I grew up with a grandmother who had facial paralysis due to an advanced brain tumor a few years prior to my birth. She had had surgery that caused the left side of her face to droop, her eye to lose function and subsequently be sown shut to avoid visual disorientation as her ocular muscles attempted with futility to fight gravity.

She always made jokes and referred to her appearance in a light-hearted way, and I think that most of the time she didn’t mind looking different than others. We called her Granny Weirdo (by her request) and growing up, her appearance couldn’t matter less. She was witty and quick, hilarious and wild, unafraid of racy commentary or swear words. She was a woman with strong opinions and a loud voice. She had no enemies, and made a habit of befriending and flirting with strangers at the grocery store. She seemed to have more confidence than a Hollywood actress and she often told my sister and I that she was “more beautiful even than Marilyn Monroe”.

No one could make her doubt herself. 

There were times, however, when I saw her raw female heart revealed as she would explain why she never looked in bathroom mirrors. She used the bathroom swiftly, washing her hands at the vanity without ever looking up. She preferred to check her appearance with the tiny compact powder mirror as she did her makeup in the morning. This ritual allowed herself to only look at the side of her face that wasn’t paralyzed. The “normal” side.

“I don’t look in mirrors,” she would say, “It makes me feel bad.” 

In those moments, my heart broke and I yearned to show my sweet Grandma how truly beautiful she was; how beautiful I saw her. How beautiful God saw her. But in those moments, my whispers of assurance could do nothing to soften the ache in her heart. She believed in those moments that she held no earthly beauty, and therefore, no earthly value. It was tortuous to watch, but thankfully, it never lasted long. She’d bounce back after a while, make a Marilyn Monroe joke, and find a cute retired sailor or marine to flirt with and successfully make him smile.

But I will never forget her yearning for beauty.

My husband Michael is incredible. So loving and kind, so tender and sweet. He fully encapsulates the word “gentleman”. He open doors for me always,  swoons when I wear a new outfit for the first time, and is constantly telling me how lovely he thinks I am. There have been times in our relationship that, he has, with his whole and entirely sincere heart, articulated how beautiful he thinks I am. And yet, even in those moments, there have been times when I do not believe him.

Not because he doesn’t mean it. Not even because it isn’t true. I don’t believe him, because in those moments I don’t believe Him.

In those moments, I don’t believe that God made me perfectly the way He wanted. Spots and all, Jesus ferociously desires for me to feel His love and bathe in His beauty. The same beauty that He has covered over me by the power of His blood when He died for me. Jesus knows that I will search for security in my husband, in his thoughts and desires for me, and He knows that those longings will fail. He wants me to be completely and utterly, hyper-sensitively aware of His love for me; the most beautiful thing in the universe. His love! Oh that we could even begin to comprehend that the gem of all Creation, that His love covers us with earth-shatteringly blinding beauty.

Beauty is a part of our world because it gives us a glimpse of Him; a glimpse of the One who is so beautiful, that to look upon Him for even a moment with our human eyes would render us dead. We literally would die because our bodies would not be able to physically handle the beauty. Our physical selves would implode at what we would behold.

I long for, appreciate, look for, and admire beauty. It is written into the fabric of my soul, because I was created by the Author of Creation; the head of all things beautiful. I am in no way diminishing the desire for beauty or articulating that said desire is a bad thing. We were created for and to be beautiful. I love beauty!

But, in order to understand beauty as it was intended, it is important to understand a very simple and yet simultaneously profound truth; beauty itself does not save.

Beauty cannot save.

I understand why women post photos of themselves. I’ve done it, I’ll do it again. I’m married to a photographer, for crying out loud. I am not condemning or even sternly cautioning women to stop posting photos of themselves all together. I think as a woman, it is important to feel beautiful and be acknowledged as such. Sometimes, social media can offer an encouraging bit of affirmation when you get a new dress, cut your hair off or go on vacation and give your Seattle skin some sun-kissed bliss. Especially when the encouragement comes from other women.

