I have stumbled across a very disturbing bit of research: Only 2-4% of women think of themselves as beautiful. This is tragic.
Most will agree that the leading cause of this is a society that dictates and distorts our perception of beauty. We feel mandated to live up to these unwritten standards and when we don’t measure up, we feel ugly.
But I think the problem goes even deeper than society’s brainwashing. I think we don’t know what beauty is because we have lost track of the true, Biblical description of what it looks like.
1 Pet.3:3-5 says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,”
A lot of us are uncomfortable with hearing this, especially the ‘submissive’ bit. It goes contrary to what we’ve been told all our lives. We look at the oppression women are under in other parts of the world, as well as the freedoms we were denied before the Women’s Rights Movement. Cultures over the years have looked at women as second class citizens and we’ve fought against it. But is oppression the only thing we are fighting against?
We all know that at the fall of mankind, the woman was cursed with pain during childbirth. However, few know that there was a second part to the curse.
Gen.3:16b says: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
The word desire doesn’t seem like it belongs in a punishment. It sounds more like the silver lining, even a necessity for a healthy marriage. But ‘desire’ as it is used here does not have the same positive connotation we typically associate with it. In Gen.4:7b we see the word again, used very differently:
“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
In the Hebrew language there are many different words for ‘desire,’ one of which is shwq which means ‘longing,’ but in a negative way. The word appears only three times in the Old Testament, two of which are in the verses above.
What the word means in Gen.3:16 is that we women will long after our husbands’ positions of leadership, that we will fight against them and resent them for being over us. It is, in essence, the birth of the feminist movement.
When Eve believed the serpent, she doubted God’s love for her and her identity in Him. This is my own opinion here, but I wonder if that is the reason why women typically have lower self-esteem than man, because we were the first to doubt our value.
In any case, we are still battling this initial doubt and its repercussions today. We are trying to squeeze ourselves into positions we were never meant to occupy and the result is that we are lost, wandering around without identities. We try on many different masks in our attempts to find out who we are, and the media insists that Beauty is the mask of choice. But it won’t satisfy us because a mask will always be a mask.
Go back to 1 Pet.3:5 for a minute:
“For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”
In the dictionary, substitutes for the word ‘hope’ are ‘confidence’ or ‘trust’. The women who put their confidence in God adorned themselves with ‘the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’
We will never be beautiful in our own eyes until we understand and embrace the truth that we are beautiful in God’s eyes, and His is the only opinion that counts. Once we have that, we will truly feel beautiful. Further more, we will be secure enough in that assurance of beauty to be truly submissive in the quiet and gentle way God intended.