I laugh every time I watch that commercial.  In the words of Homer J. Simpson, “It’s funny, because it’s true.”  This situation speaks to our culture’s obsession with outward appearance.  A few weeks ago I had my wife shave off all my hair.  I like a short haircut anyway, my hair is thinning, it’s really hot out, and I’m sure I could find more reasons.  But mostly I just wanted to do it for the fun of it.  It’s hair.  It will grow back.  I knew people would comment, but I ended up discovering something disturbing the following few Sundays.

People care more about outward appearances than they do about other people.

People were free with jokes, criticisms, funny looks, etc., about my hair.  ”Did your head get caught in a lawnmower? Har, har.”  We do that with all sorts of outward appearances.  We’ll speak out about the most unimportant things:  Pants a little too short?  Where’s the flood?  Favorite sports team in last place?  I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that hat.  A little under the weather?  You look terrible.  Zit, bruise, or busted lip?  What happened to your face?  All said with a look of disgust and/or ridicule.

My thoughts on this subject were brought back to mind recently when one of our Jr. High students came to church with her new glasses.  As she was leaving the auditorium after the service, I complimented her on the new frames.  Her mother followed up behind her and said to me, “You actually like her glasses?  Why?  I think their ugly.”

I wish I had answered that I liked them because her daughter liked them.  That answer might have challenged her in how she looked at such things.  But instead I made a joke that she didn’t like them because she was old.  Tit-for-tat I suppose.  I was really kind of shocked that her mom had such a negative attitude toward something so innocuous.

We feel the need to speak out against hairstyles, clothing choices, etc. but when it comes to those things that really matter: spiritual health, attitudes of the heart, actions and words toward others, we keep our mouths shut.  The church is called to be a community that encourages, builds up, trains, teaches, feeds, shares with, corrects, prays for, confesses to, forgives and loves each other.  We seem to be content with complaining, gossiping, cajoling, ridiculing, laughing at, questioning, deriding, and otherwise beating each other up relationally.

I don’t care what anybody thinks about my hair, my identity is not found in my outward appearance.  And I of all people can joke around with somebody.  But I’ve also learned the inherent problems with doing that.  Such interaction, especially in a void of positive Christian fellowship and discipleship, leads to shallow people living superficial lives making inconsequential judgments.  Our Christian community is what we make of it.  Think deeper.  Speak less.  Challenge each other.  Follow Jesus.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2010 at 4:26 pm and is filed under Devotional, In Tone and Character, grace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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13 Comments(+Add)

1   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
August 23rd, 2010 at 4:55 pm

A couple of thoughts:
1. Why is the mom thinking that the glasses are ugly a bad thing? I mean if she had said they were beautiful, it wouldn’t have mattered, it’s not apparent by your recounting of the story that she was placing less value on her daughter, only on her glasses.
2. You made an interesting qualifying statement, you said,

“All said with a look of disgust and/or ridicule.”

I wonder if this is accurate or if it is simply the way you saw it. I wonder if the people simply thought they were being funny or embarking onto safe territory.
Interestingly, I agree with your premise that we speak out about stuff that doesn’t matter and stuff that does matter we avoid. I think it’s because the stuff that doesn’t matter is safe.

2   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
August 24th, 2010 at 10:22 am

Joe,

1. I’m sure she thought the statement was innocuous. And I don’t believe that she was placing less value on her daughter. But doesn’t that negativity and criticism spread? If (and this is a big “if” because I don’t know) she had said the same thing when she picked them out, and the same thing when they went to get them, and the same thing to somebody else who commented on them, what does that communicate to the daughter?

2. I made that qualifying statement to exclude situations and relationships that are not critical. I’m more concerned with an environment of criticism (and therefore what particular comments will have a negative impact) than with any given word or phrase. One of the major discussions around here for the past few years has been that people say nastier things using “appropriate” words than somebody who might use curse words but they think it’s okay. It’s an issue of context, I was trying to provide that context.

Also, the only jokes that were actually made in my situation were about my hair, and I’m sure that most of those were jokes. But even in my context, that becomes important when it becomes the scapegoat for talking about what matters.

3   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
August 24th, 2010 at 11:02 am

Christian,

Based on the way that I read your original comment about the mom’s statements the daughter was out of ear shot.
I am concerned that we only live in extremes. Surely, there are people who have a “culture of criticism” and there are also entirely too many people that have a fake culture of everything is OK. I know way too many adults who can’t function under any stress at all because they were never forced to work through the negative aspects of life. They were never forced to work through people disagreeing with them sincerely.

Saying something is ugly is no more damaging to a child than saying something is pretty is edifying to the child.
You hit on a great word, it’s the culture created around the child. I’d have a lot of nickles if I would get one for every adult I know that can’t handle people disagreeing with them about the beauty/ugliness of something from football to eye glasses.
We seem to assume that when someone agrees with us that something we own is beautiful then they are accepting of us (the we and us here is humanity in general, not necessarily you) and if someone disagrees with us they are somehow not as accepting of us.
For instance you make the statement about the glasses incident
I was really kind of shocked that her mom had such a negative attitude toward something so innocuous.

And yet, to my reading it is you that made something out of something innocuous. She didn’t say the daughter was ugly. Of course, perhaps she has and you know that and I don’t . But I find it interesting that you feel she should find the glasses beautiful and like them simply because her daughter does or maybe I’m misreading your statement when you said, “I wish I had answered that I liked them because her daughter liked them. That answer might have challenged her in how she looked at such things.” But if I’m right, how does that help for an authentic relationship? Why must she be challenged in how she views eyeglasses?

