Have you ever wondered if body image is as big an issue with men as it is for women? Today guest blogger Sam Eaton will answer this question. I’m so thankful for Sam and the new perspective he has been bringing to this community. Make sure you give him some love and go visit his blog, RecklesslyAlive.com. xoxo Joy
I turned the wheel as my Honda Accord, stuffed-to-capacity with students and camping gear, weaved its way through campsite after campsite as we arrived at Sonshine Music Festival –a three-day Christian music paradise in Somerset, WI. Our second annual youth group trip was in full swing as we searched for an open spot to set up our base-camp and start binge-eating our body weights in Flaming Hot Cheetos.
As we passed a few teenagers walking beside us, one boy from the back yelled, “15 points if you hit those two girls.” A crude game but one I was familiar with from my days as a ridiculous teenager. Then another boy yelled, “More points if you hit the bigger one.” I froze. (I had to act quick in this teachable moment).
“Did that SERIOUSLY just come out of your mouth?” I said. “That is never okay!”
These young people are about as awesome as they come. Hilarious and rebellious within reason, all simply trying to do what we all did at that age – find their place in this messed up world. “As a Christian guy, you just can’t make comments about a girl’s weight,” I followed up. “We all have enough trouble with self-esteem without you guys tearing her down, even if she can’t hear you.”
A few hours later I was walking with one of the young men from the car when we started talking about the earlier comment. We had a sweet conversation about our culture and how obsessed we are with our looks. Finally, after a few moments of silence, he asked something I didn’t expect.
“Why is it okay for girls to make comments about the way a guy looks but it’s never okay for a guy to make comments back?”
It was a fair question, clearly stemming from a place a pain that I could easily relate to.
The truth is, many men struggle with their looks more than they would ever let you know. You see if a guy admits any vulnerability it is often seen as a sign of weakness. To avoid that, males tend to internalize the worst things that are said to them and pretend the words don’t hurt. But they do.
Men, like women, are compared to the impossible Photoshopped standards found on every grocery store magazine rack; it’s just that guys are held to the standard of bulging biceps and eighteen-pack abs rather than the “thigh-gap.” We hear women talking about Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey, going on and on about the hottest guys in Hollywood. In Christian circles, for a guy to talk about that stuff all the time would be labeled as lust. Yet, for girls it seems to be more generally accepted.
Still it’s the on-going remarks like: tiny, non-athletic, chubby, scrawny, soft, weak, out-of-shape, or small that cut to the heart. It’s the ongoing comments on our acne, lack of facial hair or our “girly” traits that leave untouchable scars that burn beneath the surface. You see, for a guy, you’re not only attacking his appearance, but his masculinity.
The truth is, we all can do a better job of lifting up our brothers and sisters and setting ourselves apart in this appearance-obsessed world of ours. As followers of Jesus, we have a higher calling to rise above the dagger we can wield with our hurtful words. The enemy will use anything to convince us that we are ugly and worthless, and that pain hurts the most when it comes from someone who claims to love God.
In Romans 12:2 (in the Message Translation), Paul writes:
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If we truly let God bring the best out of us, not a single hurtful comment would ever roll off our lips. Perhaps that’s an impossible standard to live up to, but something worth striving all the same.
“I really am going to try to do better Sam,” he said as we walked over the hill towards the sea of concert stages and street vendors.
“That’s all we can ever ask for,” I said.
Focus today on speaking life to those around you at all times. Pay attention to the remarks you’re making about a person’s weight and appearance. Give compliments that build people up and encourage them to stand tall in the awesome person that God created them to be. Don’t fall into the immaturity of this world that cares more about how a person looks than what’s in their heart.
We all have the power to change our culture one phrase at a time. Choose your words carefully. Speak life.
Meet Sam: Sam Eaton writes at RecklesslyAlive.com and is a monthly contributor of JP Ministries. Sam’s heart for Jesus is contagious. He’s a music teacher by day, and a youth ministry and worship musician by night. You can friend him on twitter @aliverecklessly.