The Eye of the Beholder

Forward (beo)

This is a draft chapter from excerpts of my book, “Between God…..” I choose to leave the rest of the title blank until the entire body of work has been completed.

The Eye of the Beholder

Some of my male friends have dubbed me the ‘fine’ preacher. I find that interesting because when I look in the mirror that’s not what I see. I do see the face of a light skinned sister who has struggled with her identity for years because of the names that she was called down through the years. It ranges from: yellow, to tweetie bird, to house Negro, to redbone to fat/ chubby, and one of my favs, “Oh, you’re a big girl” and the list goes on. It’s interesting because each of us sees something different when we look in our individual mirrors. It would appear at times based on how variations of style, dress and what-not; that many do not look in the mirror at all. Some of us struggle with self esteem concerns while others have an internal concept of beauty that must be shared with the world, whether the world likes it or not. To put it in a nutshell, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. This is an interesting concept to say the least because based on psychological terms it could be construed as an inward concept if the person is beholding themselves in a mirror. Or it could be outward because an external perception is being assessed by someone other than the object of beauty. Yet throughout all of these concepts, theories and possibilities there is one who stands above the rest and that is God. If He is the creator, the one who designed beauty, form and function; what is His concept when He sees us? What is His definition of beauty as He beholds us?

In my quest for knowledge and understanding surrounding mankind’s thought process and my struggle to understand why ‘we’ do what we do and why ‘we’ think the way we think I have taken a college level class in Social Psychology. I believe in God and His creation and realize that He gives us instruction on every area of our lives. However, I also believe that it is His intention that we continue to seek out knowledge to assist us on our life journey; and when much is given, much is required. Growing up, my mind seemed to work a bit differently than my peers. I was always watching, assessing and analyzing. In actuality I thought I was strange, different and weird. I was an introvert who learned to be an extrovert when necessary. I often felt alone, even when I was in a crowd of people or at a party or function with countless friends; I still felt lonely, bereft and by myself. Often I would hang out in my room at home finding something funny and cracking up all by myself. My mother would poke her head around the door, turn around and leave. My sense of humor was weird and quite witty. That clearly has translated into who I am today. Often my friends call me the instigator and know when I pop up on the scene; “B got something to say”. However, in all my laughter, cracking jokes and silliness it is never my intention to willingly hurt anyone. Job was going through some trying times in his life. God had allowed satan to buffet him and man was he going through. Yet in Job 8:21 it gives strength to joy in the form of laughter; one of his friends was trying to encourage him….”He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy”.

It is with clear understanding that now I understand the loneliness component was given by God; I am to stay in His face, only He can fill those empty spots that were created by Him to be filled by Him. No one else can come close to sustaining that void. Now that I am ‘grown’ it is with understanding on my life quest that I began to understand just a little bit about life. But, I realized that the more knowledge I glean it is clear that I actually know very little; and through this process I found a fit with my mind and the studying of psychology; and all my different thoughts fit into many theories and concepts that were written, studied and shared within the psychological community. Eureka! Please understand God is always my first basis; and the scriptures assist us on every level of our lives; and psychology gives us some theories to behold. Not all theories are concrete for many are abstract and cannot be pinned down….ahhh…but I’m an abstract thinker. My instructions are to make you think; and as you seek to know, I know God will provide the answer. So prayerfully what is given in this chapter will begin a thought process to assist you about beauty and the ‘eye of the beholder’.

The following is a description from my Social Psychology class. Throughout all of my classes it is my desire to take the text book information and clarify the process so that anyone can understand it. So often researchers write above lay people when it comes to knowledge components; hence I like to break it down so it is palatable to the taste.

