Friday, December 16, 2011

Supremacy of External Appearance

Judging a Person's Worth by External Appearance: Societal enticements for cosmetic surgery was the headline for an article on the current fascination of many in our society for artificially enhanced personal appearance.

Now that the college entrance exams are over, not a few students are pestering their parents for the opportunity to improve their appearance. Inner beauty is put on the back burner while all of society seems to be stressing the importance of external beauty. The writer, a professor of ethics, looks at this issue from a gospel perspective.
Cosmetic surgery is setting down deep roots in society: loftier nose, bigger eyes, getting rid of the second eyelid and much else. In recent years, middle and high school students who look forward to the possibility of cosmetic surgery in the future has increased by almost 10 percent. And it is not only limited to the young; the older generation is interested as well: getting rid of wrinkles with face-lifts, and whatever else will give the appearance of youth. The professor wonders whether reports of those who have died from cosmetic surgery will put a damper on this excessive and often frivolous use of surgery.
The mass media continues to present programs that highlight what has been done with cosmetic surgery. Those who have doll-like looks are the idols of our society. Those who feel they are unattractive, seeing these programs, often become envious of those with the doll-like faces and are tempted to take the same steps. Society is believed to be recommending the step: Isn't it a virtue to have others look at the beautiful! is a sentiment many believe to be true.
How are we as Christians to respond to what is happening? The professor said humanity's  first sin was to see reality differently from the way God saw it. Instead of believing what God said, they were more interested in what looked good.
Psychology, the professor says, gives us ample proof that our desires are only temporarily assuaged by surgery or by any external change. A lack of self-worth is what prompts us to fill this lack by changing our outward appearance. 

Society is telling us, many believe, that the competition with others is making this excessive concern with external appearance necessary. Another mental health professor says it is often those that did not receive affirmation from family and friends who will want to achieve self-worth by external means.
He concludes the article by enumerating what is necessary to change our society's fixation on the externals of life. Don't judge others by appearances; respect yourself and see yourself positively; be quick to criticize programs that overly stress the beauty of the body.

And don't be taken in by the superficial standards of society, but teach children to see their worth as God's children. Stress the inner beauty of each child. God made us in his image, and this image is not the external one.

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