Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

December 8, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Treadmill 1A couple of weeks ago in Adult Bible Class, I talked about our society’s obsession with physical beauty. Though such obsession is often stereotyped as a female concern, males are increasingly sharing in our culture’s fixation on the physical. Take, for instance, this alarming report by Jeff Beckham for WIRED Magazine:

In a recent survey of 3,705 kids, 11 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported having used synthetic human growth hormone without a prescription. That means that at any high school football game, it’s likely that at least two players on the field will have tried human growth hormone.[1]

In a world where playing well in high school football can mean “a financial scholarship to go to college … the pressures that are put on them to win by any means necessary” are enormous, says Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, whom Beckham cites in his article.

But it’s not just success in sports that drives young men to use HGH. Beckham continues:

[A] survey, carried out by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and funded by a grant from the MetLife Foundation, found no statistically significant difference in the athletic involvement between synthetic HGH users and non-users …

Even for non-athletes, the spike in the reported use of HGH can be tied to societal pressure. A study in the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 18 percent of adolescent boys were highly concerned about their weight and physique. And boys were as likely to feel pressure to gain weight and muscle as to lose weight.

In other words, high school guys, just like their female counterparts, are becoming increasingly obsessed with their physical beauty. The study Beckham cites in JAMA Pediatrics also notes that at least 7.6% of young men are willing to engage in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to attain what they perceive to be an ideal physique.[2] There is not much, it seems, that is too risky for young men when it comes to their attempts to look good.

Of course, something has to change. Our incessant obsession with how we look is not only an affront to the biblical and scientific reality that “beauty is fleeting,” (Proverbs 31:30), it also takes things that, at their best, can contribute to the health of our bodies – e.g., eating carefully and exercising – and twists them toward sadly unhealthy ends.

Who do you hold up as a standard of beauty for yourself? Who does your spouse hold up as his or her standard? How about your kids? If your standard is someone on the cover of a magazine or someone who takes the field for the NFL on a Sunday afternoon, it’s time to switch your standard. Your standard should be Scripture, which says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Beauty involves much more than how you look. It goes all the way down to who you are. So don’t just look good, be good. After all, being good will bless a lot more lives than just looking good. And, as a bonus, you’ll even be able to eat a cookie every once in a while without worrying about the calories. That sounds like a win-win to me.


[1] Jeff Beckham, “Growth Hormone Usage Rises Among Teens,” WIRED (12.4.2014).

[2] Alexis Conason, “Eating Disorders in Boys and Young Men,” Psychology Today (12.4.2014).

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