“Social media may be fueling plastic surgery trends, docs warn.”
This was a headline on my news feed this morning. The article says, “…in 2017, 42 percent of plastic surgeons from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) reported patients sought cosmetic procedures to look better in selfies, Instagram, and Snapchat.”[i]
I was outraged when I read this. I shook my head and wondered what has happened to the younger generation! How much more obsessed can they be with themselves? But then I remembered it’s not just the current teens and young adults who are preoccupied with their looks. This fascination with beauty, that beauty equals value, predates us all.
Sarah, of biblical fame, “used” her beauty for personal gain and familial survival. Sarah’s beauty was renowned. Not only did her husband think she was gorgeous but other men, powerful men, in other cultures thought so too. As the scripture says, she became part of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s harem because his officials had seen her and reported that she was a knock out! Remember this story?
“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, This is his wife. Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.'”
“When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. “Genesis 12:10-16 (NIV)
Crisis averted because of a pretty face.
And who can forget the story in Greek mythology of Helen of Troy whose “face launched a thousand ships?” Her beauty brought about the fabled Trojan War. So in history and in literature, beauty is associated with value and power. Remember the tapes running in our heads that define our worth? This one has been on a loop long before tape recorders were invented, and whether I see my own looks as defining my value, I’m still inclined to regard it in others. Here’s what brought me to this conclusion:
The first time I saw Katherine, I was captivated. She was twenty-something, blonde, ever perfect smile and a gregarious spirit. It was impossible not to like her. She and her husband, Jay, were friends of our 20-something son and daughter-in-law and we learned more about her through our visits to the LA church where they all attended. Katherine was a model, an actress, and a natural spokesperson for mission causes through her church in Los Angeles.
Six months after her first child was born and three weeks before her husband’s graduation from law school, Katherine had a massive stroke. Her chances of survival were slim; however, if she did make it through surgery, her doctors stressed, she would likely spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state. Katherine miraculously made it through a 16-hour procedure and had retained a small portion of her original function. There was substantial paralysis on her right side. Her face was contorted, her limbs were twisted; she could not speak or swallow. In spite of all of her impairments, she was still cognizant and was able to communicate in the most basic level. Her survival and recovery have been miraculous, even as reported by her doctors and therapists—and she is careful to give God the credit for her recovery. However, one of the tragedies (albeit it minor in comparison) is that when I, and perhaps others, heard the news of her stroke and saw before-and-after pictures, my first response was “How sad. She was so beautiful. Read more about Katherine’s journey in the book Hope Heals and on her website www.hopeheals.com.
So, we’ve established that beauty can mean power and value, but what constitutes beauty? How is it measured? That’s a whole ‘nother blog post.