“Mommy, do you think I’m handsome?“, he asks me, peeking over the top of his steel-blue glasses while builing his latest lego creation.
“Of course! You are the most handsome little guy I’ve ever seen“, I answer. “Do you think you’re handsome?”
“Not really. I have this scar, and my teeth are all crooked, and I’m way shorter than the other boys, and oh, yeah, I’m way skinnier too…” His voice trails off as if he is lost in thought, doing a mental inventory of all of his perceived short-comings.
And so it begins.
My eight-year-old son, this beautiful gift from God, has stared into his reflection in the mirror and decided that it is not quite right. The “him” he sees staring back does indeed have crooked teeth, a scar from falling when he was less than two years, and a thin — wiry but strong — frame.
These are the only qualities he sees when he looks into the mirror.
… and I feel it. This is familiar territory for me, as one who has hated the reflection for as long as I can remember. Flaws stare back, and I desperately long to control them… to cover them, fix them, to make myself perfect on the outside.
When I see my son, I see a beautiful gift from God. I see a smart, funny, intelligent, responsible little boy with tremendous potential. I see his concern for others, his sincerity, and his talent of learning.
I never even think about crooked teeth and forehead scars…
But how do I teach him to see the wonderful qualities he has when the reflection staring back at him does not live up to his expectations?
… and how do I teach myself to do the same?
“Sweetie, God doesn’t care what our outward appearance looks like. He only is concerned about our hearts. It says in 1 Samuel that ‘The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’. The outside is just like wrapping paper. It doesn’t change the gift inside.”
As I say it, I believe it in my head… but I still understand the depths of his aching.
…to be beautiful, to be accepted, to be loved.
I am reminded of 1 Peter which tells us to be clothed with ‘the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit’. That is my desire, but how do I teach this to a little one who is the object of jokes and ridicule because his outside is not perfect?
… when our insides are not perfect either, but they are easier to hide…
What do you think? Does outward appearance matter? How do we reconcile the idea of inner beauty with the reality we see in the mirror?