Body image is an issue that has transcended the eras. Different cultures and different fragments of time have varying ideas of what they consider beautiful or desirable. We live in a time now where, as a whole, our ideal for beauty is thinner than it has been for most of history, but as a whole, we are fatter then we have ever been. This tension is presenting parents with a modern day struggle that is rooted in ancient desires for beauty and the power that comes with that beauty.
That’s one of the many things that is so radical and transformational about the gospel. It turns the hierarchy of Money, Beauty, Power and Fame on its head. It transforms it into a system of vulnerability, humility, intrinsic value and freedom.
As Christians, our daughters (and sons) are just as likely to suffer from poor body image and its consequences (eating disorders, depression, promiscuity and suicide to name a few) as our secular community. It’s such a shame, because when we allow this to happen, we squander the truth that we have been given to steward. To that end, I give you this list of things daughters need to hear from us, their parents. The list is targeted at girls because they are statistically more likely to have issues with body image, but could also apply to sons (with adjustments made for physiology.)
1.) Her body is created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” When God imprinted us with His image, He ascribed to us intrinsic worth just by our mere existence.
2.) Her body is last on the list. Make sure you are talking about her intellect, her spirit and her character before her looks. Yes, she is beautiful, but God is going to use who she is on the inside to impact His Kingdom. If anything, God uses our physical flaws and insufficiencies for His glory. 2 Corinthians 12:19, “But my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
3.) Her body can do amazing things: Walk, run, jump, stretch, bend, lift, throw, hit, heal, hug and grow, bear and nourish offspring.
4.) Her body is a temple. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” When she accepts Christ into her heart, the Bible says her body becomes the Holy Spirit’s temple. We are called to take care of God’s temple, but we won’t do that unless we believe that it is worthy of Him. We must believe that our “temple” is worthy to be loved, revered, holy and sufficient.
5.) Her body is beautiful. She is beautiful. Just like men are hardwired to want to be strong, women are hardwired to want to know they are beautiful. We want to be valued and defined by everything but our physical appearance while simultaneously wanting to know that we are physically beautiful. Both things. At the same time. The single most important person on the planet to tell a little girl she is beautiful is her father. If the whole world tells a girl she is fat, plain and unattractive, but her father tells her every day how beautiful she is, inside and out, she will believe him. If everyone in a girl’s world tells her how gorgeous she is, but her father tells her everyday that she is worthless, ugly and fat (or says nothing), she will believe him. I am not saying that a father who says horrifically damaging things to his daughter is the same as a father who, for any number of reasons, doesn’t verbalize to his daughter that she is beautiful. They are not the same, but it’s really important for fathers to understand that the result can be similar. When fathers don’t verbalize to their daughters that they think they are the most wonderful, beautiful and amazing young women in the world, girls instead believe the worst. They assume worthlessness by default. It’s not convenient or logical, but it’s true.
Our daughters look to us, their parents, to reinforce and celebrate who God made them to be. Before we know it, they’ll be taking their cues from their friends and other outside influences. Let’s grab every chance we get to whisper into their hearts that they are beautiful, bought with a price, valuable and enough. They were created for God’s glory, He delights in them and so do we.