The pressure on a young girl to be pretty is one of the greatest weights on the female mind—especially in the Western world.
In his 2001 book Bringing Up Boys, Dr. James Dobson tells a story that all parents of girls should heed. When Western television penetrated the islands of the South Pacific for the first time, it “projected images of gorgeous, very thin actresses who starred on Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and other teen-oriented shows. Four years later, a survey of 65 Fijian girls revealed how their attitudes had been shaped (or warped) by what they had seen. Almost immediately, the girls began to dress and try to fix their hair like Western women.” Officials, he reported, saw “serious changes in eating habits among … adolescents. Those who watched tv three times per week or more were 50 percent more likely to perceive themselves as ‘too big’ or ‘too fat’ than those who did not. More than 62 percent had attempted to diet in the previous 30 days.”
Let’s get this straight: God designed the woman to be beautiful to the man. Some of the first conscious thoughts by the first human woman were about a man’s excitement at her physical appearance. God even designed women to desire to be beautiful. Yet in His Word, God’s direct advice to women usually exhorts them not to get overly wrapped up in beauty that will soon fade away, but rather to focus on inward beauty—the eternal character He is building in all of us.
Having had two boys born first, I never knew how enamored a child could be with her own reflection until my wife and I had our daughter. It’s as if something is pre-programmed in her to want to look lovely, sweet and special. She is drawn to certain frills, colors, patterns and jewelry.
The pressure to be pretty, however, is a monstrous thing. Add to that how society defines pretty, and you have an even more perilous matter.
Dr. Dobson also talks about the shifting standards of beauty, arguing that some female celebrities of a few decades ago couldn’t have made it on television’s Baywatch. “In Rembrandt’s day, the women considered exceptionally beautiful were downright fat. Today, extreme thinness and ‘hard bodies’ have become the ideal—sometimes bordering on masculinity.”
Added to that, our oversexed popular culture pressures girls to find “beauty” in evoking lust in the opposite sex—whether it’s in the way they dress or in their desire to have cosmetic surgery done before their bodies have even finished developing.
All these pressures can produce in our daughters a dangerous cocktail of vanity, materialism, health problems and a host of character flaws.
Do our young girls have any hope to escape the rank deception that comes their way about their physical appearance? How can the false images popular culture relentlessly thrusts on them be thwarted or diminished?
The answer lies in the home, with the parents—particularly the father!
Fathers: You have a special role as the first male authority in your daughter’s life to ensure that she not only feels beautiful but that she also knows what true beauty is!
Lucifer’s Fall From Beauty
There is an unseen force behind these societal pressures. Though it is not fashionable to believe in or talk about a devil, the Bible reveals that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). As the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4 says he blinds people to the truth; Revelation 12:9 says he deceives the whole world.
So can we believe the images society puts in front of us as far as what true beauty is—either in the ideal body shape, attitude or fashion? Satan is a liar! But he also transforms himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), which means he pawns off his thinking by making it look glamorous and attractive.
Ezekiel 28 says “every precious stone” was his covering and that he was “perfect in beauty.” The angelic creation named Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12) eventually went sour. Why? Ezekiel says, “By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned …. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty …” (Ezekiel 28:16-17).
So, as the great deceiver, it makes sense that he would try to warp our personal sense of beauty.
What Satan did was rebel against God’s law; “iniquity” (better rendered lawlessness) was found in him (verse 15). If we are to combat this deception, then we are going to have to base our thinking on God’s law, which is based on love—an outgoing concern for the one loved. These laws were set in motion to protect us—to keep us from what harms us. Our daughters must understand this.
God’s Word has a lot to say about hairstyles, jewelry, cosmetics and clothing.
Isaiah 3:16 shows that the end-time decline of our nations is directly tied to the improper values in women’s appearance—the power they try to exert through their beauty—whether in applying cosmetics or in walking seductively. The rest of that chapter says God will strip them of their beauty and ornaments. This society, preoccupied with its warped sense of beauty, is about to be destroyed.
God Adorned Our First Parents
How can we make our daughters beautiful in a godly way? The answer lies in understanding how God adorned the first woman.
