When I was teaching school, a student showed up one day wearing a T-shirt with three cartoon rabbits on it. As I recall, the first rabbit was eating a carrot. The caption under it read “Eat Well.” The second rabbit was skipping rope. The caption under it read “Exercise Regularly.” The third rabbit was prone and had X’s where his eyes should be. The caption under that one read “Die Anyway.”
I’m often amazed at how much time, effort, and money we pour into making our bodies look good. It’s a losing battle.
Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for our bodies. They are a gift from God, and there’s even a Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Kill) that the nuns at my elementary school claimed also meant we should take care of our bodies by nourishing them properly and not abusing them through overeating, cigarettes, and drugs.
But sometimes physical beauty—like anything else—is taken to extremes, especially when we care more about our bodies than our souls. We should, as St. Peter said, pay more attention to the character of our hearts than to adorning our bodies. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
[SIDENOTE: This is a minor theme I covered in my novel about physical immortality, Amaranth. The main theme is Trusting God. But since it seems to me that some people overdo concern about their bodies to the detriment of their souls, I got into this theme a bit with one of the characters. Okay, enough shameless self-promotion.]
How much attention do we give our bodies? According to one website I visited, (http://www.cheatsheet.com/personal-finance/how-much-do-we-spend-on-beauty.html/?a=viewall), about $55 billion a year on cosmetics. The typical woman, I am told, spends about $15,000 on make-up during her lifetime. Many people spend much more on plastic surgery.
How many Catholics, I wonder, will spend an hour at the gym that they won’t spend at Eucharistic Adoration?
One of the most beautiful women whom I’ve ever seen in a photograph is Mother Teresa. Yes, she had all those wrinkles. She also had an incredible smile and a liveliness in her eyes I don’t see in fashion models.
We will have our souls for all eternity. We will also, after the resurrection of the dead, have our bodies for all eternity. The beauty we possess then will come from God, not from a bottle of make-up or the precision of a surgeon’s knife.
I’m not saying women should never wear makeup. I’m not saying people shouldn’t work out. The question, however, is what kind of beauty treatment we’re prioritizing in this lifetime. Are we focused on one in which we try to beautify just our bodies or one which allows God to beautify both our bodies and our souls?