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Children and the Image-Obsessed World

Photo from Flaunter.com

This isn’t something I care to admit, but I recently spent two minutes of my numbered days watching a You Tube video entitled The Secret of Nose Reshaping. I was skeptical about the efficacy of the technique, yet I found myself doing nose exercises that night before going to bed and writing myself a reminder note to leave on my dresser so that I wouldn’t forget a nightly dosage of nose-shaping.

I’m grateful that my nose-shaping exercise regime only lasted one day and that I have since then come to find beauty in my nose. Like many women (and men), I have struggled with insecurities about my body. Only very recently have I fully understood that my real beauty comes from the indwelling of God’s spirit, which increases my attractiveness by making me more like Him.

Few people know this truth and fewer still are those who know it and are able to live their lives in light of it. Every day we are surrounded by an increasing amount of images of “flawless” bodies that has given rise to an image-obsessed culture.

The body positivity movement has not come close to dismantling the saturation of flawless bodies in our media nor the consequential mania for seeing flawless bodies to which may men and women are now slaves.

I am especially disheartened by the toll this mania is taking on today’s youth. I volunteer for a middle school youth group and follow several of the kids on Instagram. Time and time again, I am saddened by the photos they post.

One of the kids regularly posts photos of himself shirtless with his shorts pulled down extremely low. Recently a photo appeared on my feed of two girls wearing leggings with their long shirts purposefully rolled up and their rear ends sticking out as far as they could go. Several boys their age commented about how much they loved the photo and what specifically they loved about it.

Recently I saw a girl post a bathroom selfie only wearing her bra and underwear. I suppose one could argue that that’s not much different than posting a photo in a swimsuit, but it just didn’t sit well with me.

When I came across that photo, all I could think was how alarming it was that a 13-year-old girl thought it completely normal to take a photo of herself in her underwear and post it on social media for 500 followers, some of whom she may have never met, to see. Seeing photos like that posted on social media makes me wonder how many nude photos are taken and privately shared.

I frequently find myself thinking about the play Death of a Salesman and the main character Willy Loman who is obsessed with being liked. That is the driving force behind this. Kids post revealing photos of themselves to feel wanted.

How do we turn the value system upside down? How do we get kids (and adults) to value themselves and each other correctly? I don’t foresee the supply of increasingly racy images in our media diminishing anytime soon.

Growing up I was told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that looks aren’t everything, but I don’t remember anyone directly telling me in person or on the TV or on the Internet that my value does not come from my looks. A reminder like that cannot be overstated.

So, go tell your children! Tell your children’s friends! Tell those children you volunteer with.

Body positivity can only go so far because it condones the lie that people’s value comes from their appearance. As Christians we need to make sure our children know that their value and joy come from God.

Armed with that knowledge, they will have more confidence in themselves and more love for others. When people cease to equate value with appearance, they build each other up rather than tear each other down.

Before we can direct our children, we must first ask ourselves how we value other people. Like it or not, everyone you come into contact with is as irrationally loved by God as you are and, therefore, should be highly valued.

The fight to dismantle today’s value system must begin in our minds and manifest itself in our words and actions. Doing so will not only get at the root of some of the evils of our day – including sex trafficking, pornography, racism, and depression – but also make this world a lot more beautiful.