Volume. XXI, No. 25
Sunday, 17 December 2006

From the pastors heart: appearance obsession culture

According to Wikipedia, plastic surgery is “a general term for operative manual and instrumental treatment which is performed for functional or aesthetic reasons. The word ‘plastic’ derives from the Greek plastikos meaning to mold or to shape; its use here is not connected with modern plastics.” According to the same encyclopedia, the knowledge of plastic surgery existed as early as the 8th century BC. Techniques for plastic surgery are important for medical reasons – skin grafts, repairing damaged skins, ears, arms, legs, or faces due to burns or accidents. I am sure that many people have been thankful to the plastic surgeons who have cared for those who suffered facial injuries from wars, severe burns, or cleft palate. Probably, breast reconstruction for women who have had mastectomy is one of the most common indication for plastic surgery. Quite often, cosmetic surgery refers to surgery designed to improve imperfections or appearance. This sort of surgery has been very popular in recent times. There are so many kinds of cosmetic surgeries such as abdominoplasty (reshaping and firming of the abdomen), blepharoplasty (reshaping of the eyelids), buttock augmentation, otoplasty (reshaping of the ear), and many other types. 


I am not against plastic or cosmetic surgical procedures. There are reasons that people need to have them. There are also medical reasons for the surgeries. If they can help people, who speaks against them? However, it concerns me that modern day culture for appearance is near obsession. Without doubt, women’s fashion for today is body hugging fashion. Men are not far behind women. They are bragging their work-out produced muscles. Even some of them do not mind using steroids. MTV has a show called I Want a Famous Face. In this program, certain numbers of young people are chosen and undergo surgery to look like their favorite celebrity. They do it all to resemble their favorite stars.  Fox TV has a show, The Swan. Its advertisement says as following: “The Swan offers ugly ducklings to transforms themselves into a beautiful swan. It offers women the incredible opportunity to undergo physical, mental and emotional transformations and follows them through the process. This groundbreaking idea culminates in a pageant in which one woman will be crowned ‘The Ultimate Swan.’ Each of the contestants will be assigned a team of specialists -- a coach, therapist, trainer, cosmetic surgeon, dentist and stylist -- that will work together to design the perfect individually-tailored program. The final reveal will be especially dramatic because the contestants will not be permitted to see themselves in a mirror during the three-month transformation process.” Who is an ugly duckling? Who is a swan? What is the meaning behind all these controversial shows?  People equate looking good with feeling good, and good feeling with happiness. I checked the reviews of the program, The Swan. One of the reviewers said, “I think it is a great show! It is great to see women have their dream come true! The swan is a great way to boost a women’s confidence. I would love to be on the swan!” What is women’s dream? How can women gain confidence? It appears that there are two classes of people in the minds of worldly people: ducklings and swans by appearances. 


The point is that people are feeling oriented so much, and they will do whatever it is to make them feel good. Am I a stranger because I say that this world is obsessed by appearances?  One unique aspect of modern-day appearance obsession is that it is not just to make others feel good about us. It is not to make us beautiful to our neighbors’ eyes but to our own eyes.  Thus, people began to adorn themselves in untraditional and very unconventional ways.  They do not care about others’ views or feelings. Tattoos, nose, lips, tongues, and belly button piercings are very popular. Many body parts are decorated with rings and metals, and, in fact, older generations would not mention of the names of some of those adorned body parts in public. In other words, all these appearance obsessions are “self-oriented.” I saw the newest fashion on streets from CNN, not too long ago. Its pants’ waistline was at the bottom part of people’s underwear. It is being promoted as a part of self-expression. This is a product of self-esteem generation. 


