When I was an adolescent surviving puberty, my nemeses were teen magazines. One look at those polished faces, flat stomachs, and smooth hair and any confidence I had was eviscerated. I had no idea that those images were photo-shopped, I just knew I didn’t measure up.
I look back at that time in my life with sadness because I wasted so much time and energy worrying about my appearance. I had nightmares about my frizzy, curly hair. I cried about my body that looked nothing like the bodies of those long and lean models. So much time was spent worrying about things I did not choose and could not change, no matter how many products I tried or workouts I completed.
As an adult, I still experience the pull of the impossible, especially as I age. However, I am beginning to understand what I truly have control over.
What I Do Not Have Control Over
I do not have control over my height, the shape of my nose, or the texture of my hair. I did not choose my level of intelligence, my lack of athletic prowess, or non-musical voice. All of our lives we are judged and dismissed or applauded concerning a vast array of attributes that we are not responsible for. We even take pride in things we did not earn–a great memory, a fast metabolism, or well-balanced features. We have made our worth dependent on things that have very little to do with our choices.
What I Do Have Control Over
We should instead focus on what we do have control over: namely, our character. The type of people we are is completely within our grasp. We can decide to be kind, honest, and helpful, or we can choose to be cruel, tell lies, or be selfish.
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We can also control our attitudes and how we handle the difficulties of life. Charles Swindoll reminds us how this has a huge impact on how our lives turn out:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.
Choosing To Invest in the Eternal
As I get older, those physical attributes or abilities that I might have been proud of before are stripped away. Even if you were lucky to be born with great attractiveness or talents, you will eventually lose them. The only thing left is the content of your character which can’t be taken away from you. Instead of investing all our time trying to improve what our bodies look like, we should be investing in what lasts forever.
1 Timothy 4:8 says “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
There is nothing wrong with caring about our appearances and investing in a healthy life. However, this part of us is surely dying and if our worth is too tightly wrapped up in this, we will be lost as we approach our twilight years. Instead, we can choose now to be the type of person we should be, making our appearance a secondary factor. We can choose to have an attitude of hope, and we can choose to have a character of integrity. That way, when time wrinkles our faces and weakens our bodies, we will already know who we are and what is important.