It's not controversial to say that our society is obsessed with appearance. In the UK alone, women spend approximately £12,000 on beauty and cosmetic products throughout their lifetime. Every purchase is an attempt to make themselves appear either slimmer, more tanned, younger and generally more attractive. It's unsurprising that the figures are so high when we consider the extent to which we're bombarded with images of the "perfect" female form. Our physical appearance, or rather attraction, even plays an important role in the interview process. Employers are more likely to hire, promote and award pay rises to employees they consider to be attractive. However, the backlash against this one-dimensional perception of what it means to be beautiful is long established and ongoing. The rise in popularity of plus-sized models, increased diversity on fashion runways and the phenomenal reaction to Mattel's new range of Barbie dolls are all evident of our desire to celebrate beauty in all its wondrous forms. But these campaigns for a better definition of beautiful have also helped to remind us the importance of inner beauty. As we realise that an overwhelming proportion of the imagery that we're exposed to only depicts a certain type of attractiveness, we're forced to look at the impact that this has on those who don't fit the mould and reexamine what it really means to be beautiful.
Both types of beauty are explored in the Bible. Here are six verses which show how external and internal attractiveness are valued in a biblical sense.
Ezekiel 28:17 - Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Proverbs 20:29 - The glory of young men is in their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old.
Proverbs 31:25 - She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Matthew 23:27 - Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of bones of the dead and everything unclean.
1 Peter 3:3-4 - Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.