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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beyond the Mask

Photo Credit:  cjhulin85 at

I’m sure that many of you have seen the recent Dove® commercial, “Real Beauty Sketches,” where FBI-trained forensic artist, Gil Zamora, draws a woman’s face without actually seeing her.  In case you haven't, he does two separate drafts – one in which the woman verbally describes her own facial features to him and the other one, in which another person describes the woman to Mr. Zamora.

The ad did strike something within me, as I think it will with most women who watch it (it’s only 3 minutes – check it out!).  Listening to how differently the details were shared (by the woman herself vs. by someone else about her) made me think.  Women can be so harsh with themselves.  We’re much more critical than we should be.

When the women in the commercial talked about their own features, they used terms like protruding chin, big jaws, fat/rounder face, freckles, and big forehead.  The people who described the same women used words like:  a thin chin, eyes that lit up when she spoke, a cute nose, and nice blue eyes.

After the two sketches were revealed to each woman, it was obvious that they were touched.  The fact that the two pictures differed had hit a nerve somewhere deep at their very core.  One of the women admitted, “Instead of spending time analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right, we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like.”

I realize that some men probably have similar insecurities about their outward appearances, but maybe they just don’t verbalize them as often as we women do.  And, I’m remembering a quote from our Esther Bible study that makes more and more sense.  Beth Moore states, “It’s tough being a woman in a world where beauty is a treatment.”  Hmmmm.  The number of beauty treatments offered in this world is endless…

A woman can look in the mirror and find ten things within a minute that aren’t quite right to her:  wrinkles, a crooked nose, random black facial hairs, dark circles under her eyes, thin lips, acne, age spots, wiry gray hair, droopy ear lobes, and sparse eye lashes.  (That’s just the neck up – don’t get us started on our muffin top, skin tags, and other saggy spots).  A man (not ALL men, just possibly SOME men) might look in the same mirror and say (jokingly or not), “Ah, yes, you’re lookin’ good my man,” kiss his biceps, pat his belly, and move on about his day.  I’m just sayin’.  We’re different that way.

For instance, some men I know (uhem, no names) immediately had a joke for the “stud finder” I used the other day to hang a shelf on the wall.  Yes, you can only imagine the jokes about why that thing kept beeping before it even touched the wall.  Good times!

Then, there was me, a woman, who ran into a friend the other day that I hadn’t seen since high school…twenty years ago (gulp!).  (I’m okay that you just calculated my age – ha ha!)  Honestly, she hadn’t changed a bit (in my eyes).  But, since she didn’t recognize ME at first in the grocery store aisle, I felt a need to explain possibly why.  So, I went on and on about having had three big ole babies and holding onto some of that “baby weight,” even though my kids are 3, 6, and 9.  Of course, she said, “No, actually I just didn’t recognize your hair color.  Didn’t you used to be blonde?”  All of that explaining and it was a hair thing all along?  The color of my hair?!  There ya have it.  Self-perception – there’s always room for improvement.

And, I know it’s a bit cliché, but real beauty comes from within…beyond the mask.  I think this is true, mostly because lasting beauty comes from the words that leave our lips and the things that we do.  More often than not, kindness begets kindness; generosity begets generosity; forgiveness begets forgiveness; and love begets love.  Aren’t the most beautiful people in our lives the ones who are kind, generous, forgiving, and loving?  I find this to be true time and time again.

We all long to be loved for who we are, and not just the beauty that is skin deep.  How do we find that?  In Matthew Kelly’s wonderful book, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy,” (it’s not what you think it’s about…), he explains that we are “afraid to reveal ourselves, afraid to share ourselves, afraid to allow others into our hearts, minds, and souls.  We are afraid that if people really knew us they wouldn’t love us, but the opposite is true in most cases.” 

Kelly states, “If we are willing to take the risk and reveal ourselves for who we are, we discover that most people are relieved to know that we are human.  Why?  Because they are human, too, and are filled with the same fear we are.  In most cases, we will find that the things we thought would cause people to stop loving us actually lead them to love us more.”

Kelly says that, “Willingness to share our weaknesses is a tremendous sign of faith, which encourages other people to let down their guard.  We are most lovable not when we are pretending to have it all together, but in our raw and imperfect humanity.  Once we learn to cherish ourselves, we would rather be rejected for who we truly are than loved for pretending to be someone we are not.”

To me, beauty is especially evident when we use the gifts and talents that God hand-picked for us Himself.  A friend, Amber, shared a story with me recently.  It was clear that she allowed God, albeit maybe reluctantly at first, to use the beauty in her voice to bring others closer to Him through song.  Here’s the scoop she shared:

“I had one of those thoughts of doubt recently about having to take MY Saturday from 7 am to 10 pm just to go sing to some guys in prison with 50 other people in the choir.  Why do they need ME?” 

“We started in one town, performing for about 220 inmates with mostly expressionless faces.  I kept smiling and singing God's praises.  I did see a few smiles start emerging.  At the end, our pastor and the prison chaplain asked if any of the prisoners were ready to accept Christ as their Savior and 16 of them stood up.  God is good!  A prison guard reminded us, ‘They are not animals; they are just people who made bad choices.’"

“I knew why God took MY Saturday, because it was never MINE to begin with.”

“We continued on to another small town, performing for about 160, many of whom we had seen last year.  They were ready, with lots of smiles, hand-clapping, and worshiping.   When we sang bluegrass, it was almost a party going on in there!  They didn't want us to leave.  Needless to say after all that, my lesson was learned.  My stubbornness and selfishness may not have heard the will of God, but HE showed me.  It was like He said, ‘Just give it up, Amber, I'm going to use you, so just let me’.  Of course, the blessings of God filled the room and we were blessed just as much as they were.”

Genuine beauty is contagious and ever so alluring, isn’t it?  I love me some make-up, don’t get me wrong.  BUT, don’t we desperately want to be around those whose beauty shines so brightly from within that we can see it in their eyes, their hair, their smile, and their actions and words (said or sung!)?  That type of beauty is enduring.

If we want to be loved for who we are…we need to reveal our true selves. Love is found beyond the mask.  Real beauty is found there, too.

AND!  Since you made it all the way to the end of this post, how about the chance to get a FREE book and CD?!  Just leave me a note that you want them in the comment box.  Please include your e-mail address and I will contact you.  A generous couple, Stephen and Diane, from our parish donated them and let me have a few extra to share!  The book is Allen Hunt’s, “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody” and the CD is Matthew Kelly’s, “The Best Way to Live.”  I mentioned them in my posts called “Hold On” and “Make it Texas-Sized.”  First ten peeps to comment below – ready, set…GO!


  1. Such "gems' to reflect on....and don't we imprison ourselves when we don't allow God to work HIS plan in our lives. Thanks for such insight!

    1. Oh, how true - sometimes we build our own prison, but possess the key to get out the whole time! His plan is ALWAYS better...note to self ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Another good one Heather! You always seem to "speak to me"! Thanks girl! :) Bonnie Nall

    1. Thanks for stopping by to comment, Bonnie ;-) God has a funny way of letting me see and read the things I need to at just the right time as well. If you want the book & CD, just let me know. Have a great day!

  3. Hey Heather miss seeing you guys. Love reading your stuff. Hope all is well with Russell, you and your little angels. God bless and hope to see you guys again. The old engaged encounter teams. We were just talking about all those weekend yesterday. Take care. Stacy Reyna

    1. Hey Stacy ~ Yes, hopefully our paths will cross again soon - it's been a LONG time! I'm glad you're enjoying Sips of Sunshine ;-) Blessings to you and your sweet family! Tell Fuji hi from us.