Social science is the basis of study of actions, thought processes and behaviors that are influenced by other people. “It is rooted in the study of individuals with an emphasis on internal psychological processes.”[1] It may also include how we perceive each other or how others view us (in our minds). Within this concept each of us may have difficulty in separating out our opinions, our beliefs and our values. Within the research of social science, “scientists may study and gauge our reactions, assumptions and ideas about human social behavior empirically and systematically”[2]. They do this rather than taking society’s word for a situation or set of ethics that maybe culturally biased. Opinions of ancestors and folklore are rarely taken into consideration. (beo, Charter Oak, Spring PSY 321)

There is another theory called Social Comparison Theory. Basically it states we learn about ourselves based on what others think of us. We look to others to define our abilities and attitudes. This is interesting because in no way does it state to look to the one who created us (God). In addition when speaking of theories; if one were to add dissonance into the equation that would be an additional behavior that deems that when one is not comfortable with what is going on; they adapt or change their behavior based upon the immediate situation. My word this sounds like mumbo jumbo. I can hear some of the older generations now, “just stick to the word”. I agree, the word is our most powerful construct of information for it is living and discerns; but dealing with other theories, prayerfully gives us a glimpse of what we need to survive in today’s society; for much has changed. The word has not changed, but society has. We no longer live in a world that has jobs surrounded by factory workers. People’s minds are quicker and they process information at a different rate than ever before. We have become masters at multitasking in theory. In reality multitasking doesn’t truly exist; we just move from one task to another and revert back and forth among the current tasks. As we age due to physical body constraints, most of us lose that ability keep working tasks in order.

Studies have been done to prove what is attractable to the masses. Certain nose types are preferable as well as mouth, cheeks, and foreheads. We now live in an age when one is not happy with a body part; technology gives us options through liposuction, body reconstruction and plastic surgery. Few if any consult the Master Constructor to see if He approves, not understanding we were each given what He wanted us to have. We have become a mass of people that seek to be like each other in dress, looks and abilities. Remember we are talking about social psychology and the Social Comparison Theory and the ‘eye of the beholder’.

As much as we talk about other cultures and how race, class and socio-economic status separates people within a culture; the same applies to the Western Culture. The same actually applies to race to race. As I stated earlier I was called quite a few names growing up. Most words pegged to me actually had more to do with my complexion than anything else. Of course, as I grew older, quite often the names changed and assumptions were made. I did not realize that there was a war between the sisters of my race. My family contains a rainbow of colors and most of our friends were from a variety of cultures and races. Therefore, in my mind no one exceeded the other. Yet living in the real world, the components are always different. I struggled in elementary school because of my long hair, light skin and proper speech. I remember one girl putting tacks on my chairs and being exposed to inappropriate behavior exacted by her. I never did learn why she disliked me so, I can only surmise at this point in my life. However, it did become clear a lot had to do again with complexion. It was as if people did not take time to learn what was on the inside but only viewed the outer house.

I remember one evening a couple of years ago; a friend invited me to a NAACP dinner. Mind you he called me at the last minute which gave me very little time to prepare. I love attending the NAACP Annual dinners, so trust me I met him at the hotel where the dinner was being held on time. I was looking forward to an inspiring evening with my fellow brothers and sisters of common ground. As we entered the lobby of the hotel together it was as if quite a few eyes were watching. Now that I think about it quite a few of the sisters probably thought I was white so some thought processes might have been, “there goes another of our brothers who sold out”. Some of the brothers had a different thought process in mind; a trophy. One man I dated, a psychologist, I had to continually remind him I was not a trophy. This preconceived notion is one of bias and I understand beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my thought process was and continues to be that there is more substance to me than anything. I am in position to realize I am more spirit than flesh, and all that you see of my outward housing is the magnitude of who and what God says I am.

At another NAACP Annual Dinner, this time dateless; I had the opportunity to experience another type of predisposed notion. This time the experience was sister on sister. I have a pair of black and pink pumps. They are tight! I have received compliments from male and female alike when I wear them. I remember as I approached the restroom during the special event; two sisters who happened not to be as light as I am were coming out of the door. Both looked me up and down, laid eyes on my shoes and gave me a dismissive look. Within my spirit I knew they loved the shoes, but because our culture and social influence neither said a word to me. These behaviors bother me. How can we ask others to perceive us a certain way if we can’t manage the behaviors among ourselves. I cannot change my outward appearance, however, prayerfully I can help assist in some of the injustices that are heaped among many because their beauty is not the typical perceived beauty. I remember a conversation a childhood friend and I had a couple of years ago. She thought my life growing up had been easier because of my complexion. I was like, “girl no. It’s been hell”; I’ve been through what you’ve been through, but just on the other side. Prayerfully we can learn to assist in healing our wayward thought process of beauty. We all must do our part. I make a note of telling little girls to young women to women in general of their beauty; light, dark, brown, yellow. If she has on an outfit or shoes that I think are hot, I make a point to say it. I will not walk by drinking ‘haterade’. We must learn to celebrate who we are. Take the power away from the enemy and build people up; tearing down is his job.

