Beauty and Manliness: Facebook live
For one of her Facebook Lives for parents and carers, Rachel talked about how to coach our children spiritually in a world which idolises beauty and manliness.
The content is taken largely from her book ‘Parenting Children for a Life of Confidence’, now part of the Parenting Children for a life of Faith Omnibus. We have summarised Rachel’s main points below, or you can watch the age-specific episodes here:
The world is obsessed with what people look like. It says that our appearance is the golden key to happiness. If people think we are beautiful or good looking, the world says, then we get access to popularity, friends, joy, romance, good jobs and confidence. And because being beautiful brings success and significance, it’s important to dress well, be toned, have a great haircut and not go outside without make up. Or even go and change your body to be how you want it.
So our children feel they need to take a look at their appearance and aspire to be different or better, assuming that if their outward appearance is right, everything else will be OK. Believing the lies that the world tells about beauty robs people of joy. When our children are preoccupied with their appearance, this can prevent them from living life to the full as God intended and can even interfere with his calling and purposes for them.
But we need to go deeper into how God sees beauty. The Bible has a totally different narrative about our appearance. God appears to care nothing at all for what a person looks like. His value of beauty is very different. In 1 Samuel 16:7, for example, God explains to Samuel that the outward appearance of the brothers isn’t significant. It’s what’s you and God are doing on the inside that matters.
Establishing with our children the truth about what they look like on the inside and the outside is a really powerful and significant spiritual tool. When they are worried about their appearance, we want to reassure them, and often tell them that they ARE beautiful, just as they are. But this can just reinforce the world’s view that appearance is important, Instead, we want to shift their attention to realising that their outside is irrelevant: it is how God is shaping their hearts to be powerful for him that is amazing and powerful. Once they have grasped that, then, even though they live in a world that is bombarding them with lies about their appearance, they will know and have confidence in the way God sees them.
On the Facebook Lives, Rachel suggested a range of tools you could use to help shift your kids’ attention. Suggested ages for each one are in brackets but depending on your child, you may find different ones helpful too!
Directing our children’s attention (0s-4s, 5s-11s, teens)
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of commenting on our kids’ and others’ appearances: what they or someone else is wearing, a new haircut, what someone on TV looks like, what we see when we look in the mirror. Without meaning to we can create a culture in our homes of looking at the outside. But what if we created a culture where we only commented on the content of their character; if we were rigorous to admire people for their courage, their choices, their perseverance, what they are doing rather than what they look like. Train yourself not to comment on people’s outward appearance; instead comment on and praise the values and traits you see God growing in them. Don’t simply label them ‘kind’ or ‘thoughtful’, for example, but help them see the impact of their choices: ‘Wow, when you decided to do the washing up tonight, your kindness meant that I could go and put my feet up – that really cheered me up after a hard day.’
Find an analogy that says our appearance isn’t the most important thing about us (0s to 4s, 5s-11s)
For example, the analogy of wrapping paper. Sometimes a gift comes wrapped in the most gorgeous paper; sometimes it’s still in the plastic bag it was bought in, but actually, it doesn’t matter what it’s wrapped in. The gift has nothing to do with the wrapping paper (poop wrapped in wrapping paper is still poop!) How I look is just my wrapping; what God cares about is what’s inside the wrapping: who he’s making me to be. Great for avoiding the ‘I’m not pretty’ conversation: ‘Pretty’s just wrapping paper; what I love about you is nothing to do with what you look like on the outside!’
Engage them in conversation (5s-11s, teens)
Explore with them this idea that looking beautiful or manly is a key to good things. Ask what would change about your life if everyone thought you had a six pack and amazing muscles? Or ‘You said you’d love to look like Beyonce. What do you think would be different about your life if you did?’ This may help you discover what the issues are for your teen.
Spot the lie (5s-11s, teens)
Call out the ridiculous in adverts, movies and TV: implying you find love if you’re beautiful, that you’ll feel better if you use this shampoo, that you need to wear great make up to get that job (for more about the #notbuyingit campaign Rachel mentions, see here. Make this a part of your family’s regular viewing habits!
Expose kids to real life romance stories (5s to 11s, teens).
Much of what our children see on TV and social media will link physical attraction with romance. So they think that their outward appearance will be the key to finding love and future happiness. By sharing yours and other’s romance stories you can powerfully counter that narrative. So tell your kids your story: what attracted you to your partner; invite others over and ask them, tell me about how you met. What made you want to go out together? Why did you decide to marry? By hearing others’ real life love stories our kids realise they are surrounded by ordinary people who have found real joy in love and marriage regardless of their outside appearance.
Teach them how to praise without praising the outside (0s to 4s, 5s-11s).
When kids complement you on your appearance, thank them but ask for something deeper: I love that you think I’m beautiful, but I tell you what makes me feel really confident on the inside? Tell me one thing about my heart that makes you feel happy? Because my outside’s going to change.’ That way we can teach them how to praise without praising the outside.
You might also be interested in: