Audrey Hepburn: Beauty Icon or Humanitarian?

imgresIt’s been a while since I’ve written on my favorite topic – “beauty in our society”, but rest assured that this delay is not from lack of content. In fact, in the past few months, I have been collecting, storing and sifting through a great deal of information on looks and our society. This post on Audrey Hepburn is one that I have been mulling over since mid-April.

I think most everyone knows or has at least heard of Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993). I mean how many times have you seen the iconic picture below from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

She is well known for her starring roles in a  number of famous (and really terrific) films,  including Roman Holiday (1953), Breakfast  at Tiffany’s (1961), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967).

But, she is perhaps even better known for something equally as impressive, though completely out of her control: her natural beauty.

She is not just a film icon. She is a beauty icon. When people think of beautiful, glamorous women, they naturally think of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and perhaps Angelina Jolie.

With that in mind, take a look at this picture below:

grave-at-trenzalore: followingthedeer: sainthannah: heatherbat: stunningpicture: ‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts. …and history remembers her as pretty. AND HISTORY REMEMBERS HER AS PRETTY note this is the first time I have ever seen a picture of her older than 20 and I think that’s scary

I saw this picture on tumblr with these three comments below:

1. “‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn.”

2. “Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts …and history remembers her as pretty.

3. “this is the first time I have ever seen a picture of her older than 20 and I think that’s scary”

That second comment is my favorite. She was a kind, compassionate and brave woman but, most importantly, she was born with good genes for us to fawn over for generations to come.

Now, to be honest, I think perhaps the older people of the world do remember that she was a humanitarian, but what is her legacy? Already, after perhaps one generation, what do us “kids” know about her? That she was a pretty face?  We must not reduce her life’s work to something so trite and temporary.

Men are most often valued for their brains and money, and women are most often valued for their looks. Why? Because we are sexual objects in society, and that stereotype is reinforced everyday on the internet, on tv and on the streets.

Well, I’m trying to keep my posts shorter, so I’ll leave this topic for now. But, as owner of this blog, I will not leave this post on Audrey without highlighting her real legacy:

1. A seriously brilliant actress. Have you seen this beautiful lady act? Please tell me you haven’t just seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s because, if so, you are seriously missing out. Please go watch Wait Until Dark immediately. I mean she wasn’t picked to star in so many classics just for her looks. In fact, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, a record three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role, three Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award for Best Performance for a Leading Actress. Bam! Talk about talent!

2. A seriously compassionate humanitarian. In 1988 Audrey Hepburn was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and spent the remainder of her life traveling throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America in an effort to raise awareness for suffering children.

This five year period from 1988 to her death in 1993 was not a publicity stunt or a way to stave off the guilt of her successful life. In fact, Audrey’s friends and family later said that she was consumed by “the thoughts of dying, helpless children” until her death (audrey1.org).

During one trip to Bangladesh UN photographer John Isaac accompanied Audrey and still remembers her genuine love for the children. “Often the indexpicnewkids would have flies all over them, but she would just go hug them,” Isaac said. “I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them. Children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her – she was like the Pied Piper.”

I love that quote because he was a photographer and photographers look for beauty. When Audrey was young, her face was the “beauty” of the photo. But, as an older lady, her actions were the “beauty” of the photos (as in the picture to the right).

Audrey used her powerful name and status to help thousands of children because Audrey got it. She knew that the thousands of children pictured in the countless “feed the hungry” ads each year do have a name and do have a life and do need help. Each child has a story. They get embarrassed. They get scared. They worry. They laugh. And they need food and water.

Two quotes from Audrey on her humanitarian work stuck out to me:

“People in these places don’t know Audrey Hepburn, but they recognize the name UNICEF. When they see UNICEF their faces light up, because they know that something is happening. In the Sudan, for example, they call a water pump UNICEF.” (US magazine McCall’s, 1989)

“There is so much we cannot do. We cannot give the children back their parents, but we can return to them their most basic human rights – their rights to health, tenderness and life.” (USA Today, 1989)

 

Advertisements

Sometimes I Don’t Like Being Beautiful

In arguments it’s important to consider the other side right? To put yourself in other people’s shoes? Well I decided to look for a firsthand account of the downside of being beautiful. I mean I continually point out the benefits of being beautiful, but what about the disadvantages?

In a blog post titled “Beautiful People – What is it like, day-to-day, to be remarkably attractive?” some talented photographers give us a rare look at the cons of being beautiful. This is the quote that stuck out to me the most:

“So much of my personal value has been placed on what I look like. It’s sad. Looks don’t last. So as I age, will I lose my value?” -Nicole

I think that Nicole has a great point. People who don’t have looks to fall back on automatically turn to other things – writing, art, sports, music, volunteer work, academics, etc. – in order to find something that they’re “good at” so to speak.

But, for Nicole, she’s “good at” looks. She seems wise so hopefully she’s good at other things too. But, sometimes attractive people can get trapped into just being a pretty doll to look at and admire.

Perhaps when she was just 5 years old people came up to her mom saying, “Nicole is so beautiful already. The boys will be fighting over her when she’s older.” Then she was 10 years old, and the boys were already starting to favor her above the rest of her friends. Then she was 15 years old, and she effortlessly took the title of “most popular girl” of her grade. Everyone – male and female – wanted to be her friend because of something she was born with, something she didn’t even have to work for.

Attractive people like Nicole are put on a pedestal without them even having to win a track race, earn the highest GPA, or land the lead role in the musical. They automatically get this same honor that others have to work for. So then maybe attractive people  don’t feel the need to work for something else – to do well in school, or to be nice to others – because everyone already seems to like them. They were born being “good at” something – something that seems to be very important to everyone no matter their age or cultural background. So why would they need to work at other things?

But then at age 40 your outer shell begins to peel off and what will be revealed underneath? An even more beautiful inside? Or a completely hideous inside? If you haven’t been working on your character that will be a horrific time for you. You will feel worthless because all of your value was placed in your now disintegrating outside.

Really, you should never put your value in anything that you are “good at” because anything can be taken away from you.

Looks? You get attacked by a chimp on a trip overseas and it mauls your face. 

Intelligence? You get in a car wreck and suffer severe brain damage. 

Singing? You get surgery and the surgeons mess up your vocal chords. 

Family? You lose your husband, children, and parents in a sudden tsunami. 

So what is it that you value the most? Is it a talent? A person? A position? A material possession? A future dream scenario? Picture this thing or person or scenario. Now picture yourself waking up tomorrow and realizing that it is gone. Completely gone. What do you do?

Did you even picture something? Is this too hypothetical for you? Maybe you’re thinking “My life has been normal – even boring – for 20 years. I am 99.9% sure I am not going to wake up to a tragedy tomorrow or any time in the near future.”

This is the “it will never happen to me” mentality or the “just world phenomenon” from social psychology.

Can I pause to brag for a moment? Okay thanks, I’ll be quick. Here it is: I don’t think I’m a victim of this mentality. I have many examples, but I will just mention one.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 1.53.05 PM

I do not swim in the ocean past my ankles unless the ocean is perfectly clear. I’m not a beach snob, I’m just aware that I have just as much a chance of being eaten by a shark as the next person.

My friends and family sometimes get frustrated with me because of this. They all say the same things: you are more likely to get struck by lightning, only a few hundred people get attacked each year out of the millions and millions of people who swim in the ocean, what are the chances that it will happen to you?

Well, all I’ll say is that I have read “List of fatal, unprovoked shark attacks in the United States” on Wikipedia and it is freaking terrifying. Do you think anyone on that list thought, “There’s a good chance a shark will eat me today.” No, they all probably thought, “What are the chances that I will be the 1 in 11.5 million to get attacked by a shark?”

I mean look at that picture! That is not normal! If you see that coming toward you in the water, you are toast.

You have to realize that you are not immune. There is not an invisible shield around you protecting you from a shark attack, from a rapist, from a kidnapper, from a fatal car accident, from a damaging surgery, from a life-changing injury, or from being catapulted into infamy tomorrow for one mistake you make that goes public.

Now this is obviously very scary and depressing if your value is found in things, people, reputations, or future plans. But there is another option: place your value in God – the only being who can never suddenly be taken away from you. Ever.

After Jesus Christ died on the cross he stayed on earth for 40 days to prove that he had risen from the dead. He revealed Himself at least 12 different times – once to 500 people. But, before he ascended into heaven Jesus told the people who were with Him, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). That was the last thing He said to mankind before He physically left – that He would always be there for them when they asked for His help.

Do bad things still happen to Christians? Oh yes. I struggle with this sometimes. Why do “God’s children,” whom He supposedly protects, suffer from the same things that unbelievers suffer from? Where was that in the Bible?

Job. It was in Job. And many other places. But  mainly in Job. Job is a man who is called “blameless and upright.” He “fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:1) And you want to know what happens to him? Satan attacks him with God’s permission. Satan. . .

1) sends people to steal all of Job’s livestock and to kill the servants who were taking care of them

2) kills Job’s 7 sons and 3 daughters

3) infects Job with boils and festering sores

4) destroys Job’s home and fortune

God loved Job, yet he allowed all of that to happen to him. Want to know who else God loved? His 12 original disciples and Paul. Want to know who was martyred? 11 of those 13 men. Everyone except Judas (suicide after he betrayed Jesus) and John (died of old age on Patmos).

God loved those men, yet he allowed them to be killed by men. And it’s in the Bible. So clearly God and his disciples are not trying to cover this up. It’s in the Bible.

And this same thing that frustrates me in 2013 frustrated King Solomon in 970-931 BC.

In Ecclesiastes – one of his two books that made it in the Bible – King Solomon says, “Everything is the same for everyone. The same fate awaits the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the pure and the impure, those who sacrifice and those who don’t sacrifice. The good person is like the wrongdoer; the same holds for those who make solemn pledges and those who are afraid to swear” 

If you haven’t read Ecclesiastes, King Solomon is the wisest person who has ever lived – and also one of the richest. He decides to pursue all of the pleasures in life in order to find out the lifestyle that makes one the most happy and the most content. He had endless resources to spend on this experiment and you want to know what he found? Everything was meaningless. After all of his escapades he says that all mankind can do is “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Everything else on earth – any pursuit – will ultimately lead to discontentment.

So what I’m trying to say is don’t put all of your energies and hope and value into anything that can be unexpectedly taken away tomorrow morning – which, incidentally, is everything except God.

Bad things will still happen to you if you have a relationship with God, but you will not be broken by them. Instead of walking down the dark paths alone, you will have God at your side, leading you by the hand, catching you when you slip.

This is getting long, but I want to provide a real-life example so this isn’t just a hypothetical idea. This morning my teacher told us this story:

“About 18 years ago when we first moved to Greenville my family and I needed dental care. I had enough money to get our teeth checked out at the dentist, but then I didn’t have enough money to pay for the dental procedures that we needed. I asked God to provide the $2,500 that we needed. I kept praying for two weeks because I knew that God could provide. Finally, I started to walk toward the dentist office across the street to see if we could work out a deal. I felt terrible that I couldn’t provide for my family in this way. But, on the way to the dentist I was convicted. God knew that we needed a dentist, and He would provide. So I turned around and went home. Now my wife was working as a housecleaner for a family in Greenville. When she came home that evening she said that the woman she was working for asked, “Do ya’ll have a dentist in town yet?” “No. Not yet.” she replied. “Well my husband is a dentist and we can provide ya’ll with free dental care.”

And so they have ever since that day.

God held my teacher’s hand through that trial. And that’s just one example. Talk to Christians who pray consistently – yes they are out there – things like this happen all the time.

Paul Washer is a scarily powerful speaker – one of the only preachers who reminds me of the power and boldness with which Paul of the Bible spoke. If you want to know about authentic Christianity don’t listen to Westboro Baptist Interviews. Read the Bible without preconceived notions and then listen to some Paul Washer sermons.

Anyway, I thought I would try to explain trials in the Christian life with just 3 Paul Washer quotes:

1. Because sanctification is progressive, you will spend the greater part of your life chasing other things. And those other things will leave you empty and that is the why of trials. ~Paul Washer

2. You mark my words, and it won’t be long … when persecution begins in this country [USA], and it strips everything from you, and most of the evangelical church goes totally apostate, and little groups are left to be berated, THEN you will see that Christ is enough.  ~Paul Washer

3. Some of the believers that have been most fruitful since the ascension of Jesus Christ were people who experienced extraordinary difficulties.   ~Paul Washer

Like a woodcrafter, God uses trials to shave away at our faults. With each new trial, an obtrusive piece of wood is shaved away, revealing a little bit more solid, beautiful design. Does that makes sense? Trials hack away at our old, sinful character traits and reveal new, beautiful character traits.

Now trials for unbelievers will 1) drive them to Christ or 2) drive them further away from Christ – their only hope – and thus further into despair (depression, suicide, alcoholism or selfishness).

