"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." — Prov. 31:30
I came across a tweet recently that said, "Beauty doesn't fade. Hotness fades. And frankly, we would all be a lot better off if it didn't exist."
Do you agree with that? What is the difference between beauty and hotness? The musician John Mayer says, “If you’re hot, you’re hot; but the only way to be beautiful is to be loving. Otherwise, it’s just ‘congratulations’ about your face.”
When I was in high school there was a website called Hot or Not. It was a place that ranked your level of attraction on a scale from one to 10. I am ashamed to say my friends and I participated; we laughed at the "ugly" profiles and lusted over the "hot” ones. I was participating in something profane — laughing or lusting, all over the shallowness of looks. This wasn’t about searching for beauty; it was about idolizing “hotness.” True beauty can never be found in this way.
I agree with Hellen Keller when she said, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” But the heart can be deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.”
Our culture is saturated with messages that equate beauty to good looks. Human worth is rated on a “hotness” scale from one to 10. But a culture that glorifies looks in this way isn’t celebrating beauty; it’s participating in something sinister and ugly.
I have a memory from my childhood of a horrible game played occasionally at recess. It was like tag except, when we tagged someone, we would say the name of this particular classmate we found unattractive and yell, “You have her germs!” This cliquish tribalism was ugly, and it was based on false standards of acceptance measured in artificial categories of hot or not. What we didn’t realize as kids was in playing that game, we were the ones who had the “ugly germs.”
The eccentric performer Andy Warhol said, "If everyone isn't beautiful, then no one is." Is that a nonsensical statement? It may be, but, if we look at it through a spiritual lens, the potential for beauty is imprinted in every human being.
Religiously speaking, every human was designed to be beautiful. We were made to reflect the image of God. If we search for that image, that potential, we can find it everywhere. We can even find it in people who have been jaded by the cruelty of life. Desmond Tutu spoke a great truth when he said, “There are no evil people, just evil acts; no monsters, just monstrous acts.”
When humans are mean, cruel or ugly, we go against the way God designed us to be. Our intrinsic beauty needs to be reawakened. We need to constantly be searching for it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting.”
This handwriting is everywhere. We see it at a baby’s birth. We see it in a child’s innocence. We experience it when we mess up and receive forgiveness. This redemptive beauty is about the soul. It’s a sacred kind of beauty that is so much more profound than whether a person is hot or not. It’s about reflecting the image of God.
Recently I was discussing the difference between beauty and hotness with my friend Timari. She said, “For me, beauty is something I want to bask in. I want to take it in, join it. I would say that beauty is akin to holy pleasure and delight. It could be art, my child's smile and the fields around my house at sunset — all invite me to awe. Beauty is a tiny step in joining God. Hotness seems to always have an element of devouring. That would be the opposite of awe.”
Awe-inspiring beauty is not based on outward appearance. It’s about the soul. Audrey Hepburn had something to say about soul beauty. She was famous in part because society found her attractive. When she was asked to reveal her beauty secrets she quoted these words which were written by Sam Levenson and then later quoted at her funeral:
“To have attractive lips, speak kind words. To have a loving look, look for the good side of people. To look skinny, share your food with the hungry. To have beautiful hair, let a child cross it with his own fingers once a day. To have a beautiful poise, walk knowing you're never alone, because those who love and loved you accompany you. … The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, in her face or in her way of fixing her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the door open to her heart, the source of her love. The beauty of a woman doesn't lie in her makeup, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the tenderness that gives love, the passion that it expresses. The beauty of a woman grows over the years.”
True beauty doesn’t fade. Skin may wrinkle, hair may disappear and gray, but the beauty of the Lord endures forever.