There is a recent trend involving young girls, ages 8 to 14. These children make a video asking viewers, “Am I pretty or ugly?” and post it on the Internet. There are approximately 500,000 videos on YouTube posted by preteen and teenage girls who ask viewers this question and solicit brutally honest feedback on their appearance. These videos are a symptom of a society obsessed with physical appearance while overlooking the much more important trait of moral character.
Hollywood typically recruits physically attractive people to portray a “reality” where everyone is thin, fit and blemish free. This “reality” is what young people see on television and in movies. It is no surprise, then, that young girls in our culture feel an unattainable pressure to measure up to that ideal.
As mothers of impressionable daughters, we should all the more ask ourselves, what does God value? What should we value in others? Where should our focus be in life? Should our focus be on self and how we look, or should we be focusing on others and on using the body as a vessel to do God’s will? What is important to God?
In 1 Samuel 16:7, God clearly explains how He looks at human physical appearance. “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” What is most important to our perfect God is our heart and our character. Our flawed society places an incorrect value on the outside appearance, a shallow and vain beauty that fades naturally over time. Hollywood celebrities invest time and money on many treatments such as Botox treatments (or synthetic snake venom, which gives the same effect), plastic surgery, liposuction, false hair, nails and eyelashes. Imagine what our world would be like if the same effort was spent giving attention to decency, kindness, honesty and humility—qualities that can truly improve a person.
On the other hand, is it a sin to look one’s best? Should we, as women, make an effort to be attractive? The Bible describes how King Ahasuerus’ attendants chose young Esther to serve in the women’s quarters of the king’s palace. In Esther 2:9 and 12, we see that Esther went through a full year of preparations to enhance her physical beauty before she would be presented to the king. She was not condemned for allowing these preparations, and they were not made because of any personal vanity on her part. However, it was her character—not her physical beauty—that pleased God.
Esther risked her life to follow God’s will, following Mordechai’s advice. Esther first fasted, putting the situation in God’s hands. It was Esther’s humility and willingness to serve others that made her beautiful and valuable to God.
Solomon was inspired to write in Proverbs 31:30–31, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” The Apostle Peter observed what is more valued to our heavenly Father in Peter 3:3–4, “Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning… but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
God could use Esther because of her teachable attitude and willingness to obey Him—her inner beauty. Those young girls today who are asking each other, “Am I pretty or ugly?” need to remember that God assesses their worth by who they are inside—not their physical form.
In God’s soon-coming Kingdom, little girls will not be obsessing about their looks, worried if they are pretty or ugly. They will learn to focus instead on character building and in serving others, and society will teach and be taught which qualities have true and lasting value. Let us as mothers do our part to imbue those qualities in our daughters today!