When preparing to wash a load of clothes the other day, I followed directions and remembered to turn one of my tops inside out. When I did, it’s as if I heard God ask, “Kathy, what would people see if I turned you inside out?”

I think the question was prompted by my concern about people’s obsession with their appearances. According to 1 Samuel 16:7, God looks at our heart. I had been asking God to help me examine, value, and prioritize what He does.

Magazine covers trumpet the ease and value of plastic surgery. News broadcasts and television talk-shows are devoted to dieting and losing weight through surgical procedures. An entire television show, Extreme Makeover (the first of the “makeover” shows), is designed to give men and women “a truly Cinderella-like experience: A real life fairy tale in which their wishes come true, not just to change their looks, but their lives and destinies.”#

Too many of our children are analyzing their features and comparing them to men, women, and teens they observe on television, in movies, and in magazine ads. Most are quickly dissatisfied. We must tell them the picture in the magazine ad was chosen from perhaps 1,000 images captured by professional photographers using the best cameras available. Not only that, but thousands of dollars might have been spent on the best lighting, professionals probably spent hours doing the model’s makeup and hair, a professional stylist chose and tailored an outfit to accentuate his/her best points, and the best picture chosen for the ad might have been airbrushed to change something that wasn’t perfect. Our children must know that what they’re using as a standard of beauty or setting as a goal is inappropriate!

What about us? Do we need to stop thinking about external perceptions in order to care about internal purity? (See Matthew 23:25-26) Or, do we set a goal of internal beauty, but also take care of our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Do we behave in any way that would cause our children to believe in the women-as-objects or men-as-objects mentality? Have they seen anyone pour over the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated? Do they hear us talking about the “sexiest men” issue of People magazine? What do they hear us say about ourselves?

I’m especially concerned with the implication gleaned from the show Extreme Makeover. Producers want us to believe that a person’s life can be totally changed when they become more beautiful through extensive plastic surgery and hair and clothing makeovers. What about a “heart makeover”? What about changes to long-held beliefs and attitudes? Do your children believe people can find joy, peace, and success from changing their outer appearance? How do they define “beauty”?

We must direct our children back to the standard – God’s Word – and God’s priorities. The Truth must be told. We must look for and seize opportunities to counteract messages children of all ages are receiving.

Do our children see and hear us prioritize our heart? How many minutes do we spend in front of the mirror? Are we unwilling to go anywhere, even to drop off our children at a friend’s house, unless we’re perfectly put together? Where is our confidence? What does this teach our children?

Do they hear us cry out as David did, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”? (Psalm 51:10a) Since the heart is cleansed and renewed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, do we study relevant Scripture and teach it to our children?

Do we compliment our children’s appearance and/or complain about it too much? How can they be encouraged to think about and examine their heart if we don’t seem to be? I rarely tell children they’re beautiful. Rather, I may compliment their choices and decisions. For instance, “Andy, that color looks great on you.” and “Katie, putting your hair up gives you a more sophisticated look. That’s very appropriate for tonight’s concert. Good choice!” And, more importantly, I look for opportunities to affirm their attitudes, motivation, character, and application of Scripture.

Do we talk with our children about their heart’s attitudes? Their inner selves? Their character? Their gentle and quiet spirit, or lack thereof? Do we pray? This must be a priority! (See 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Do we have and apply God-honoring standards for dress and makeup? Have we taught them to our children? For example, one father I know taught his teenage daughters that men get excited by what they see. Therefore, he didn’t allow them to wear anything low-cut or too short and they have never worn a two-piece swimsuit. Their mother told me that when they shopped for clothes, the girls would try something on, stand in front of a mirror, and ask, “What will Dad think of this?” Also, even when these girls were young, they didn’t choose what clothes to purchase or wear. As their mother explained to me, “It’s a slippery slope. If I had let them pick out their own clothes when they were four, how would I have had any input when they were older?” One of these girls is now married and she is successfully raising her four children with the same standards.

Have we taught our children how manipulative advertising is? The fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” can be used to explain that, like the tailors who sold the emperor his invisible clothing, advertisers will say practically anything to convince people to buy what they’re selling.

Our children will believe they’re more than “pretty faces” when we talk with them about their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, character, and spiritual strengths. Do we?

Have we taught children to ask this question when shopping for clothes and dressing each day: What am I saying by what I’m wearing?

There’s more that can be done. I hope you’ll get creative so your children become more like Christ on the inside. Wouldn’t it be great to not be concerned about God turning us and them inside out?