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Thoughts on the Beautiful and the Ugly

by Gil Sanders
Thoughts on the Beautiful and the Ugly

I may say something that will sound very offensive to some, but bear with me as that is not my intent. There are two kinds of beauty: inner and outer. The inner reflects a good character or nature, the outer reflects both good health and form. I think inner beauty is the most objective kind of beauty because it has to do first and foremost do with what you are and second with who you are (i.e. your character). You are a person made in God’s image. You are objectively beautiful then because God is objectively beautiful. Your moral worth is the same thing as your beauty. There is no “beauty is in the eye of the beholder ” here unless your worth also depends on who is beholding you. Same applies to beauty of character. Being loving is beautiful, but being hateful is ugly. This is objective. All of this is respectable to most, even if they’re not Christians. Here comes the controversial part.

Outer beauty is what people take to be mostly, if not entirely subjective. When it comes to outer beauty, I hear people say, “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes!” Against fat-shaming, a movement like “curve-loving” is formed. This movement revolts against being skinny because it is the standard of beauty in our world that prevents the world from not seeing their big curves as beautiful. A certain resentment tends to develop that encourages skinny-shaming. Let me ask you this: What do the fat-shaming bullies and curve-loving people have in common? They both determine their worth by their outer beauty. The bully who shames a person for being fat is degrading that person’s worth for their looks, but the curve loving person is elevating their worth based on their looks. Both are the toxic inverse of the other.

The Bible very clearly says that our beauty (or worth) should come inwardly, not outwardly (1 Peter 3:3-4). But these people are doing the exact opposite of that. This causes them to say very superficially nice things. If a girl is 500 pounds overweight, I read comments that say, “OMG girl, you are so beautiful! I’m jealous!” And I just think to myself, why are you lying? Either that or you’re deeply mistaken. Let me be absolutely clear here: I do not condone in any form degrading a person because they are fat. As someone who was degraded for being too skinny and ugly in school, I know how that is and I despise it. My goal in this post is to uplift people, no matter how you look, by focusing your attention on your worth. But I may incidentally hurt you in the process because I am fundamentally challenging your worldly notion of beauty.

Subjective Outward Beauty

If outer beauty is fully subjective, then it makes no sense for the curve-loving movement to impose their standards of beauty upon the rest of the world. Most people do not find overweight woman attractive. That’s just a fact. But what happens is that if most people find an overweight woman unattractive, then even if they’re not explicitly degrading her like a bully would, she’d still feel like they are implicitly doing so because they refuse to date her. That is degrading in her eyes because she is not seen as outwardly beautiful but wants to be seen as such. And she wants to be seen as such because she finds part of her value or worth in that. This is harmful. But rather than recognizing that her sense of value is in the wrong place, some do-gooders encourage that sense of value by praising her looks. They say, “You are beautiful no matter what anyone says! Look in that mirror and say, I am beautiful!”

This is strange because if beauty is subjective, then someone can just as validly affirm their own ugliness. I know people who subjectively think that they are ugly. Who are you to say that they are wrong if beauty is subjective? You may say that it is harmful for their psychological well being to think this way, but this is not necessarily the case. A person could say, “Hey in my eyes I am ugly, but I don’t care! There’s far more to my life than beauty.” Mindset changes everything. Such a person is mentally far stronger than someone who needs to affirm their own beauty.  Even in cases where it is harmful, it is harmful because they are placing their value in the wrong type of beauty, not because they are thinking false thoughts about their outer beauty (which is impossible under subjectivism).

Someone could object that it is harmful because it is harmful. That is sufficient reason to not embrace the subjective belief that you are ugly. It’s not because the belief itself is objectively false, it’s because it produces harm to your psyche. My answer to that is this: It is one thing to recognize it as harmful, another to provide a proper diagnosis of how to remove that harm. Reaffirming your value in outward beauty is a terrible diagnosis. You are finding your worth in something that depends on what people think, or what you think. Your worth should not depend on what anyone feels, including yourself, because there is objective worth. If it depends on the subjective then one day you may see yourself as worthless, and that’s what you shall be, and another day you may see yourself as the best gift to mankind on the planet (e.g, Trump). If it’s all subjective, then there can be no moral objection to elevating your worth to however much you want.

Objective Outward Beauty

Now you may wonder whether I think outward beauty is objective. I think part of it is in fact objective.  It seems to me that an anorexic human being, covered in feces, is not attractive or beautiful. We feel compassion for this person, of course, but we do not think this state is a good thing. This is because outward beauty is associated with what is good for a thing – namely it’s health and form. A person who is overweight by 400 pounds, is likewise objectively not attractive. In many cases this reflects both a bad character trait (gluttony), or it reflects a kind of genetic defect. Either way, it is not good for a person to be overweight as it causes serious psychological and biological problems. So we naturally do not see that state as attractive because only a good state can count as beautiful. Piles of dead bodies from an earthquake cannot count as beautiful because it is bad. Other parts are subjective. Some guys like skinnier girls, while other guys like “thicker” girls. But it is almost universal that most do not find excessively overweight individuals attractive.

