Monday, April 7, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Hair and Jesus: Looks Shouldn’t Matter

Wren wants to cut her hair, really cut her hair.  So Friday we have a girls’ date to let her chop it as short as she wants and see if she likes it. 

I think before my Jesus year and time spent trying to focus on what matters, I might have attempted to talk her out of it.  The reason would have simply been hair doesn’t grow back overnight, and I wouldn’t want her to be upset if she didn’t like it.  My response when she told me the other night: whatever you want to do.  It’s just hair.  Because it is, and if I stress that it is something worthy of getting upset about, then that’s what it becomes instead of being just hair.

I would like to say vanity is not a struggle for me, and I think it’s probably not as much as it could be.  There is something great in never being classically pretty, having a face that doesn’t fit standard beauty proportions, being called too pale, too thin or too not muscley (that’s my word for still fairly thin but with loose hanging skin instead of muscle).  I learned early not to bank on being liked because I was cute.  I had to actually develop a personality, though that did not always make people flock to me.

It’s a double-edged sword though.  By telling someone they are physically beautiful all the time or focusing on all the ways they are not physically beautiful, it sends the message that looks matter.  And I would guess if me or any of my close friends kept a tally of how often our comments are about someone’s appearance, it would startle us how often it is the focus, good or bad.  What if I tallied all the times I just thought about appearance, mine or someone else’s?  That makes me think vanity may be an issue for all of us. 

Jesus didn’t seem to be into looks. He was described as “having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2

He didn’t comment on people’s appearances but rather the state of their hearts.  He loves people even though He can see beyond their outward appearances, therefore seeing our ugly on the inside which is where ugly really lives and matters.  I wonder what He thinks of our obsession with celebrities losing baby weight in a week, people being “fat-shamed”, and selfies.

It’s obvious I can’t blindfold my kids and pretend everyone looks the same.  Wren has made it obvious since these are comments that have all been said very loudly in public places in the last six months:

Mom, that girl’s hair is pink!
Mom, that man is brown!
Mom, that man is wearing a ponytail, but he’s not a girl!

There are times I’ve wanted to crawl under the grocery cart and die, but I have just said, “yes, everyone is different” and all of these individuals were awesome, seeing Wren for what she is, a child noticing that not everyone is the same, pointing out differences as just differences, not insults.  (Where Wren is not observant: her family.  I told her grandpa has brown skin since D’s dad is from Venezuela and has dark skin.  She was blown away!  Wow, Grandpa IS brown!  Cool!  Never noticed.)

While I tell my kids they are beautiful because I think it’s good for every kid to hear that, and I think they are beautiful, I try not to place beauty as the ultimate.  And honestly, I try not to say it often because being called pretty is addictive like heroine.  After physical appearance praise, being called a hard worker, kind, or a person with a servant’s heart can leave the person receiving those compliments thinking, “Thanks, but am I pretty?”  Maybe that’s just the voice in my head who needs counseling, though that voice is dying more as I get closer to God.   

Looks are not the most important thing and shouldn’t really even be on the list.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23  Being hot is not there.  I want to praise my kids for what is valued by Christ, and I want to value the same things as well as try to inhabit those virtues.  It’s not easy in a looks-obsessed culture, and it is taking a ton of conscious parenting and wise word choosing.  We are wired to see and speak on very surface things in this culture and country.  But it’s worth the effort. 

So, we’ll see what Wren’s hair looks like after Friday.  I’m sure it will be fine, and either way, it’s just hair.  I hope she can live in a world where it’s always just hair.  

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