Deeper Than Skin

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I read an interesting article in a newspaper recently. It spoke of how most American girls now suffer from "bad body fever." That is, they judge their personal worth almost entirely by the appearance of their bodies.

Dr. Joan Jacobs Brumberg, a professor of history, explains this in a recent book. By the age of 13, more than half of all American girls are unhappy with their bodies. By age 17, the percentage skyrockets to 78 percent.

Dr. Brumberg says that this deep dissatisfaction has sparked important philosophical changes in young girls. She notes that 100 years ago, young girls saw goodness largely in terms of character rather than of the body. A typical diary entry from 1890 went like this: "Resolved to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversations and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others."

(Obviously, the emphasis has changed somewhere along the line.)

Then I read an editorial. It reminded readers of classic characters such as Bront's Jane Eyre. She may have been "plain," but had a strength and honesty that won admiration for her. Dickens's Little Dorrit was "not beautiful in feature," but had an inexhaustible capacity to care for others.

I asked myself why today so many women, young as well as older, have become so preoccupied with perfecting their figures and improving their physical images. Contentment certainly hasn't so far been the result, while an accumulation of female health problems and diseases is increasingly taking up more news space.

Whether people are male or female, if they feel the need to be beautiful in order to be worthy, maybe they need to consider another angle - one rarely discussed and mostly undiscovered. It's a view deeper than skin, a view of oneself from a spiritual standpoint.

The Bible says in Genesis: "God created man [including women and children] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.... And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (1:27, 31). This tells us something more about how woman has been created - and how good she is! Made in the image of God, who is perfect, we are perfect. Nothing physical can change this fact.

Christian Science, in explaining the truthful messages of the Bible, presents seven biblically based names for God - Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind, and Principle. These reveal more about woman: that she expresses the effervescence of Life, the steadfastness of Truth, the tenderness of Love, the beauty of Soul, the strength of Spirit, the intelligence of Mind, and the order of Principle. And these are only a few examples that get at more of woman's true identity, all based on her relationship to God.

Doesn't this mean that each woman's identity is already made of attractive qualities? That your beauty and uniqueness are unchangeable?

While goodness might be thought of as being old-fashioned these days, and indifference as being sharp and modern, it's worth remembering that good is also a synonym for God Himself. The qualities of God that are ours to express have not been lost through the ages, but our understanding of them needs nourishing, in order to bring out their original glow and brilliance in each human life.

The author of the Christian Science textbook wrote, "Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 261). This is where to find the self-image we're looking for - where there's no need for fixing up and glamorizing. A character spirited by the qualities of bubbling joy, humor, innocence, and tranquillity, ready to give unselfish friendship, attracts as a beacon others who may be groping for light. It makes anyone truly attractive to others.

Isn't the excessive self-absorption with outside appearances a crying out for something deeper? It is calling us to find our spiritual identity - to find our link to God. This in turn will transform moral character. Women, as well as men, will then find themselves more beautiful or handsome than any magazine or skin treatment could ever promise.

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