Trials for true believers will 1) drive them to Christ. That is it. It may take them a few stumbles, but God never lets go of His children. Trials lead them to see that God is enough. Christians are not perfect. We doubt. We chase after other things. But then trials come and we depend on God and we realize that, were everything in my life gone tomorrow, I would still have everything because I have Christ.

That is a very quick overview of a complex topic, but I really don’t fancy overcomplicating matters. If you aren’t a Christian, I mean even if you have never heard of the Bible, then I would say read Ecclesiastes. I promise you that anyone would find this an interesting and worthwhile read. It’s only 12 chapters and you can read the whole thing online. Shouldn’t take you more than half an hour if you’re a fast reader. Then I would say listen to some Paul Washer sermons because he doesn’t sugarcoat the Gospel. He just lays it out there and you can take it or leave it.

You can take God or you can leave Him. It’s up to you.

Dating like Mr. Rochester

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 8.06.19 PM

Disclaimer: This post can be for both boys and girls, but I didn’t want to keep saying “him or her” or “boys or girls,” etc. so I decided to put boys in the hot seat. I’m not sorry. 

Also, beauty is just one of the many issues that one can observe in the dating scene. However, my blog deals with appearance so that’s what the majority of my posts focus on. 

“Boys think girls are like books, If the cover doesn’t catch their eye they won’t bother to read what’s inside.” -Marilyn Monroe

Is this really from Marilyn Monroe? I feel like half the quotes on the internet are attributed to her.

Either way, I like this quote because it calls out people’s superficial dating strategies.

You can see this everywhere, even in the Christian world. A boy starts looking for a girlfriend. He sees a plain-looking girl and is kind to her, but never bothers to pursue her past the friend stage (a.k.a. he looks at the plain cover and decides to just skim the book or not read it at all).

Then he sees a beautiful girl complete with a beautiful face and a perfect body. And, despite only seeing her appearance, he thinks, “I should get to know her better, she could be the one.” And he pursues her way past the small chat stage (a.k.a. he notices the beautiful cover and decides to study that book cover to cover).

I call these people the “fake inner beauty seekers.” Think of a Venn Diagram. You have all the beautiful girls represented by one circle, and all the wise/kind-hearted/humble girls represented by another circle. The place where they overlap in the middle – that’s the girls most men go for. Yes, I actually made a Venn diagram. This is a serious issue people.

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.54.12 AM

So most Christian guys go for that middle section. Can you blame them? I guess not really. Like I keep saying – we were made to appreciate beautiful things.

However, I find one main issue.

If my very scientific Venn diagram is correct, this means that 75% of the girls in the “Good-hearted” circle are just as good-hearted as the girls in the middle oval, but they’re dating life is a barren wasteland. It’s because all of the men are fishing in that middle oval complaining about how hard it is to find a good catch.

Then one boy wises up, says forget this, and throws his line into the wide open pond behind all of his frustrated comrades and BAM. Literally a pool of kind-hearted, wise, sincere, average-looking to below-average looking women. He’s like, “Wait, is this a set up? Where are all the other fishers?” And then an older, wiser guy who’s already married comes up to him and is like, “Nah, it’s real, but you have to let all the other men figure it out for themselves” and walks away incandescently happy with his faithful wife.

Let’s look at some examples of guys fishing in each of the three categories. 

1) An example of someone who fished exclusively in the left circle (one criteria: beauty)

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 8.29.52 PM

This is pretty much every movie ever made. The guy sees a beautiful girl and immediately decides to pursue her. In the movies, this always ends up surprisingly well. They just happen to be soul mates. Mhmm sure.

One that is particularly striking to me is Marius and Cosette. Marius watches Cosette walking in the market for about one minute and then follows her home and professes his undying love for her. Are you serious? Granted I haven’t read the book, so maybe there is more detail in the written account. (Also I love this story!)

As for a Biblical example, I would definitely say Jacob. He is out to look for a wife when he spots Rachel who has “a beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Gen. 29:17), and he decides right then and there that he wants to marry her.

Richard Strauss of Bible.org says, “Jacob was impressed—probably too impressed. We get the idea that he was so fascinated by Rachel’s beauty, and so enchanted by her charm, that he failed to recognize her shortcomings or even to consider the will of God in his relationship with her. . .

We know that a relationship based primarily on physical attraction rests on a shaky foundation. . .  They can make their marriage succeed, but it will take a little extra effort, and they will need to make their relationship grow far beyond the physical magnetism that got it started.”

