Should Exercise & Fitness Matter to Christians When Vanity is Involved?

Everywhere you go, there it is; the figure of a woman in a bikini bottom, that buxom brunette smiling on the cover, selling lipstick, posing as if to say life is not great unless you look like me. You walk out and there it is, plastered on billboards and on the TVs of a store you walk by, men and women that look like the ideal, with etched bodies, perfectly white teeth, and sun-kissed skin. You wonder what it must be to look like them, would life be better and easier? Would you ace that interview because of your natural confidence, your joie de vivre knowing you look good? Would you take more pictures of yourself and plaster them on Instagram and photo books, moments shared with friends and significant others, knowing full well you are beautiful, and wanting to look back on them with delight in taking such good care of yourself and looking your best?

Would you not want to be anybody else, because you know life just smiles back at you when you feel good in your skin, like that breezy Colgate commercial? Also, would you feel like you deserve a good life, do all the things you were scared to do?

The Gift

Beauty is such a complex, multifaceted thing. It is definitely a good thing, a gift much like a talent or intelligence. There are many women lauded for their beauty in the Bible. Rebekah for example, and Abigail, and Esther were all of “beautiful form and face.” These women were usually highly desirable, and striven for or coveted by their husbands like the story of Jacob who worked for seven years to marry the beautiful Rachel. Truly, in our world we see beauty as something positive – no one dreams of being unattractive just like no one dreams of being unintelligent or unprosperous. It is how we handle these gifts that determine our happiness.

Beauty, Defined

So in a world where beauty matters a lot, should we be blamed for obsessing over getting those perfect abs? Should fitness and exercise be a means to an end or an end in and of themselves? Exercise, as defined by the Bible, is definitely a good thing. To move your body, not be idle, and feed it with fresh and good things is what God probably means when he tells us to “take care of the temple.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) After all, it has been scientifically proven over and over that exercise circulates the blood, oxygenates the brain, prolongs life, and just makes us healthy plain and simple. However, should we focus so much on the popular perks of exercise, that is, that it makes us look leaner, defines those muscles, and rids us of fat? Should we obsess over things like getting a thigh gap and fitting into those skinny jeans to look like a Candice Swanepoel? I do not think so. Personally, I think God made us to enjoy our bodies, not to punish them into meeting a societal standard. I think beauty is subjective and very individual. Also, I do not think getting perfect abs will make anyone truly happier. However, as too many things there is a caveat: when we exercise, we do become more confident. Maybe it is the endorphins, or perhaps it is just the satisfaction of knowing you stuck with something for so long. In any case, confidence usually makes people attract good things into their lives. So anything that makes you more confident, whether it be good exercise, a small accomplishment like baking that cake you have dreamed of making, or finishing that painting of yours, should be revealed.

Fleeting As the Wind

Beauty is so fleeting. That beautiful haircut we get grows out in two months, that waistline we strove for years to gets thickened after a month of eating pizza too many times, and gray hairs come sooner than we think. So what can we get from this, and most importantly, what is the overall message God seems to be sending us about this? Well in Proverbs, we get a picture of God’s ideal for women. Here it is said that “charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman that fears the Lord shall be revered.” (Proverbs 31:30) So in God’s opinion, beauty is not something we should put all our energies into getting, it is not a priority, but rather something counterproductive if we focus too much on it; because it goes away. What really stays is a beautiful heart, according to scripture, so if we have a choice to be beautiful people or beautiful souls, I think we should always strive for the latter. It is what’s inside, not outside that matters most, and a heart of gratitude, patience, love, joy, and humility is what attracts light and people the most.

That is not to say that we should not do beauty rituals, which are pleasurable and delightful and lovely in and of themselves. Giving yourself a spa day, choosing that cute outfit, enjoying a bubble bath with candles, or putting a little lipstick on to enhance what’s there, are gifts of self-care you should give yourself every chance you have. However, to go through the motions just to fit into a beauty ideal, make yourself “appropriate” for someone, or authenticate your value as a human being, is truly pointless.

Exercise Plan

Make it a point to exercise because you want to take care of yourself, not because you want to look better. Make it a positive lifestyle change, like having green tea every day with moments of quiet reflection or reading a good book because you want to be smarter in a certain area, and not a constrictive part of your life. Make each day count and invest in your quality of life. You will see you are better aligned with your innermost desires and God’s plans for you that way.

Some Options If You Do Not Like to Exercise:

Power walk each day for thirty minutes; take in the sights and sounds of nature, the birds, and the sun

Dance it out to your favorite music

Do some light stretching or Pilates

Go swimming in a lovely pool or just move around

Some Healthy Habits to Acquire

Drink hot tea every day

Eat fresh leafy greens and yummy, ripe fruits

Read a book or use Blinkist

Have moments of quiet reflection like the Brits have wisely been doing for hundreds of years at tea time, and the Japanese and Chinese before them

Enjoy nature, cuddle with your pets and de-stress every day

Invest in nontoxic house cleaning products and things, wear nontoxic makeup and use nontoxic shampoo

Incorporate spicy foods into your diet, if you can

Read my next article “New Year, New Leaf: 100 Healthy Habits to Adopt This Year” on Monday for more bitesize goals to give yourself to be the healthiest and happiest you in 2018!