At this point I am sure some of my readers are gasping, furious that I would ever suggest such a thing. People who offer the “I am beautiful” diagnosis aren’t diagnosing the person, they are isolating their feelings and diagnosing that by cuddling their feelings with lies. Your feelings matter, but feelings grounded in the wrong values is harmful. Unfortunately when I undermine those kind of feelings, I will come across as heartless when the opposite is the case. It is precisely because I care about the person, not just their feelings, that I am willing to risk hurting them (temporally) with truth in order to make them wiser and stronger as a person. I want everyone to flourish. But you cannot flourish if you are unable to accept the possibility or reality that most people do not find you attractive. You are not entitled to people finding you attractive. If objective beauty exists, then you cannot reject it anymore than you can reject the sun.

The Bible itself says that Jesus “had no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2). He was not good looking. That’s presented in the Bible as an objective fact. Proverbs 31 also says that “beauty is fleeting.” That means outward beauty can be lost with age. You can only lose something that exists. I cannot misplace my pet unicorn, for example. The Bible must believe beauty to be a real objective feature if it can be lost. The Bible says some are more beautiful than others, in fact: “No one in all Israel was as handsome and well-built as Absalom” (2 Samuel 14:25). It seems plausible to say that the Bible holds to objective beauty. But this should not cause us to despair or be enraged. For as God says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). Ugliness can never justify mistreatment because our value comes from God. We have this hope, however: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc 3:11).


Let me conclude on a more personal note. Regardless of how you look (some of which is subjective), you are still incredibly valuable. I was told by peers, past girls, and some family members that I was a skinny stick, an ugly nerd, and all sorts of things. This has admittedly tainted how I view myself, even to this day. I used to think I was ugly, but now I just think that I am average or slightly above. It is definitely not easy to look at your outward beauty in a more objective way and it takes a while to recover from past wounds sometimes. But that’s okay. This isn’t about how you look at yourself, it’s about how God looks at you. When you realize your value is not based off your appearance, because God does not value you on that basis, you become truly free. Focus on your internal, eternal value, and everything outward – everything that fades away – will fall in its proper place.
A person who finds their value in the beauty they happen to have is just as broken as the one who desperately chases after the beauty they happen to lack. If beauty is an illusion, then it may seem as if we are all equal, for the “beautiful” and the “ugly” are without difference to the objective eye. This sounds like the equality that we seek, but that is the greater illusion. The eyes of humanity are not “objective” in that sense; they are carved to see beauty. Whether it is the falling of the sun, the cascading melodies of the birds, or the smile of the one you love, humans will always perceive the beautiful and the ugly. If beauty is an illusion, you rob humanity of its humanity by seeking its equality. Not all things are equal in all respects, nor should they be. Humanity longs for beauty because it’s made for it. And it is this longing that creates an emptiness in all of us. You do not fill that emptiness with the emptier illusions of denial. Only by affirming the reality of beauty do we affirm our humanity.
But all earthly beauty fades, and some are not born with such beauty. This brings pain to all of humanity, and sometimes this leads to the denial that there is “objective” beauty after all. Easier to deny beauty than to accept its reality. It’s clear however that accepting the reality of beauty is not enough. We long for an eternal, all-surpassing beauty that’s not decided by the forces of chance; something that neither the dimensions of Time nor the scepters of Death could destroy. I have good news for everybody. That Beauty exists, and His name is I AM. He came to die to restore the beauty of the world, including yours. Even if you are outwardly among the least beautiful, God will display the beauty of a thousand suns through your life. And in time, that inner beauty will be your outer beauty in your new heavenly body.
That, my friends, is true beauty.

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Wendy S A Quartly December 8, 2018 - 6:45 am

If that photo is you, you’re nit ugly so I don’t know where that has come from. But, does it matter, no, according to you. A good piece, mind expanding and provokes thought. Thank you.

Wendy S A Quartly December 8, 2018 - 6:45 am

If that photo is you, you’re not ugly so I don’t know where that has come from. But, does it matter, no, according to you. A good piece, mind expanding and provokes thought. Thank you.

Gil Sanders December 8, 2018 - 4:57 pm

You and another person made me realize that my comment probably seemed disingenuous or fake. I apologize for that. I heavily edited the conclusion to clarify. It really comes from past hurt, particularly from 3 GFs who dumped me for someone “better looking” than me. 99% of the time I feel like I look terrible in photos, haha. What’s nice about photos is that you can get the “best looking” side of you that’s not how you look in everyday life, haha. But yes, it really doesn’t matter what I think in the end. I’m glad you found it interesting, thank you 🙂


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