2) An example of someone who fished in the middle oval (criteria: beautiful and good-hearted)

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 12.56.58 PM

I think Mr. Bingley is a good example of a middle oval fisherman. When he first meets Jane he thinks that she is beautiful, and he decides that he wants to get to know her better. So her looks are what first caught his eye – not her personality or character. However, he had the decency to get to know her first and, sure enough, they fall madly in love with each other and are happily married.

So, as you can see, I am in no way saying the middle oval is a bad pond. No, it’s a great pond. I’m just saying that it’s no better than the pond to the right.

(P.S. Shout out to Elizabeth in this picture for staying calm amidst the awkward. I feel her pain – always the third wheel)

A good biblical example is the love story between David and Abigail. At first, David asks Abigail’s foolish husband Nabal for food to revive him and his men. Nabal refuses, and David is upset. However, as soon as Abigail hears this she rushes supplies out to David and apologizes for her husband’s behavior. This may not be your typical submissive wife, but let’s look at the Bible’s description of her:

“The woman was intelligent and beautiful” (1 Sam. 25:3).

Straight to the point. The Talmud actually lists her as one of the “four women of surpassing beauty in the world” so yeah, I’d say David was fishing in that middle pond area. But, like Mr. Bingley and Jane, the story ends well. She was a great catch, as all the ones in the middle are. Again, just don’t show the middle oval favoritism over the rest of the right circle.

3) An example of someone who fished in the right circle (criteria: good-hearted)

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.04.42 PM

Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre comes to mind as a right circle fisherman. Jane is very plain-looking but, over time, Mr. Rochester falls deeply in love with Jane for her heart and mind. He enjoys their intellectually stimulating conversations, and he treats her as an equal. Sigh. I really love this story. Look how proud they are of each other!

Okay, now for our Bible example. Oh wait, there isn’t one. At least not that I could find. The only unattractive married person that I could find in the Bible was Leah. And Jacob got tricked into marrying her so I don’t think that really counts.

But want to know who wasn’t blindsided by beauty? God. He saw that Leah was being treated poorly because she wasn’t as pretty as Rachel, and He gave her children.

Furthermore, Isaiah describes Jesus Christ by saying, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2b)

He was so ordinary looking that none of the disciples mention anything about his outer appearance. Judas Iscariot – who betrayed Jesus – even had to identify him with a kiss.

God is well aware of people’s tendencies to be biased toward beauty, but God is never tempted to do this. Jesus could have come down as a youthful man beautiful in face and form, but he didn’t. Because outer looks mean nothing to God. They don’t affect His perception of us. And they shouldn’t affect our perception of each other.

God is the wisest of all beings, and He only looks at the heart. So shouldn’t we only look at the heart too?

Let’s do a test. How are you approaching the dating scene? I’ll give you two examples that you can compare yourself to (pretty sure I made this whole post just so I could play with the Venn Diagram program).

Example 1: (Marius)

1. Mentally divides Girls/Guys between beautiful-looking and comely-looking.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.11.17 PM

2. Looks at the “beautiful” crowd and divides it up between the mean-hearted and the good-hearted.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.50.06 PM

3. Looks at the “Beautiful & Good-hearted” girls/guys and divides between “click with” or “don’t click with.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.20.46 PM

4. Finally, picks from the pool of beautiful, good-hearted girls/guys that she/he clicks with.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.20.16 PM

Example 2: (Mr. Rochester)

1. Divides the girls/boys between the good-hearted and the mean-hearted.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.09.04 PM

2. Picks the good-hearted group and divides it between the girls/boys you click with and the girls/boys you don’t click with.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.16.39 PM

3. Voila! Date in the pool of good-hearted girls/boys that you click with.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 3.20.16 PM

. . . And then fall in love with someone for who he or she is, and I promise that he or she will become the most beautiful person that you have ever and will ever meet. Now that’s LOVE with a capital L-O-V-E.

And for any boys, I know you like things short and simple so here it is: don’t go for the girl who catches your eye, go for the girl who catches your heart.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.19.43 PM

Beautiful People in the Bible [part 2]

Pink-rose-random-30495507-1024-768 Yesterday I listed seven of the most famous beautiful people from the Bible. That’s actually an incomplete list. This list – which mentions 22 people – is the most extensive list that I could find. So really, I only listed about a third of the people who were attractive enough to merit an entire verse in the Bible stating that they were attractive.

