More than Skin Deep
Skin is a remarkable organ! That’s right. Skin is the largest organ in the body and plays numerous significant roles:
- Skin keeps our bodily fluids inside where they need to be.
- Skin regulates our body temperature.
- Skin protects the body from invasions of billions of microorganisms, chemicals and the like.
- Skin color and tone reflect our unique DNA combinations.
- Skin possesses mechanoreceptors that detect textures (of less than .002 inch), pressures, and vibrations.
- Skin contains thermoreceptors so accurate, they allow us to detect just 1 degree of temperature change.
- Skin has pain receptors that register mechanical, thermal, and chemical pain.
- Skin displays a signature (fingerprints) unique to every individual who ever lived.
But we seldom think of skin in terms of its amazing status among our organs. It seems that our chief concern with our skin is the role it plays in our appearance and influence on others. Consider television and magazine ads. We sell everything from cars to soap with the allure of beautiful skin.
Our infatuation with beautiful skin is further reflected in the fact that many women in the US spend upwards of $15,000 per year on beauty products and salon services. Including products for men, that brings the total to nearly $40 billion per year spent on beauty aids. Yet, we aren’t any happier for it according to the Satisfaction with Life Index.
Cultivate Your Inner Beauty
Comedian Redd Foxx, known for his role in the television series Sanford and Son, once quipped, “Beauty may only be skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone!”
Perhaps what Redd Foxx was getting at is that outward beauty, while eye-catching, can be a very deceptive gauge of a person’s true beauty. A person can be “beautiful” on the outside and “ugly” inside and that ugliness dominates our perception of that individual.
We may be attracted by the container until we find out what’s inside; then, we stay away.
A person may be born with outward beauty, but inward beauty must be cultivated. And while outward beauty is coveted, it is short-lived and really only skin deep. If the inner becomes beautiful — which is in your hands — the outer will have to mold itself according to the inner. The outer is not essential, it will have to reflect the inner in some way.
Feeling Comfortable in Your Skin
Similarly tragic is the fact that many physically beautiful people are uncomfortable in their own skin. We look at them and see a beautiful person. They look at themselves and wish they looked different. They may even go to extreme lengths and great expense to change their physical appearance. They can have plastic surgery. They can have a beautiful face, beautiful eyes, a beautiful nose; they can change their skin; they can change their shape. That is not going to change your being. Inside they still remain greedy, full of lust, violence, anger, rage, jealousy, with a tremendous will to power. All these things the plastic surgeon can do nothing about.
The truth is, at one time or another, probably all of us find ourselves in one or the other situations described above. Either we’ve failed to cultivate our inner beauty, or we aren’t satisfied with our outer appearance. Either way, we are unhappy people, uncomfortable in our skin.
These issues are not new, but have been around as long as people have been on earth. In fact, Jesus spoke about the need for inner beauty. At that time, there was a group of religious fanatics called Pharisees. They liked to do everything for show. Keeping up appearances meant everything to them, but they failed to cultivate an inner beauty.
They built their phony exterior with outward displays of piety:
- Donating money with much publicity and fanfare
- Praying loudly in public to be noticed by others
- Disfiguring their faces when they fasted so as to attract the attention of others
- Wearing special clothes and objects to flaunt their religiosity
But Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. He said to the Pharisees, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Can you imagine being compared with a neatly manicured cemetery–beautiful and serene on the surface, but filled with death and decay below the facade?
If we are honest with ourselves, we all have some stuff in our lives that isn’t pretty. Yet there is one person we can go to without any pretense or fear of rejection. We can come to God just as we are.
Many mistakenly think that they have to “clean up their act” before coming to God, but that’s not possible. He knows us intimately already–the good and the bad–yet he loves us and seeks relationship with us.
That which is “ugly” in us, beneath our skin, God wants to renew and rebuild. He performs a makeover in us from the inside out, rejuvenating our inner beauty. Once God is there, it is almost like a light in a dark house. The windows will start showing the light; even the cracks in the wall or the roof or the doors will start showing the inner light.
And for those who are plagued with thoughts that they are too dirty, frumpy, or unlovable, God also restores their self-image by showing them his deep love and acceptance. “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We are beautiful and precious to him not because of what we have or haven’t done, but because of who we are.
True beauty is not defined by anything in this world, but found in something that is beyond this world. It is God himself. God is beautiful, captivating, fascinating and drawing. He is brilliant, shining, color, light, and life. GOD DESIRES OUR BEAUTY. WE ARE CALLED BEAUTIFUL BY HIM. Our desire to be beautiful is not wrong. It is from God, he created beauty because he is beautiful. His desire is that we would see ourselves as he see’s us, that we would stop looking through the eyes of the world and start looking through his eyes of love and desire for us.
God created us uniquely and he loves us unconditionally. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s extravagant love for us gives us the freedom to love ourselves and others too. If you struggle with loving yourself, here’s some Rx:
- Discover how much God loves you by reading the Gospel of John.
- Accept and trust in God’s great love for you.
- Declare the truth over your life that your are beautiful and reject the lies that tell you otherwise.
- Cultivate a heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving to God.
- Express God’s love for others through acts and words of kindness toward them.
By following those actions, we see how highly esteemed we and others are in God’s sight and we begin living out that truth making it our own. God will transform not only the inner, but give a new look to our outer being: an innocence, a serenity, a depth, a peace and a love. In this way, we become comfortable in our skin.
God is like a mirror for us. When you look into a mirror you may see a big smudge of dirt on your face that you didn’t know was there. The mirror can’t get rid of the dirt, but you’re really glad you looked at that mirror before you walked out the door. In the same way, God reveals our shortcomings, our scars, our sins, and we are thankful to see them, so that we can bring them to Him, and He can deal with them through His grace. He will make all things beautiful in his time.
Obviously, we need to care for our skin just like the rest of our body. But outward beauty is frail and temporary. However, inner beauty can last a lifetime, even leaving a legacy for others. True beauty really is more than skin deep. Let me encourage you to take care of your skin and to cultivate your inner beauty through a healthy relationship with God and others.
Richard A. Swenson, MD, More than Meets the Eye (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000), pp. 79-82.
The Representation Project, Miss Representation, http://therepresentationproject.org/films/miss-representation/.
Dodai Stewart, “Americans Spend Billions on Beauty Products but Are Not Very Happy,” Jezebel, August 6, 2012, http://jezebel.com/5931654/americans-spend-billions-on-beauty-products-and-are-still-pretty-unhappy/.
Matthew 23:27, Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
1 Samuel 16:7, Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Romans 5:6-8 NIV.