Body Worship

The ‘no make-up selfie’ discussion has largely passed us by in the monastery, but in an idle moment I did find myself wondering why Western society has become so obsessive about the body and preserving its youth and vitality for as long as possible. We all age; we all eventually die; but we like to keep those thoughts away from ourselves for as long as possible; and if going to the gym, dieting two days a week or a trip to the plastic surgeon will help preserve the illusion of immortality, what’s wrong with that?

At one level, there is nothing wrong with that. Our bodies are beautiful, no matter how flawed we think them, and we have a duty to look after them as well as we can. It is only through our bodies that we can know this world or prepare for the next. But, and it is a significant ‘but’, we are body-soul-spirit entities and the movement from birth to death, from youth to age, is more than a mere chronological sequence. It is an essential part of being human, part of the glory of being human. From this perspective, preoccupations with body image are secondary. What matters is that throughout life we allow our bodies to be exactly what they should be: the image and likeness of God. So, no negativity about the body, but no senseless exaltation of it, either!

The next time you look in the mirror and notice a spot or wrinkle, or think sadly of how you used to be able to run or jump, remember this: the body you were given was chosen for you from all eternity. It is the most perfect one you could have been given. It is not only how you know God but, even more important, how he knows you.


11 thoughts on “Body Worship”

  1. Well said. I’m never sure that the whole industries dedicated to making us more beautiful, more sun tanned, more slim or younger have a worthwhile purpose, other than the commercial one of making money from people’s lack of self worth.

    The culture of body worship that you describe doesn’t belong in my physche as I appear to be growing old disgracefully? Or at least expanding in those places that make me think that everything is shrinking, this is despite my best efforts to exercise and to eat a balanced diet – perhaps the slowing of metabolism has something to do with it, but I am conscience that a recent medical diagnosis means that I will need to pay more attention to these aspects from now on.

    I love the concept of our bodies being the ones that God has given us and that acceptance of the limitations whatever they are, is part of our acceptance of God’s love for us. So, I”ll be taking a little more care of it, but won’t be going to extremes and the tanning machine is definitely off the menu.

  2. The good thing is that the ‘no make-up selfie has generated £2 million for cancer research and on another level I think some people are beginning to realise how beautiful they really are under all that war paint!

  3. It’s the word ‘bravery’ that is attached to the selfie project that troubles me. Is it ‘brave’ to be seen without make up? Can it really relate to the bravery of those facing up to cancer?

  4. One day in 2005 I stopped wearing make up, not even the small amount I wore. Mascara & lipstick. I just ended a 22yr marriage & was under many stressors & strains in all areas of my life. I decided I didn’t want to wear a mask any more. I did put on make up for my kids weddings but basically felt I was misrepresenting who I really am. I do remember my dad saying to us, his 4 daughters, keep make up for special occasions & work because our natural beauty couldn’t be enhanced. Of course we young things ignored him.,Now if I put on
    mascara & lipstick for rare occasions I still feel as if I am assuming an identity that others wish for me. I am now 56 & have lost my youthful beauty. But I decided all those years ago that i would no longer live up to societies & others expectations of me. I am recovering, God willing from cancer. & whilst I appreciate the gift of my body I no longer am trapped to perform by things that I don’t believe in. We are here to experience all that is human through our bodies/ senses & we should with joy & gratefulness. But all things pass and to be fully absorbed in one aspect of our bodies removes from us the wider potential of living joy in all things. I delight in & appreciate the beauty & miraculousness of our bodies but I also know how tenuous our hold on it is. I have no issue with others enhancing their bodies through make up as it gives many girlish pleasure to do so.

  5. I cannot tell you the personal relief you brought to me today! I’ve been frustrated with my body for years! Chronic pain and inability to lose weight will do that to a person. I never had or heard the thought that this is God’s choice for me, that I know God and He knows me in this way as well. As soon as I read those words, I FELT a relaxation of an anxiety I didn’t really know was there. Saying “thank you” for this is all I have to offer you. Please accept my gratitude. It’s not often the first event of the day is life-changing. Bless you, dear Sister.

  6. Yes, I too feel reassured by your comments. It had never occurred to me to feel that way about myself. How wonderful to think that God loves me as I am. Thank you

  7. Thanks, Sister. I feel like I should print out that last paragraph to re-read every time I start to envy other people’s youth/photogenic looks/beauty. It’s worth a fortune in beauty products!

  8. This post makes me feel sad for all the youngsters I teach whose identity is bound up in their physical appearance. Who can blame them when society is so obsessed with looks. I’ve never worn make-up or seen the point of it but even I couldn’t face leaving my legs as nature intended. 😉

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