For so long, beauty has taught us to seek after things that are not after God’s heart. Society has taught us the beauty is in your possessions. Beauty is equated to sex, to cars, to people and homes. Beauty is flaunted everywhere; but is it true beauty? My first semester back in school, I had to do a research paper and I chose to write about the media and its influence on teens. As I began my research I came across a concept called the ‘thin ideal body image’. Basically there is a concept that thin is the perfect ideal body size; and the media uses the ‘thin ideal’ to push teens into certain thought process. Teens are pressed to think that thin is in and being larger is out. This in turn hypes up sales of certain types of clothes, cell phones and other items that teens purchase. I looked at certain body types and certain ethnicities to validate this concept. Mind you the two do not match, yet the media continues to propagate this. It’s all about the sales! Unbelievable isn’t it? It was astounding how many young people persuaded their parents to allow them to change breast size, increase buttocks, change nose, mouths and other types of surgery to alter their persona. How many times have you seen a certain type of car and cuddled up close is a sexy model? The thought process is that if you buy that car, the action gives you access to sex or someone sexy. Sex sells. Hotness sells. Remember we are gauging our perceptions based on our peers and how beauty is perceived within the world/the beholder.

It’s interesting how in Isaiah 53:2 it speaks the prophetic word of Christ: He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, and there was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. It would appear there was simplicity about Christ; meaning that his physical appearance was not the defining factor on his person. Yet there is a contrast in Psalms 27:4 where it speaks to the beauty of the Lord: One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Esther was prepped for one year before she was brought before the king (Esther 2:12 Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics). Clearly the word gives value to beauty. It is God who created man in his image and throughout the Old Testament there were attractive people.

However, in today’s society beauty has escalated to a point where it is sought from the outward rather than the inward and in Proverbs 31 we are told that beauty is fleeting. Which means it will not last forever and in the same context we are told that a woman who fears the Lord…well she is to be praised. Basically we need to begin to seek for the understanding concept of beauty within the inward components of our heart. This can only be accompanied by our relationship with God. The concept that beauty is skin deep is correct; for it is fleeting, outward and if one were to actually peel back the layers of skin what is underneath; cells, blood vessel, canals, bone and cartilage. Amazing isn’t it? What we perceive is only a housing of our spirits. The word states that flesh and blood shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Blood offers a stench in God’s nostrils without a sacrifice. Imagine standing before Him only in our spirit, looking into His piercing eyes giving an account of every deed that we have done. Now that would be the time that one would imagine that they could try to explain their desires of instant gratification, search for beauty and complications of their sinful life.

I cannot change the masses thought process of how they perceive beauty or even their intense quest to acquire possessions and or situations based on beauty. However, I can continue to seek after God’s heart for my own understanding of beauty. I realize that often when walking through the stores, malls or on the streets, that as people follow me with their eyes, many stare with a puzzled look upon their face as if to say what is different about her. My prayer is that they are seeing the beauty from within rather than the beauty that is without; for I realize that my beauty is contained within the eyes of my beholder and that is MY KING!

Psalms 27

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Bee

 

References

Aronson, Wilson, Akert. (2007). Social Psychology (6th Edition). New Jersey, Pearson/Prentice Hall


[1] Aronson, Wilson, Akert. (2007). Social Psychology (6th Edition). New Jersey, Pearson/Prentice Hall

[2] Aronson, Wilson, Akert. (2007). Social Psychology (6th Edition). New Jersey, Pearson/Prentice Hall

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