Sometimes this can be frustrating for me. I see the list of Bible verses talking about the importance of inner beauty, but then I see this list and suddenly I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between beauty and accomplishing great things for God.

The most frustrating passage for me is in 1 Samuel 16. Saul has disobeyed God, and so God sends the prophet Samuel out to anoint the replacement King of Israel. God says,”I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king” (1b).

So Samuel goes to the household of Jesse and invites them to a sacrifice honoring God. They agree to come, and when Jesse’s son Eliab arrives Samuel thinks, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (6b).

But God says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

So Jesse calls in the rest of his sons, but God does not choose any of them either. Finally, Jesse calls in his youngest son David.

At this point in the story I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness David is going to be so small, weak and unattractive. But he will  be full of kindness and wisdom. So it will be a classic underdog rags-to-riches tale.” Nope. Samuel says that he was “glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” (12).

What?

This is not where I saw the story going. I mean I’m happy for David and all, but it almost seems contradictory at first. Didn’t God say that he didn’t care about outward appearance? Then why did he choose David – who is described as healthy, fine, and handsome – to be King.

Did God chose him for his appearance? No, not at all. Throughout King David’s reign we see that God must have examined his heart because David was the best King Israel ever had. How else could God have known that David would be kind, just, honest, compassionate, and faithful? Besides, if God had chosen the next king simply based off of appearance then I’m sure there were other attractive men in the land that would have been up for the task. But God doesn’t work that way. He shines a spotlight into the hidden corners of our hearts to find the right people to do His work.

Perhaps you’ve been feeling useless in the Kingdom of God lately. Check your heart. Don’t check the outer covering of the heart, the part that you show to the world. All of us can pass that test. Easy peasy. We’re all kind, cheerful, honest and faithful when others are watching- or at least most of the time.

But I mean check the corners of your heart. Check what you say about people behind their backs. Check what’s going on in your mind at night when you’re falling asleep. You know your mind – that place where no one else can keep you accountable but yourself. God still sees in there too. Check what you’re looking at on the internet. And so on. You know where you struggle. Check yourself there. Better to put the problem out in the open and deal with it than to let it fester and grow like mold.

Look at Saul. We can trace his downfall back to the first germ of jealousy that he allowed to sprout in his heart. Steadily, over time, Saul watered that little germ by letting his mind obsess over his jealousy of David. These thoughts later came out in his violent actions against David. Apparently the contents of our hearts and minds translate into later actions.

Now Saul could have squashed the germ right after it first landed in his heart. But he didn’t. He disregarded God’s warnings and let it spread throughout his heart, and soon he had a moldy heart, and was no longer any use to God.

So God had to find a new King. He searched through the hearts of all the men in the land and found David. This young man was honest, kind, humble, and, most importantly, faithful to Him. So God sent Samuel to anoint David as the next King of Israel.

Notice the selection process. Did God narrow it down to five candidates and then say, “Okay now each of you has ten minutes to present your positions on the following policies.” No. Did he say, “Okay now I’m going to give you this Meyers-Briggs test to see if your personality will fit in well with the rest of the team.” No. He didn’t need to. All God looked at was the heart because the heart is the microscope into our entire being.

When God sees that you have a good heart, He doesn’t need to check up on anything else – how you treat other people, whether or not you pray or read your Bible, how often you tithe, what you do in your spare time, what others think of you, etc. Because a good heart means you’re doing it right. It’s like, rather than looking at each and every test score that you make over your entire high school career, colleges mainly look at your SAT score because this is usually a good indication of your overall academic achievement. Thankfully, God’s “Heart Aptitude Test” – hey HAT! I like that – is a lot more accurate.

If you’ll notice from the list of beautiful people in the Bible, some had good hearts and some had bad hearts. So outward beauty was an unreliable judge of inner beauty in biblical times too. But notice that many outwardly beautiful people were also inwardly beautiful, like Esther and Abigail. So don’t skew the data the other way either.

But really, what this means is that outer beauty has no connection to inner beauty. And thank goodness, right? The thing that God cares the most about – our inner beauty – is up to us. So how hard are you seeking after God’s own heart? How’s your HAT score?

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

TED Talk: Looks Aren’t Everything

If you’ve never heard of TED talks, then stop reading this and visit this link. You’re back already? Don’t you feel smarter?

