more wonderful and liberating than the world’s. In the world, beauty fades with age. But in God’s kingdom, the beautiful person is wise, generous, hospitable, gentle, hardworking, and joyful. We can grow in these things, so in the church we can look to the older men and women and admire their beauty, and aspire to be truly beautiful. And when we seek to be truly beautiful, we are seeking God’s glory, instead of seeking attention for ourselves, which is vanity. How wonderful it would be if I could bring up my children to enjoy the beauty of the Lord, and so reflect his beauty to those around them.
On a practical note, one way that my 6 year old daughter and I recently went on a “true beauty hunt” (I think that’s a quote from the book!) was to make postcards with Bible verses about beauty on them*, and then send them to some of the beautiful women we know. This was a lovely thing to do because we enjoyed making the postcards look pretty(!), talking about the Bible verses and thinking about the women we were sending them to. It encouraged the women who received them, but at the same time taught my daughter how to identify true beauty. I’m praying for more ideas; please let me know if you have any!
*Such as Proverbs 31 v10 or v30; Romans 10v15.
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