Why Do We Need a “Most Beautiful?”

There has been much buzz over the past few days about Sistah Lupita Nyong’o being named the Most Beautiful Person of 2014 by People Magazine. Seeing the reactions and comments, primarily on social media, made me think: Why do we need a “Most Beautiful” person? Admittedly, this is not the first time I’ve had this thought. I think it every year when the Most Beautiful issue comes out. And, yes, as an African American woman who rarely sees women who look like me heralded as beautiful, I TOTALLY get the excitement and joy that has been expressed; especially by those in our community. Nevertheless, I’m still taken aback by the fact that we as a society buy into the idea that comparing ourselves to one another on a subject like beauty; with one person coming out on top of all the others is cool.

For the record, Lupita Nyong’o is a beautiful woman. I, like most, thought this before she was named the Most Beautiful Person of 2014. Call me crazy, but I’m also of the opinion that, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts (all named Most Beautiful in recent years) are attractive. I love fashion, the red carpet and award shows as much as many others. My issue is that I think all of this comparison and competition amongst us is slowing eroding away our humanity. In particular, the fact that we regularly compare ourselves in the most superficial ways (looks, material wealth, etc.) has caused many to lose sight of what is truly substantive and important in life. Moreover, it has caused us to devalue life itself.

I want to be sure that I’m clear because I’m not saying that we can’t or shouldn’t celebrate the accomplishments, and even the beauty of someone like Lupita. What I’m saying is that we should be so deliberate about celebrating the beauty that is found within each of us that no one ever feels as Lupita once did – “unbeautiful.” The majority of us will never be on the cover of a magazine. But, it shouldn’t take that to validate us. We should be taught to know our own worth and then those who are around us, in our circles of influence (because community affirmation is critical to healthy development), should confirm our truth and help us to live it out in our own way. If we aren’t careful, we may come to find that a reason we so need to celebrate the few that “make it” is not so much because of our satisfaction with them, but more do to our dissatisfaction with ourselves.

To help make sure this does not happen each of us must do our part to undo the toxic thinking that says, I’m not content with me — being beautiful, hardworking, and talented is not enough. I must be the most beautiful, the hardest worker and top talented. In other words, I can only see my value when I compare myself to someone else. Only when I push down another, am I able to believe in my own merit. I can’t focus upon simply being great in my own right – I need to be the greatest; which means better than you. This type of thinking is harmful and divisive.

One of the reasons why I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is because the Bible teaches that God so loves us all – intrinsically – that God didn’t let us languish in sin or abandon us when it was clear we were in over our heads. Instead, “…God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8 (HCSB)) God’s love for all of humanity from our creation till now has not waned. And, even when the first humans disobeyed God’s instruction, thereby tainting us all; God loved us enough to send Jesus as our second chance. Once we believe in Jesus, we become a part of the Body of Christ. This is important because in the Body of Christ we are all beautiful, necessary and important to God – not only because we were all created in God’s image and likeness (See Genesis 1:27) – but also because we have put our faith in the One who purchased our redemption for us; God’s Son. We should have the same value for one another that God has for us all. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

In the Body, we don’t gain significance by comparing and contrasting ourselves with one another – one upping each other or showing off. In the Body, we bring glory to God by excelling at being who we are and by “lov[ing] one another with brotherly affection [and] outdo[ing] one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 (ESV)) When one of us suffers; we all suffer and when one is honored; we are all honored. (See 1 Corinthians 12:27) This is the message that the Body should be announcing and celebrating to the world around us. For, believe it or not, someone is basing their self-worth off of what it says in magazines, and this story of forgiveness, mutual love, respect and honor is rarely told there. What a beautiful sight it will be when we learn to accept the love of God as presented to us by Jesus Christ and then to pass that love on to others. But first, I guess we’ll have to realize that what our dear Maya Angelou said is exactly right –

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Indeed.

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