I have a Christian friend who struggles with low self-esteem. She is often depressed because she thinks no guy will ever date her and she'll never get married. Whenever she sees pictures of herself, she says she looks horrible. She is overweight, but refuses to work out at all and does not eat healthily. We (her close friends) are careful not to mention weight because she has cut off all those who even hint that she might need to change her habits for her health. She is very stubborn and admits that there are very few people that she will take advice from and listen to. I know that true beauty is more than skin deep, and we should love ourselves because God created our inmost beings. But how can I convince her of this?
While it's true "God created our inmost beings," I'm not sure convincing your friend to "love herself" is the answer in this case. For starters, it seems she's forgotten that a large part of what it means to be created by God is to be created in His image. And He is, among all His traits, beautiful. Psalm 27:4 says,
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
So to despise beauty is to reject part of the nature of God.
Ezekiel 16 recounts the way God lavished Israel with beauty. Like a bridegroom preparing His bride, He adorned her with fine clothes, jewels and all manner of finery until he "made [her] beauty perfect."
The tragedy of the story isn't the beauty but that Israel trusted in her beauty and fame, rather than in the One who gave them to her. That's the same temptation we face and what, I suspect, your friend is resisting — the world's temptation to trust in beauty for beauty's sake. When that happens, it's called vanity and it leads to downfall.
Beauty on a human scale is subject to the same sin nature that taints all we are. But that doesn't mean beauty in and of itself is something to shun.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "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." This verse is referring to sexual immorality. But the principle of honoring God with the flesh and bones He gave us extends to how we steward our health. It's one thing to sport a makeup-free, natural look; quite another to fill your system with junk food and never exercise with disregard for your health.
I suspect what your friend needs most is encouragement to deal with the self-esteem issues that are keeping her from optimal health. In her case, she doesn't need to run further from beauty, but to learn to embrace it. There are lots of resources available to help. One that comes to mind is Dr. Deborah Newman's book, Loving Your Body: Embracing Your True Beauty in Christ.
Sadly, avoiding the issue will do little to help her achieve her heart's desire for marriage and children. I know you must tread gently, but you must also be honest. It's often the case that the truth is painful to receive, but in the end, that's what sets us free.
Proverbs 27:6 says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." I love the counterintuitive nature of that verse. It seems so backward, but therein lies the key to your friend's breakthrough.
I pray the Lord will show you the time to speak and give you the words to say. Hopefully, your friend will be mature enough to receive them.
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.