TED talks are brilliant. They encourage creativity and innovation in politics, religion, and culture in general. Yesterday I saw the one titled ‘Looks aren’t Everything. Believe me. I’m a model.’ and I squealed with delight (not really). But I didn’t know just how relevant it would be to this blog. I have been trying to put my specific purpose for this blog into words and here it is via Cameron Russell’s closing statement in the above video:

“If there’s a takeaway to this talk I hope it’s that we all feel more comfortable acknowledging the power of image in our perceived successes and our perceived failures.”

That’s what I want. Like I said yesterday, we will never get 313.9 million individual Americans to forget about outward looks. We are biologically programmed to be attracted to and to respond better to physically beautiful things. But I think that we often ignore this issue. Sure we talk about the cruelty of the modeling business on girls’ self-esteem. But that’s about it. What about bias in the workplace? in dating? in receiving free stuff? in getting a traffic ticket? in getting frisked at the airport? Just because there isn’t a solve-all solution doesn’t mean an issue isn’t worth exploring and trying to understand.

Still don’t think it’s a real world issue? Listen to a few of Russell’s current statistics. In 2007 a student counted 677 models. Only 27 were non-white. “Of the 140,000 teenagers that were stopped and frisked [in New York], 86% of them were black and latino.” I know I’ve mainly been talking about the benefits given to attractive females, but there it is. This problem is so much bigger than most people are willing to acknowledge.

I want to leave you with another quote that I found particularly insightful and will be making a full post on later this week:

“There’s very little that we can do to transform how we look. And how we look, though it is superficial and immutable, has a huge impact on our lives.”

The Hypocrisy of “Beauty and the Beast”

tumblr_mtln1jlXkv1rbsoago1_500

La Belle et la Bête is the classic fairytale turned Disney princess movie that boasts a lasting moral lesson on the importance of inner beauty over outer beauty.  The Beast was once a handsome Prince until he refused to care for an old lady, who unfortunately turned out to be a fairy with the ability to turn him into a hideous beast.  This curse of ugliness could only be lifted if he could find someone to love him in spite of his outer unfortunate visage.  When the beast captures an old man, his beautiful and bookish daughter Belle comes along to rescue him.  After some time, Belle chooses to love the beast in spite of his abundance of fur and set of horns.  And they of course live happily ever after.

Now that that’s done, you will have to pardon me for looking past the surface of this innocent story to the real theme: outer beauty is more important than inner beauty.  Let’s begin with this snippet from the opening prologue (note: I have printed the full prologue for your enjoyment, but I will just be focusing on the highlighted part):

| e v e l i n  s p a g e | “Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle.  Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold.  Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and  turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by  appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again,  the old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The  prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the  time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?”

This last highlighted part dealing with the fairy’s ultimatum to the Beast states that he “must learn to love another.”  This beast learned to “love” the first beautiful girl he saw.  She is literally so beautiful that her name means “beauty” in French, yet we say that he has learned the importance of inner beauty.  How does this follow logically?  He simply fell in love with the thing that he had always loved: beauty.  Nothing changed for him.  If, instead, Belle had been an ugly old pig of the fairy tale witch type then I would admit that the beast had indeed made a full heart transformation.  But, sadly, that is not the case.

Instead, Belle is the character who must look past outward appearances in order to fall in love with the Beast (though what she saw of inner beauty I cannot say).  Belle is beautiful both inside and out, and she is the one who successfully loves the ugly and unwanted, not the other way around.

tumblr_mthtcxtDOO1srzaifo1_500

But before I step off my soapbox (is that someone throwing an orange peel at me?) I want to say that this small fracture in an otherwise beautiful tale reflects the way the world deals with beauty.  We say that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty, but is that true?  Or, like the popular theme of Beauty and the Beast, does it just seem that way? I’d like to use this blog to explore that question further.

For me, I would say yes, it’s just a nice saying to make people feel better.  Think about it.  What’s the first thing anyone asks when someone says they’re dating?  “Is he/she cute?”  “Can I see a picture on Facebook?”  Then, once we see a picture of them, if that person is less attractive than the other half, we say “He/She could do better.”  How do you know that?  How do you know that this less-attractive person isn’t extremely smart, interesting, nice, and funny?  Maybe this less-attractive person could do better.  You cannot judge someone by their unchangeable outward appearance.  And I’d like to use this blog to try to prove that to you.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.