There is something so delightful about telling another woman how beautiful they are, knowing how sweet it is to your own soul to hear those very words. It is nice to be admired by lovelies whom you admire yourself. They say women dress for women, and I would make the same argument about posting photos of oneself. Women like to receive compliments from women because, quite simply, we know what it’s like. We know the daily battles, the slithering lies and the pesky insecurities. We are, in each other’s eyes, qualified to compliment. I’m not against that. I promise I’m not.

However, I would caution any woman, sister or friend, to be careful to check your intentions before posting that photo. Do you desire to receive love and affirmation from Facebook friends and/or Instagram followers by way of receiving compliments and gaining the knowledge that you are wanted? If this is the case, sweet friend, you will be sadly disappointed. The likes will come in, the comments will flood your feed, and in a matter of hours, your photo will be forgotten. And you will be just as empty. It can be a bitter cycle, and I would never want any woman to experience that.

All those things being said; I’d like to address an alarming and disturbing trend I’m finding amongst social media today. Let’s refer to it as the Beauty Movement.

I’ve been watching silently, a stifling combination of pain, sorrow, and anger swelling in my heart like a disease; people desperately trying to “reclaim” or “redefine” or “restore” beauty. True beauty, is what they call it. Women, and many men, are finding it necessary to post photos on their social media outlets that supposedly express what it means to be truly beautiful. So often, this “true beauty” is articulated with a pretty quotation by a deceased icon, accompanied with a photo of themselves seductively gazing into or away from the camera, a full body shot of their barely clothed selves,  suggestive position or a well-lit pair of legs. I scan over photo after photo and I find myself wondering, “Since when did this become “true beauty?” Since when did this become empowering?”

It is here that I would like to transition my discussion points towards the men who are out to apparently “help” redefine and empower the women who feel like they have no worth concerning the supposed Beauty Movement.

This is where I get hardcore. Some of you might be offended, and for those of you who are, I’m sorry. But I will stand behind these statements stubbornly and without falter.

Female beauty isn’t defined/restored/reclaimed by men who claim they see beauty in everyone, then proceed to photograph only scantily clad, thin white girls and post them for the world to see, with an apparent, “See how beautiful EVERY WOMAN is?!”. This, my friends, is not a redefinition of beauty, this is exploitation, and very specific exploitation at that.

To these men, I would ask you these questions:

Who are you to have decided that your estimation of beauty is the final authority and who gave you that power?

You think it’s courageous to prey upon young, insecure women, take a photo of her nearly naked, tell her she’s beautiful and then post her image to your credit and claim yourself to be a movement hero?

You think you have any idea what it means to be a woman who yearns for beauty?

You think your temporary words of visual delight in her will satiate her aching soul?

You think by exploiting her, you are effectively moving her towards empowerment?

You are not a hero. You are a coward.

It is easy to take a photo of a beautiful woman. It is easy to take a photo of a woman you find attractive and revel in your so-called “talent”. It is difficult to take a photo of a woman you don’t personally find attractive, or who doesn’t fit your particular measurement or lack-of-diversity preferences, and actually make the photo soar.

Beauty comes when any woman realizes their worth is in Jesus, their beauty is found in Him and that their conformity need not be to any worldly standards, but to the “standards” that He places in their souls; the standards that allow themselves to be loved in the manner that they are. The reception of His love is the standard. The reception of that TRUTH; THAT is beauty.

So, sweet sisters, remember this: No man can articulate the beauty you were created to emulate. Only the Father can.

I’m tired of seeing cowards claiming to be heroes on social media.

I’m tired of the Beauty Movement.

 

Photo by Michael Giroux

Staci Giroux

Staci Lynn Giroux is a born and raised Pacific Northwesterner currently residing in Seattle, Washington. She loves three things above all; Jesus, her husband Michael and the native orca pods of the Puget Sound. Staci spends a lot of time daydreaming and brainstorming about new adventures. She has a fiery passion and heart of justice for women and would like nothing more than for every girl on the planet to feel and know the freedom that comes with discovering their true identity and beauty that can solely be found in Christ. Staci loves new friends and would love to hear from you at stacigiroux@gmail.com.

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