Though our first parents were created naked, they took no thought of it until the serpent convinced them to eat of the tree that represented rebellion against God. At that moment, ashamed of their nudity, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
God’s question, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” (Genesis 3:11), shows that the shame concerning their nakedness didn’t come from Him. Not that God always intended for them to be naked. Verse 20 shows Eve was to be the “mother of all living”—more people were to be introduced to the environment than just husband and wife. So God clothed them (verse 21)—not with fig leaves but with animal skins.
As Mr. Armstrong pointed out in The Missing Dimension in Sex, the Bible uses two Hebrew words for clothed. One word, kasah, means to conceal or hide something. What God did, however (Hebrew, labash), means to don with apparel or raiment. Labash, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “refers rather to outer garments than underclothing. It implies the idea of adorning, or decorating, or displaying, rather than concealing or covering over, or hiding.”
By covering those private areas (which are not shameful areas, yet could induce lust in the opposite sex) God made our first parents more beautiful.
Labash, Mr. Armstrong continued, “implies adding attractiveness rather than hiding shamefulness.” Being clothed or donned with raiment can make your daughters prettier. Yet this Satan-dominated society often wants to define “pretty” by how much skin you show. Of course, different contexts (and even cultures) allow for different coverings. Nonetheless, what your daughters cover and uncover in those contexts says a lot about them—and about what you’ve taught them concerning beauty.
If you want your daughters to be beautiful, adorn them (and teach them how to adorn themselves) God’s way. Teach them that modest apparel makes them more beautiful. It’s ugliness to be immodest—to arouse lust in a man, and it leads to more ugliness.
From the Neck Up
What’s more, the main seat of physical beauty for the female is not even the parts mentioned above—the body or the clothing. It is in the face.
Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People, relates a story about a dinner party he attended. “One of the guests, a woman who had inherited money, was eager to make a pleasing impression on everyone. She had squandered a modest fortune on sables, diamonds and pearls. But she hadn’t done anything whatever about her face. It radiated sourness and selfishness. She didn’t realize what every man knows: namely, that the expression a woman wears on her face is far more important than the clothes she wears on her back.”
Yes, every man—every father—knows that. How often do you remind your daughter that the most beautiful thing about her is her smile? My daughter is only 3 years old, but as a music professional, I’ve dealt with many young female performers who are afraid to smile—along with a number of other insecurities. I know society has deceived them, and it stirs me as a parent to do everything I can to combat those influences.
What does society tell our girls about smiling? How many “beautiful” women grace magazine covers with sour looks on their faces? Our rock stars, rappers and dancers have to look angry. It’s meant to be seductive or sexy, but as a man and father, I’m troubled by it. Not only is it intimidating, it’s not nearly as pretty.
Teach your daughter that she exudes beauty when she has a positive attitude and expression on her face. My young daughter must be taught that when she is in a foul mood, she is acting “ugly.” I don’t care what the self-esteem gurus say; our daughters need to know when they aren’t pretty. I know that using that terminology is going to register more of a reaction. When she is happy and smiling, I make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is when she acts that way.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, concerning sex appeal, that it “is somewhere between 95 percent and 99 percent what one sees from the neck up! It is, mostly, what one sees in the face of the other which exerts the appeal” (op. cit.).
But our deceived society and its fashion designers seem to think that beauty is 95 to 99 percent from the neck down. Modern fashion wants to show as much cleavage as possible, or as much of the top of the rear end as possible, or when swimming, to show as much of the gluteus maximus as possible. Yes, God designed those areas to be beautiful in a marital relationship. But when everyone dresses like that, society takes the focus off the face—off the eyes and the smile.
Ask your daughter: Does she want to be an object? Or would she rather be truly beautiful? Would she rather attain beauty the way God intended it to be done—through living a happy life that shines through the face and then adorning the rest of her body modestly in a way that highlights her figure but doesn’t draw undue attention to it over her character, mind, sparkle, energy and smile?
Society holds two extremes in fashion. One is clothes made of stretchy, clingy material that too tightly shape the female body and put undue emphasis on the torso and legs. The other extreme, found more in both the hip-hop and grunge-rock cultures, puts girls in overly baggy, form-hiding clothes that do little to distinguish them from boys. Teach your daughter that both extremes should be avoided!
Teach them how they are more beautiful when they labash themselves as God intended. Certainly God expects our girls to dress in a feminine manner. Though real beauty lies in the inward character, and the majority of outward beauty is in the face and the attitude, hairstyles and clothes are also important.
