I wasn't even looking for this book when I found it. I was supposed to be doing research for a paper for a theology class when this book caught my eye. Turns out, this accidental read had a more profound effect on me than the book I got for my paper.
I have thing for beauty--the topic that is. Knowing where we get our standards of beauty, how beauty (or a lack thereof) affects day to day living (and it does!), and gaining insight on how to uphold healthy and biblical notions of beauty have become a topic of interest to me. I now notice articles, talk shows, news segments, and books that speak on the subject of beauty. Basically, our culture is obsessed with having perfect looks. As a result, countless females loath their bodies and starve themselves while self-centered, lust-filled boys encourage them by having supermodel standards, holding off on relationships (or getting into tons of them) until they score that perfect-10 babe. And let's just be honest, the Christian scene isn't all so different from the culture in this respect. So...
What is This Book For?
Michelle Graham is writing to help girls have a biblical view of their bodies in light of Scripture's standard of beauty. She writes from experience and is very apt to make the challenges she does. From the back cover:
In this book Michelle Graham reveals how we have fallen into the trap of viewing our bodies through the lens of culture rather than through the eyes of God.
And that, I would say, is done well. She has a good grasp of our culture, and she argues from a sound theological framework that isn't afraid to call out sin and idolatry. She exposes the heart's lean toward finding satisfaction and affirmation in things other than God. In the end, females are challenged to evaluate their beauty in light of their intimacy with Christ, knowing that external appearance is only part of the package. Her use of Scripture is good, though there are some interpretations that I wouldn't have forced (For example, that Eve's "desire for her husband" [Gen. 3:16] meant that she would "hunger for acceptance from men" [p. 94]. Eh, not so much.). Otherwise, she is right on most of the time.
Key Chapters and Quotes:
Chapter 1: The Lie We Buy: Beauty and Culture
"How have you been affected by the lie that your body must fit a certain standard in order to be accepted? Check all the following statements that apply to you:
-I am critical of my body
-When I look in the mirror, I first notice the parts of my body that I think are inadequate
-When I see images of "beautiful women" in the media, I compare myself to them.
-As I get dressed and ready in the morning, I consider what others will think of my appearance.
-I weigh myself frequently and am emotionally affected by the results.
-The thought of being seen without makeup or hair done is scary to me.
-When others compliment my appearance, I have a hard time believing it's true.
-When I eat in front of people, I wonder what they are thinking about me.
-I tend to wear clothes that are baggy to hide my figure or tight clothes to show off my body in hopes of receiving attention.
-If money were no object, I would have plastic surgery in a heartbeat.
-I have often thought that becoming more beautiful would be the solution to some of life's challenges--my desires for romantic relationships, career success, popularity among friends or self esteem. (p.24)
"When we understand the gift of our God-made body, we will respond. . . with contentment and without embarrassment. We will take care of our body well by eating healthy foods and giving it the exercise of an active lifestyle. We;ll keep ourselves clean and enjoy pampering our body, without crossing the line onto body obsessions or comparing ourselves to other women." (p. 37)
Chapter 3: When Beauty Becomes a Beast: Beauty and Consequences
"There was an unspoken equation that I learned as a single woman: my chance of getting married correlates directly with my physical attractiveness." (p. 50)
Chapter 4: Who's the Fairest of Them All?: Beauty and Ethnicity
**This was probably the best chapter in the book. Basically, we are ethnocentric when it comes to beauty. Just read the whole chapter. But, here's a quote:
"The more European one's features, the more beautiful one is considered to be." (p. 62).
Chapter 6: Can I Still Keep My Favorite Lipstick? Beauty and Balance
"I would suggest that a desire for plastic surgery is rooted in body obsession." (p. 106).
"The less modest our clothing, the more we invite others to fill in the blanks and complete the picture of our naked body." (p. 112).
I highly recommend this book. It is an easy read and it keeps you engaged--I read almost half the book in one sitting! This would be a fantastic study for women to do. I would also recommend it to guys who are interested in how our culture of non-beauty influences our views of women and choosing a mate. It was beneficial to "listen in" on a girl-to-girl conversation. I gained some good insight into the minds of females as they battle with their bodies. After I read this I wanted to start being more careful to encourage my wife and help her combat the false views of beauty that she is bombarded with day to day. Overall, I would rate this book at 4/5 stars. Whether guy or girl, you should consider Amazoning this one.