Tuesday, September 9, 2008

She's Ugly But She Sure Can Cook!

I am a huge fan of pop music of the 1950's and 1960's. As a child, I would listen to the oldies station on the radio and memorize both the lyrics and the backup vocals of songs that were made popular years before I was born. They seemed to take me back to a simpler time, where love and romance seemed far more pure, innocent, and genuine than the teenage dramas that were unfolding all around me. Although many of them had their share of "love at first sight" themes, many of these songs seemed to focus on character traits rather than physical attributes. The only problem with these songs was many of them insinuated that good character was not compatible with good looks. Consider the following select lyrics from these oldies but goodies:

The Temptations, Beauty's Only Skin Deep
Now, good looks, I've learned to do without.
'Cause now I know it's love that really counts.
A pretty face you may not possess,
but what I like about you is your tenderness

The Dave Clark Five, You Got What it Takes
Ow! You don't live in a beautiful place
And you don't dress in the best of taste
Nature didn't give you such a beautiful face
But baby, you got what it takes

And the Grand Poohba of all "Ugly Girl" Songs:

Jimmy Soul, If You Wanna Be Happy
Don't let your friends say you have no taste
Go ahead and marry her anyway
Her face is ugly, her eyes don't match
Take it from me, she's a better catch


If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you


(Spoken)Hey, Man! I saw your wife the other day!
Yeah?
Yeah and she's UGLY!
Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook!

Physical attractiveness isn't everything, it's true. The Bible says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30). It is the inner qualities of a woman that make her truly beautiful. But if a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?

Many people embrace this philosophy, and will twist scripture to support it. They insist that women must be frumpy, plain, and unattractive in order to maintain their modesty. Here are the two scriptures from which many of these ideas originate:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NKJV)

In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9, NKJV)

The point of these scriptures is not that a woman cannot look her best on the outside. The point of these scriptures is that a woman should primarily seek to cultivate beauty from within. In 1 Peter 3, the word merely is added to the original text to clarify this idea. Women should look good on the outside, but it doesn't stop there. A pretty face with no substance underneath will surely leave others wondering, "Is this all there is?" If a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?

Likewise, the verse in 1 Timothy is not suggesting that a woman should only be clothed in good works (otherwise she'd be naked!), instead it is reminding women that they should not seek to gain attention with the external. I do not think the text is saying it is wrong for women to wear makeup or jewelery or nice clothes. Rather, I think the text is warning women not to let their outer appearance upstage their inner beauty.

While it is true that physical attractiveness is often a catalyst for vanity, it is not always a symptom of conceit. Likewise, marrying a woman who is downright ugly is no guarantee of her humility. "Ugly people" are no further along the road to sanctification than anyone else. And contrary to Jimmy Soul's music, men do not go around bragging about how ugly their wives are to one another! Men greatly appreciate when their wives make an effort to look good for them. Feldhahn (2004) states: "In a way, this issue for men is like the romance issue for us," (p. 168). In essence, when you take care of yourself, it makes your husband feel loved.

Physical beauty isn't everything, but this does not imply that physical beauty is something that should be discarded in the interest of "holiness." Much like the expression, "Money isn't everything," money still holds a function, provided it is used correctly and in a godly way. In the same fashion, physical beauty does not necessarily subtract from from one's character. Modesty means that there is a balance. Everything is in moderation. True modesty means we are not overdoing it in any areas. Too many times we fear we are overdoing a good thing, but I believe it is possible to overdo a bad thing as well. In your efforts to be modest, are you "overdoing" it a bit in downplaying your looks?

Reference

Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.

8 comments:

Margie Fuller said...

Excellent article Jen. I think we, as women, may occasionally feel like we don't want to take the time with ourselves to look nice, thinking if we are doing it for ourselves--why bother. Looking at it from the perspective that my husband will feel loved by that additional care makes it worth the effort.

Geraldine said...

Jen, This is so true! I was shopping the other day for a dress for a wedding on Saturday. I really prayed that God would pick the outfit. It was really important to me that i dressed modestly. But it was also important that in this effort to be modest, not to 'overdo' it a bit in downplaying my looks.
We went to the largest shopping centre in the hope to find something but everything was short and had very low neck lines.
Then, just as i became tired and frustrated this dress stood out on the store front. It was gorgeous. It even had a matching cardy! The length of the dress wasn't as long as i'd liked but it was still a modest outfit. The main thing was i wanted to glorify the Lord in my dress, please my husband and not draw unwanted attention! After buying the dress all sorts of thoughts came to mind saying 'it's not modest enough!' but i know it's fine and i did i pray i would know what would be the perfet outfit for my budget. And you know what? The colour of the whole outfit is purple, perfect for a child of God ;-) This post is so timely for me, thanks Jen!

Latisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Latisha said...

Once again, Jen:

You've been reading my mail. This topic has been a kind of a personal campaign. That is I absolutely enjoy taking care of myself for myself. I've been single forever --amen and this is the testimony of all my friends.

