We live in a world that is obsessed with physical beauty. The evidence is everywhere: commercials offer products that claim to help you look young, thin, and gorgeous (or handsome). Everyone wants to look beautiful. Just go to a public restroom and you’ll see what I’m talking about—a line of people carefully studying themselves in the mirror.
Physical appearance is the first thing we notice, but we know that a relationship requires more than this to go the distance. We also know that a beautiful soul is ultimately more important than a beautiful face. So where’s the balance? Is it shallow to desire an attracive spouse? My desire is to help you put physical beauty in its proper perspective.
Attraction is a Gift
The Most Basic Link between Man and Woman is Physical
God knew what He was doing when he designed our physical bodies. Adam instantly fell in love with Eve because of the way she looked. She was like him (human), yet not like him (female). God designed men and women to be physically attracted to each other. Without this basic physical link, we’d never be interested in each other.
Physical Attraction is Affirmed in the Bible
Read the Song of Solomon and you’ll find plenty of references to physical beauty. Here’s one of many examples.
You are beautiful, my darling,
beautiful beyond words.
Your eyes are like doves
behind your veil . . .
You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
beautiful in every way.
-Song of Solomon 4:1-7
The Song of Solomon couple frequently complimented each other’s physical attributes. If physical attraction was irrelevant (or evil), God never would have allowed it to be celebrated this way in His Word.
With these things in mind, we have to recognize that attraction is an important, God-given aspect of relationships. I would never advise a man or woman to pursue a relationship if there is no physical attraction. My mentor’s wife often gives this advice to young women: “Never marry a man that you have no desire for.” This same principle applies to men looking for a wife.
Attraction has Limitations
But the biblical authors also advise us to look beyond one’s physical appearance. Here’s a verse that every young man and woman should memorize:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.
There are three important truths we can learn from this proverb.
First, beauty can be deceptive. All of us have met someone who is gorgeous until he/she starts talking. Maybe the campus crush is a little too aware of his killer looks and is quite arrogant. Maybe that beautiful girl has spent so much energy on her appearance that she forgot to grow a matching brain and personality. Sometimes beauty is only skin deep.
Second, beauty is temporary. Bill (one of my former campus ministers) was a thirty-year-old newlywed when I first met him. He married a stunning brunette, but he also advised us (students) to think long-term: “When you marry a girl, keep in mind that one day she’ll look like someone’s mom,” he said. The proverb and my campus minister are correct—our appearance will inevitably show signs of aging. Remember this as you search for a mate.
Third, internal qualities are ultimately the most important. The proverb reminds us that a woman’s character and relationship with God are what give her true, lasting beauty. This is the kind of beauty that radiates from the heart and does not fade. One of the most beautiful women I know is Jo Randall. She’s now over 80 years old (she was in her 60’s when I first met her—she was then one of my campus ministers). As you can imagine, Jo would never be chosen to be on the cover of a swimsuit magazine. Her beauty is in her heart for Jesus. From the time I first met her until now, she is a joy to be around. She has found the secret to true beauty.
Let me give you some advice based on these Biblical truths:
1. Do your best to be attractive for the opposite sex. We should not be obsessed with our appearance, but we should do the best with what God has given us physically. Take good care of your body (through regular exercise, a healthy diet, good hygiene, etc) and learn to present yourself with confidence.
2. Keep physical attraction in perspective when looking for a spouse. There should be some kind of physical chemistry in a romantic relationship–don’t pretend that it is completely unimportant (such a notion is neither biblical nor realistic). At the same time, you should understand that inner qualities are the source lasting beauty and promote long-term relationships. Lifelong relationships are built on friendship, not physical attraction. Keep this in mind so that you will not put too much emphasis on good looks.
Note: This article is one of many you’ll find in my book: Basta LoveLife: Making Wise Relationship Decisions.