A dad wrote recently that his daughter, Julia, was upset because she overheard someone at school criticize her looks. She was quite hurt since she had considered that person a friend. The dad told her “Beauty is only skin deep.”
The fact is, “Beauty is only skin deep” is a skin deep saying.
What is beauty?
We say it without really thinking. What we are saying isn’t really what we mean to say (we think). It’s with the best of intentions that we utter those five words. The implication is that we need to look beyond the surface to discover a person’s core value. Yes, precisely. And therein lies a person’s real beauty! It isn’t quite as poetic-sounding but what we actually should say is, “Beauty is deeper than skin.”
It’s not only inaccurate to judge beauty by the exterior covering—it’s impossible. Real beauty isn’t skin-deep at all. What’s on the outside of any of us is simply the covering on our bones. It’s our wallpaper. Real beauty is the character and composition of the inner person.
But try explaining that to your teenager. Good luck! The more you think about the meaning of that statement, the harder it is to put into simple words and have it make sense to a young person whose world, in many ways, is based on superficiality.
A Wallpaper World
When do teenagers not worry about blemishes that are the result of body chemistry and can only be slightly controlled with lotions and medications? In this country we are obsessed with wallpaper. It determines, in many cases, our friendships, associations, memberships, and, certainly, special recognitions and honors. Wallpaper meets the eye first, and often it becomes the gauge for evaluating the total worth of a person. In the social quagmire of a teenager’s world, what you think of me, based on my wallpaper, is how I feel about me— all of me. Sometimes Mom and Dad don’t help because they, too, can easily get caught up in the popularity game living through their kids.
So how do we teach our sons and daughters not to be concerned about the wallpaper but instead the infrastructure? Ask them what qualities they look for in a lasting and meaningful friendship. Hey, son, if you were in a difficult situation and needed someone to talk to, who would it be? Hey, daughter, if you reached out your hand and needed to be pulled to your feet, whose hand would you want to grab? If you needed a shoulder to cry on or someone’s ear to listen to you, whose shoulder or whose ear would you most wish for? The importance of wallpaper diminishes, perhaps disappears.
Dad and Mom, try answering those questions yourself. We think you’ll discover what your teenagers will also find when trying to answer — a glimpse of the depth and complexity of what real beauty is.
As beings who are human through and through—we often look in the shallows for those things that reside in the deep.