Perfection

Setting the Example in Self-Image

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Countless articles promote the idea that you are beautiful just the way you are. “Be satisfied with the body God gave you.” “Love yourself.” “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

There are studies of the psychological benefits of being happy with yourself, statistics about how many people aren’t, and expositions on how to be content. But I believe they all miss a very important point: the effect your self-image has on other people.

A few days ago, my four year old sister was playing in my room and randomly started doing all the stretches and exercises she knew. I smiled at her pushups and the way she flicked her hair out of her face with a serious expression. But my smile disappeared when she told me that she was doing it so that she could have a “little tummy.”

This girl doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body, but she decided that she needed to exercise so that she could look better. That her tummy wasn’t little enough. What on earth possessed her to think that?

There are, of course, the TV shows, toys, and ads to point to. She was born into a world that teaches her to look a certain way – to get there however she can.

But what about the people around her?

I would like to propose the idea that when you show contempt for your body and appearance, it has a real effect on those around you. How many times has my sister seen me look in the mirror and say it’ll have to do for the day? It’s obviously stuck with her.

The way we look at ourselves says a lot about who we are and other people pick up on that. When a girl that you think is especially pretty complains about the way she looks, your heart falls a bit. If she isn’t good enough, how could you ever be?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” It’s not encouraging to lead someone into discontent with how they look.

I’m especially speaking to those of us with younger siblings. Part of our job is to set the example for them in godliness. They do follow us, whether we realize it or not. They look up to us and want to be like us, and we must turn that to their benefit. It pained me to hear my sister talking about why she wanted to exercise. I don’t want her to think that way about herself. But that way of thinking is a direct reflection of the people she is around, including me.

How do you want your friends, siblings, peers to view themselves? Set an example in that, not in dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Encourage them and build them up by having a healthy view of yourself. They’ll catch on.

Kira

How do you lead people to see themselves in a godly way? What’s the hardest part about it?

From the Archives: Conceal, Don’t Feel

The following post consistently held its position as one of my top five most popular posts ever since I originally published it. It was the first time I was this open and honest on my blog. Now presenting Conceal, Don’t Feel.

Originally published: 9/30/14


If you have ever heard the song from Frozen called “For the First Time in Forever” you might remember Elsa’s words in the moments before she is to be crowned Queen of Arendelle.

Don’t let them in

Don’t let them see

Be the good girl

You always have to be

Conceal

Don’t feel

Put on a show…

After I watched that movie for the first time, I honestly sang those words to myself over and over again – whenever something was wrong. I figured nobody wanted to hear my problems and I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining or end up boring people to death. But most of all, I didn’t want anyone to think I had any difficulties with life at all.

I recently went to a middle school retreat where the first Bible talk was exactly what I needed to hear. The theme that night was “Life as a Christian is hard.” The speaker first made this fact very clear, then went on to say that we often want our lives to look perfect to people outside of our immediate family or we want to make Christianity look appealing to nonbelievers and so we hide our problems. I realized this is me. Next, the pastor told us that it’s okay to admit we have problems and to talk about them with someone you trust. He repeated this note and assured us that it was in fact a good thing to do. That’s why God gave us friends. To share burdens – to be there for each other.

This hit me. Hard.

I had been hiding my problems for so long, trying to look good and be perfect to almost everyone I knew. It was wearing me down. I was on edge. I kept telling my sister that I had no one to talk to, when, really, I could have talked to her or plenty of other people. I was hiding it. Concealing. Not feeling. I made an actual effort to force my negative emotions down inside of me until they couldn’t show through any more to anyone outside my family.

Last November, my Grandpa died. It wasn’t easy on anyone. He died only a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, without any of us knowing whether or not he was a Christian. For months, I cried and scolded myself for this. I had had the perfect opportunity to testify for Jesus a few months before he died. And I hadn’t. I didn’t do it because I was scared. I didn’t want to be laughed at. I wanted to look perfect in a human’s eyes. So I continued to lose sleep over this until August. November to August I worried and prayed for him to be in heaven, but I was never sure he was. I never had any peace about it.

