WE are constantly exposed to images of what is considered beautiful. We're encouraged--either openly or implicitly--to strive for this ideal. But doing so has led to serious eating disorders and abuse of steroids and other drugs. While these are extreme situations, many men and women--even children--have suffered mental anguish because they feel they don't measure up to the popular perception of beauty.
Christ Jesus knew that striving for a particular outward appearance is not the right goal, especially when it results in a sacrifice of values and holiness. He warned the people of his day who prided themselves on maintaining an image of perfect piety, for example, ``Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness'' (Matthew 23:27).
Jesus was speaking of religious hypocrisy, but his words also relate to true beauty, satisfaction, and worth, which are spiritual. In reality, man himself is spiritual, because he is the child of God, divine Spirit. Matter doesn't tell us anything about our genuine identity as God's wholly spiritual offspring.
It is because of man's fundamental spiritual nature as God's image, or expression, that we cannot find lasting satisfaction in achieving a particular material ``look.'' But a verse in Psalms captures the joy and fulfillment of recognizing and expressing our true selfhood. The Psalmist sang, ``I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness'' (17:15). This is the image we need to strive for--God's image. And this is ultimately an attainable goal for everyone because, as the Bible reveals, man actually is God's likeness. We will find true beauty, a spiritual quality, as we come to understand and demonstrate more of this Godlike identity.
Christian Science explains how we find beauty by, paradoxically it seems, not striving for a perfect material appearance. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science Church, points to the true nature of man, stating, ``Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand'' (p. 246). This practical book also helps us see how to discover and express more of this beauty and grandeur in our present experience.
Science and Health goes on to tell us: ``The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony'' (pp. 247-248). This sentence gives us practical guidance. We can progressively leave behind the false belief that man's identity is in a physical body--with all the sensations, fluctuations, and limitations of materiality. And we can fill our hearts and thoughts with the truths of spiritual being. Since spiritual being includes the expression of the calm, poise, balance, strength, and loveliness of divine Soul, God, we can't help but appear more beautiful to others, too.
I know this ``recipe'' works. Through much prayer and spiritual striving, I found freedom I wouldn't hesitate to describe as ``glorious'' from a long-standing eating disorder that had resulted from my efforts to achieve a more beautiful body. As a result of my turning away from a physical sense of identity and beauty, not only was I healed, but my appearance also improved.
We can all discover more of our relationship to God and express more of Soul, more beauty, each day. It's a spiritual process, and it's completely natural to us because of who we really are--God's beloved creation. And as we do strive to demonstrate our true nature, the loveliness of Soul makes us much happier, healthier, and much more at peace.