Interestingly, Jean M. Twenge, pointed out in her book, Generation Me, that appearance obsession is only one of many consequences of the teachings of self-esteem. Today’s young people have been taught to love themselves first in order to love others later.  This sort of teaching has produced lots of problems. For example, if we focus on ourselves and try to love ourselves more than others, then not-so-good-relationship-with-others is an inevitable consequence. In order to love us first, we do not care about others. People say that we cannot be happy until we are happy with ourselves. It has caused lots of relationship problems.  Look at a strange and even weird teaching by Karen Gail Lewis, who is a psychotherapist: “Women in relationships tend to lose a piece of themselves, and when they move out on their own, they tend to find themselves.” It appears that she encourages women to break up their relationships with their male counterparts. What she does not understand is that usually breakups lead women to depression and unhappy life. Listen to Jerry Rubin: “Commitments imply dependency. . . A lover is like an addiction . . . . [I will] learn to love myself enough so that I do not need another to make me happy” (quoted in Generation Me, 91). Major studies have shown that people who have good relationship with friends and families are happier than people who don’t have it. 


A simple truth is that man cannot be happy by focusing on himself. People say that if we do not love ourselves first, we will be less secure in our relationships. However, a real problem is that we cannot get along with others well, when we really love ourselves. Marion Solomon aptly said in her book, Narcissism and Intimacy: Love and Marriage in an Age of Confusion: “When the focus of life is on determining one’s own needs and finding another who can fill those needs and wishes, any relationship is in danger of being flawed by narcissistic expectation.” Older generations did not learn to love themselves first before everything else, but they enjoyed happier family and friend relationships. Their marriage was less shaky than today’s marriage. 


Skinny models are idolized by entertainment industry. The desire for  looking good becomes an obsession to many people in our culture. However, we are to adorn our inner man with beauty. We are to be conformed to image of Christ not, Hollywood stars. Whenever we look at the mirror to see our faces, maybe we need to read the Bible to see our hearts, too.  You are beautiful as God created you because God never makes any mistake. James 1:22-23, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” 

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 75: What is forbidden in the eighth commandment? The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate.


Please pray for health & God’s healing: Ps Ki, Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter                                                 Clements, Rev David Koo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, & Winston Selvanayagam; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe, Chrisanthi Selvanayagam, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction. "The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” (Ps 121:5).


Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions - Rev & Mrs  Stephen Choi & Ministry (Phnom Penh); Bro Roth Phannith - preparing for further studies at FEBC; b) Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam; c) Pastors & believers in India & Pakistan; d) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim; e) Journey Mercies - Ps Ki, Bros Eu-Jzin Tan, Jason Tan (S’pore), Raymond Ang & Jonathan Yeo (Adl)Bro Lincoln Law (Tas); Sisters Marion Chan (KL), Ethel Chung (HK) & Clara Sim (S’pore); Mrs Amy Ang & Mrs Maggie Wong (S’pore); Bro Hai Seng Lim (Melb); & others from overseas and interstate next week; f) More rain - to end the drought in Australia; g) Ps Ki’s ministry in Life B-P Church, Singapore.


Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF Camp Echo report & BSAG Christmas Pot-bless & fellowship; b) Journey mercies - Elder & Mrs Sherman Ong & family (Melb/Adl/Melb); Bros Yick Ho Lam, You Wen Yeap, Jonathan Yeo (S’pore), Matthew Yong (Melb); Sisters Amber Au (HK), Lydia Fan (S’pore); Mr Mong Guan Wong (S’pore); Mrs Amy Ang, Bros Clement & Raymond Ang (Canb/Melb); families & guests of Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng from interstate and overseas; & others who had travelled; c) Graduation from Flinders University with Honours - Sis Gillian Ong; d) God’s blessings on the wedding of Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng; e) Baptism - Bro Checkie Mah.


Thanks & Warm Greetings to all Hopefuls from Rev & Mrs David Koo, Life BP Church, Sihanoukville, Cambodia.


Looking Ahead: Christmas Worship Service on Mon, 25 Dec at 10am. No fellowship lunch after service.


Looking Ahead: Watch Night Service on Sun, 31 Dec at 7:30 pm.



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14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041