But at camp, in August, there was someone to talk to. I told her everything, tears pouring from my eyes. I hadn’t spoken about my Grandpa’s death to anyone since November. I had tried to avoid the subject entirely and got upset with my siblings when they talked about it. But, now, I was able to dump it all out. I drained those tears. I felt so much better. The lady I talked to pointed me to John 3:16, which may seem like a familiar verse and not really comforting, but it was.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Next, she told me to replace some of the words with my own name. Now it read:

For God so loved Kira that He gave His only begotten Son, that if Kira believes in Him she should not perish but have everlasting life.

That changed it a lot for me. It gave this often used verse a new meaning and it comforted me. Why? Because if God loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me, then He must have loved my Grandpa enough to die for him, too. And while I don’t know where my Grandpa is right now, I know that God gave him a choice too. God used who He wanted to use in my Grandpa’s life. And even if I didn’t outright say it, I hope that I lived for Jesus enough to make a difference for my Grandpa. I hope that he saw Christ through my actions – even if I wasn’t always perfect.

All that to say, after I talked about my Grandpa’s death for the first time in almost nine months, I felt much better. It was so much easier after I told someone what I was feeling. Now I feel much more at peace about it. It was doing me no good to try to “Conceal, Don’t feel.” It was only hurting me.

Now that I know that, hopefully it won’t be so hard to show people that I live a broken life in a broken world, just like everybody else. Hopefully it won’t be so hard to admit that I’m a sinner and that things hurt. It’s not easy to be a Christian. But sharing makes it easier.

Kira

When Failure Knocks You Down

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What does the word “failure” mean to you? A big red “F” on a paper. Losing an important game. Letting your friend down. I bet you’ve already failed today. I bet you overslept, or snapped at someone, or didn’t meet a goal.

Maybe you failed to eat that healthy breakfast you had planned or forgot to water the garden before you left. Or maybe it was something bigger, like not getting a job you wanted or having yet another project proposal rejected with a polite “thank you, but no thank you.”

There are as many ways to fail as there are people to fail. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them haunt you for weeks, even years, and some are forgotten in a few moments. Either way, failure is an unpleasant feeling. No one enjoys messing up, whether on a large scale or small. No one wants to be unsuccessful in their goals. It’s no fun, and something we’d all rather be rid of. For good.

But what if we never failed at anything? Where would you be right now if you had got that job or won that race or kept your GPA perfect? How would your life be different? Would you know the same people, live in the same town, enjoy the same things?

Probably not. You wouldn’t even be the same person you are now if not for failure.

Failure forces us to try something else, something new. It’s God’s way of saying, “nope, try again.” And is that really such a bad thing?

Everyone tells you that you learn more from failure than from success and they’re right. Think about it – when you exercise, you do things to muscle failure. Until you can’t do it any more. And then you’re stronger the next time and you can push farther before you fail again. If you didn’t go all the way to muscle failure, you wouldn’t improve as quickly. You’d stay at the same level.

More significantly, without failure, we wouldn’t need Jesus. Let that sink in. If we never messed up, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

When I think about living without Jesus, it makes me sad. He has made my life a thousand and one times better than it was before. But if I had never failed at anything, I wouldn’t need Him to do that. Yet, I still think that life wouldn’t be as good as the one I’ve got now.

Failing doesn’t mean the end of the road. It means pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep walking. Maybe God doesn’t want you to have whatever you were trying to get. Or maybe it means He wants you to try a little harder, or He wants to build up your character some more before you get there.

Let’s stop thinking about failure in a negative way. When we don’t succeed, we’re not put back at square one. No, we’ve gained knowledge and wisdom that helps us try something else. And maybe we’ll fail at that, too, but what will we do? We’ll get up, dust ourselves off, and keep walking.

Kira