Parents need to make room for their kids to have their own opinions on things and it’s OK for the parent and the kid to disagree, the problem happens when love is dispensed based on agreement vs. disagreement.
As far as talking about things that matter. The problem is found in this and every conversation people have. We don’t trust each other and by and large that is for good reason. Probably 80% of your church doesn’t trust you and the reason has nothing to do with you. It has to do with people in their past you’ve never met so talking about your hair cut is safer than talking about the fact that their daughter is a cutter because then you might assume they need to be challenged in their parenting skills.

4   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
August 24th, 2010 at 11:03 am

PS. I originally thought Jerry wrote this so my long comment above had references to him as the author which I have tried to remove, if I missed one I apologize.

5   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
August 24th, 2010 at 11:31 am

The daughter was within earshot.

Yes we do live in extremes. Do I believe that every community of Christians acts in the way that I am saying we shouldn’t act? Of course not. It doesn’t matter (for my purposes). This particular or any other family dynamics also don’t matter. I agree with you that children aren’t challenged and taught how to disagree agreeably.

Don’t take my illustrations as the point, and don’t try to connect everything about them. They are a springboard for thought. You’ll notice that the issue wasn’t just what the mom said, but what I said in response. (It appears I played up the one too much, and downplayed the other too much.) My response was a joke, but it certainly wasn’t uplifting and encouraging.

6   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
August 24th, 2010 at 11:41 am

About trust:

I wonder a lot about whether we really believe and/or want Christ to transform our entire lives and whether He will and/or has the power to do so. I’ve thought about this in relation to being healed, demon possession, habitual sins, and our relationships with each other.

There are numerous other factors, and each of those things are not like they other per se, but my thoughts continue to return to us being willing to jump in with everything. I don’t trust people any more than somebody else. And when I do trust them and that trust is broken, I might be hurt by it, but I’m not surprised. I believe that I don’t have to trust others at times because I trust Christ.

Just some thoughts.

7   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
August 24th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

#5. I don’t know how I feel about that. My wife and I have talked about this and I’m not sure which is worse, lying to your kid (Oh I think they’re beautiful too) or the potential for hurting their feelings.
#6. That may be true but your assuming that you are either
A. Normal.
B. Where most others are.
Why do we hardly ever use the private writers blog anymore? Because someone broke that trust and printed stuff here because he was mad.
Churches are full of people that have been hurt and promised that they would find healing at church. Instead, for the most part by and large they have found more hurt.
Pastors leave on average every 18 months. When they do leave most people figure “why invest in the next guy?”
Other people in the church hurt each other so a blessed few people have a few friends that they really trust, everyone else they keep at a safe distance through mindless banter.

8   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 24th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

everyone else they keep at a safe distance through mindless banter.

This is the heart of the matter. But even if you broke through into my personal space and asked a tough, spiritual question about my walk, I’d probably lie to you…unless we have a history of trust.

Reminds me of that Caedmon’s Call song “Hold the Light”

“It’s been a long year
Like a long sleepless night.
Jacob wrestled the angel,
but I’m too tired to fight.
Every wednesday
for two years we’ve met.
I’ve showed you all my anger
my doubts and bitterness.

There was no judgement in your eyes
just the silent peace of God,
that felt so real in you.
Will you hold the light for me?
Will you hold the light for me?

And I stay up late
because I cannot sleep.
I don’t want to face the quiet
where its just God and me.
I’m waiting for the gavel
handing me the sentence down,
because I don’t believe forgiveness
or even repentance now.

There was no judgement in your eyes
Just the silent peace of God,
that felt so real in you.
Will you hold the light for me?
Will you hold the light for me?

I want to feel redemption
flowing through my veins.
I want to see with clear eyes
beyond lust and hate.
I want the war to be over,
and know the good guys won,
and I want love to hold me
to know I’m not alone.

Standing around a willow weeping,
we were praying in the backyard.
In the chill of the night
the friendship light reminded me who we are
…who we are, who we are

Will you hold the light?
Will you hold the light for me?”

9   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
August 24th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Joe,

I don’t think you have to lie. You don’t have to call something beautiful if you think it’s ugly. The simplest way to not lie is to just not say anything. I think you are thinking of situations where your kid comes to you and says, “Do you like…?” When it’s clothes, if they ask me, I tell them. And if I don’t like it, I might ask if they picked it out because they like it. Or I might tell them that it’s okay if not everybody likes the same things. But I don’t think it’s healthy to just proffer up criticisms just because we don’t like what somebody else likes (especially to our kids).

#6 – I actually don’t assume I’m where most others are. At least not in the issue of trust. Which is part of why I’ve thought about it the way I have.

As to the writers blog. I find it disappointing that that is the case.

Francis Chan has a video out called Fear. I think it speaks to the trust issue very well. You have to watch the whole thing, not just the clips posted by Chris L.

I see the hurt from past relationships. The hurt in our paid ministers, the hurt in our people. And I believe there’s a better way.

10   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
August 24th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

And I believe there’s a better way.

Oh, on that we agree 100%. :)

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 25th, 2010 at 10:33 am

I wasn’t going to say anything about your hair, Christian, cuz I didn’t think you had any left :)

12   Mike    
August 25th, 2010 at 10:49 am

It is kinda funny how we will comment on the unimportant at church, but the important issues (sin, theology, outreach, etc) are swept away. We will argue over carpet color or stained glass windows or the history of the church, but ignore the fact that our focus should really be on Christ. Our focus should really be on loving people with all our hearts. If we keep those focuses in mind, we tend to not worry too much about the unimportant stuff.

13   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
August 25th, 2010 at 10:52 am

Exactly, Mike.