They will tell you I enjoy taking myself to spas, movies, dinners, To the point that I have to be careful knowing my own inclinations to vanity.

I also really enjoyed Geraldine's comment. Loves that...

Finally, the point I really want to make. I've observed similar to your insights about this faulty modesty.

Particularly what I observe resonate with the "green," the "over zealous, or maybe self-deceived christian man who seems to insist (by who they consistently pursue) that the woman who pays little to no attention to her physical appearance is the more godly and best candidate for a holy marriage than the sista who may be stunningly gorgeous at first glance.

A man told me once that they typically would not talk to a "pretty" girl because they've concluded she is likely vain, complicated, and less spiritual. That she will likely have "issues." And if she is single for a long time, then it must validate all the former as being definitely true. Something must be wrong with her.

Albeit very true(there are annuls of evidence that attractive women are superficial and shallow) but equally codified are cases, (as you pointed out)where those less attractive are equally superficial and shallow. They did not get exempt from the sin "issues" and "drama" having pool.


And here is something tragic that I suspect to be the fallout of such naivety and over-zealousness. I say this understanding the canopy of God's Sovereignty.....

But I really really think some Christian men are marrying "physically unattractive," if you will, for "self righteous" reasons.

That is so they can take pride in how spiritually evolved they appear to be in marrying beyond the physical. Emphasis on "appear."

Now I have NOOOO problem with such an evolution as the scriptures as you already shared what the scriptures say about beauty's limit.

But I can't help but wonder, especially when I hear certain marriages start falling apart (particularly of ministers) if these men moved out prematurely and without real maturity/true conviction to marry.

And consequently, when they got awakened from their spiritual/ministry fantasy into the real day to day of the marriage, they found themselves utterly unsatisfied with their wives physically and started gazing outside the marriage.

For who will they tell? It will be too embarrassing to confess that in their quest to be evolved and un-shallow paradoxically reveal a motive to be of the very vanity they thought they were avoiding.

How shallow is it to admit that the real reason they "choose" a particular sister is because of an image you wanted to project to validate your own pride and the pride of your "spiritual" peers.

To confess would of course bring healing and consequently to the marriage--nothing too hard for God. But I see men love their reputations more than they treasure Christ. And so they save face and the marriage never reaches its potential because there is this issue of self-righteousness (that begin the marriage prematurely or on a faulty foundation) that never gets dealt with and the wife withers away in this environment.

A total mess....

I tell you, the implications of unchecked pride and brutal self honesty run so deep and is so costly! It takes the Spirit to expose and when He exposes we must respond right away to His RX.

I want to say more...but I'll stop here.

Geraldine said...

@ Latisha,
Oh my goodness, Your comment really does bring a much needed balance to this whole topic!!! I love what you said here:

"And here is something tragic that I suspect to be the fallout of such naivety and over-zealousness. I say this understanding the canopy of God's Sovereignty.....

But I really really think some Christian men are marrying "physically unattractive," if you will, for "self righteous" reasons.

That is so they can take pride in how spiritually evolved they appear to be in marrying beyond the physical. Emphasis on "appear."

I heartily encourage others to read the above comment to see this quote in context. It's also very interesting you connected this issue with failing marriages.

Deborah Estelle said...

Wow! Great article... As all of you pointed out in your own way, really, as usual with us Christians, it's an issue of balance. Too much stock shouldn't be placed on "appearance" in any scope.

If it is our motives for grooming well or NOT grooming well could be very off center.

I too am a woman who loves to "keep myself up" if you will but the irony for me is that I WAS the "ugly" one so to speak for such a long time. I gave into the thinking that to be well groomed or attractive meant to be unspiritual. When I was a teen I wore this long black dress to my ankles that my mom HATED about 3 times a week and would seldom do anything that reflected my beauty.

For me, being full figured, really full busted I was afraid that I would attract the wrong type of attention and the women around me who should have been nurturing me, were so afraid that their husbands would like what they saw that they made me feel the harlot, though I was not, with a dress down to my ankles and not a BIT of flesh showing! The irony! I am STILL not sexually active! LOL!

Over time I've learned that a woman's beauty can be so beautiful... And not only skin deep! It can be used as a ministry tool, a way to reach other women and a way to help one feel better about themselves.

IT IN NO WAY replaces the Love of Christ, nor should it, but if he gave us beauty why hide it? As all have said it's just a matter of being tempered with it.

So much more could be said but it is something to ponder!

Blessings!

Jennifer said...

Deborah, thank you, thank you for sharing. So much of what you said resonates with me. Latisha and I have been revisiting this issue from some additional angles because as you said, there is so much to be said on this topic. You haven't heard the last word on this issue from us! Thank you for visiting!

Latisha said...

RaRa (Deborah Estelle) thank you so much for your comment too. Please keep stopping by and commenting. Your comment let's us know that we are not "just in our heads". I think a lot of what we will touch on here you will be able to relate to and be encouraged by.