How God Regards Beauty
God is not against outward beauty, but He also says it is vain: It won’t last but a few years—it’s merely a TYPE of the spiritual beauty God wants to praise us for. Still, God made sure Eve was physically appealing to her husband. God’s Word describes women like Sarai, Rebecca and Esther as outwardly beautiful.
Esther was described as being “fair and beautiful” (Esther 2:7). The Hebrew for this phrase means fair of form and good of countenance; she had an appealing figure and face. When it was time to appear before the most powerful man in the world as he selected his queen, Esther required nothing extra to adorn herself than what the king’s chamberlain appointed. Imagine the peer pressure she may have felt from the other women in the house. She must have really stood out. But was that a bad thing? She “obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (verse 15). More than that: She was made queen of Persia! (verse 17).
Make Your Daughter Beautiful
Fathers: What our daughters need most of all is real, LASTING spiritual beauty. You can help give that to her. Ecclesiastes 8:1 says “wisdom maketh [the] face to shine.” Teach her the truth about eternal, inward beauty and that will cause her face to shine more than all those who spend thousands of dollars a year in keeping their face “lifted.”
The Apostle Peter, using jewelry metaphors, exhorts Christian women to focus their adorning on the “hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4).
He also points to the outwardly beautiful Sarah, wife of Abraham, to teach where her real beauty lay: “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well …” (verses 5-6).
Sarah’s trust in God and His government gave her the most beautiful adorning any woman could desire. We fathers must teach our daughters to trust and obey God their heavenly Father, as well as teach them to trust and obey their physical fathers. This is the fundamental lesson in spiritual comeliness.
As verse 4 illustrates, we also need to teach them to have a meek and quiet spirit. This doesn’t mean our daughters should be pushovers or shy. Meekness is one of the fruits that manifests itself in all those (male or female) with God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The word for quiet in the Greek means tranquil or peaceable. Few things are more unattractive to a spiritually astute man than a brash woman.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, the Apostle Paul urges Christian women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel”—so he does address even the physical fashions, the word modest meaning well-arranged. He adds, “with shamefacedness” (meaning humility, modesty, reverence and respect) and “sobriety,” or soundness of mind.
Verse 10 also shows that “good works” are part of the formula for what makes a Christian woman beautiful.
We must teach our daughters how to show respect, how to seek godly humility and how to develop their minds in the understanding of God’s Word. If our daughters seek that, they will one day possess the beauty of a God being—with a radiant face, shimmering hair and dazzling eyes.
If the spiritual is in place, we should also ensure that our daughters know how to make themselves physically beautiful.
Much of that comes from the happiness and encouragement we give them. They look to us fathers for that support, to let them know what we find admirable about them. If we show them the proper kind of love and attention, they will feel adored, protected and truly beautiful. A daughter who is not cared for by her father will either feel she is not worthy of a man’s love or will seek that attention and care in a misguided, damaging way.
With all this in place, you can then help her understand what makes her beautiful physically. Teach her that the majority of her outward beauty rests in her face—in her eyes and smile. Also teach her, with the aid of her mother (assuming she is in the picture), that good hygiene and proper health often does more for the appearance than clothing. Exercise can aid in appropriate muscle tone and healthy skin. Speaking of skin, a fad today is for Caucasian women to seek after deeply tanned skin. Many women spend hours in the sunlight for this affect only to achieve deep wrinkles and leathery skin far too early in life.
Also encourage her to employ feminine mannerisms. The book Fascinating Womanhood states: “There are thousands of rather plain women with irregular feature and faulty builds who succeed in being attractive to men because they are models of femininity. On the other hand, there are thousands of other women who have beautiful faces and features but who, because of woodenness, or masculinity of manner, never impress men as being especially attractive. When a woman is tender, soft, fun-loving, lovable, and also innocent and pure, who stops to inquire if she has beauty in the classical sense? [T]o most men she seems a paragon of femininity. To them she is beautiful!”
Teach your daughter about these attributes of lasting spiritual beauty. Love and adore her; set the example of possessing positive energy. And if she stands out a little in this ugly world, then let it be for the radiant beauty that God is creating in her and for being the royal princess that she is!