Media matters. I remember discussing media with grade- and high school students during my years as a chastity educator. Every class, without fail, we encountered students who were convinced that they could read, watch and listen to whatever they wanted because they believed they were unaffected by the messages and images. They usually cited being “smart enough” or “strong enough” to not be swayed by the words and pictures.
We scoff at kids for being so ignorant, but as adults we, too, often believe ourselves above society’s influence. The unfortunate reality is that we’re not. Media matters. Regardless of how hard we try to avoid the photo-shopped magazine covers or think past the subtly poisonous philosophies peppered throughout films, we find our ideas and expectations shifting. Even ancient writers warned about exposure to negative influences — it’s just part of living in community with other humans beings.
Just recently on an NFP community page, a nervous bride-to-be left a gut-wrenching plea for support because she was worried about her new husband seeing her unclothed for the first time. She was self-conscious about certain parts of her body and was worried that she wouldn’t be enough for her spouse.
Insecurities like these are all too common, especially among women.
It’s no surprise that, even with her rational understanding of the purpose of marriage and the meaning of love, this young lady still grappled with her sense of self. After all, our society suffers from a severe misunderstanding of beauty and passes it right along to us, whether we know it or not. Inspirational posters pay lip service to the “beauty is more than skin-deep” sentiment, but they are quickly drowned out by volumes and volumes of articles worshiping at the shrines of headlines like “10 Exercises That Make Your Breasts Look Bigger” and “Bigger Butt in Two Days or Less!” A quick perusal of the first 40 posts in Cosmopolitan’s “Beauty” section turned up nine articles about hair, 11 about assorted skin care and a whopping 20 about makeup. Not a single article discussed a deeper, inner beauty and only one touched on body positivity.
What society omits is just as important as what it celebrates, and both send clear messages.
The reality is that authentic beauty starts with the soul, and that’s what women need to hear. And we don’t just need to hear it — after all, we already know it — we need to be immersed in that message. We need a beauty section with nine articles about hair tips, 11 about skin tips, and 20 about virtue, womanhood and authentic femininity. We need the world to understand that enhancing physical appearance is fine, but it won’t mean anything without the inner glow of joy that starts deep inside and ultimately lights up the whole person, body included.
And when negative influences seem so powerful in the most vulnerable and sacred part of family life — marriage and sex — we must provide the positive influences ourselves. We need to create communities that live in the world but thrive on the Truth that society rarely provides.
A great part of natural family planning — with its beauty of a worldview grounded in a love for our bodies just the way they are — is that the community it creates knows authentic beauty and passionately shares the truth.
The bride-to-be bravely shared her concerns and insecurities with a caring community, and their responses were everything she needed to hear. Here’s a glimpse at just a few of them:
“There’s no such thing as ‘ideal body’. That paradigm does harm our self esteem and how we relate to others. … Accept yourself as a unique and perfect creation from God. And, in that measure, you will be able to love and accept others in their uniqueness and God’s perfect design.”
“I read this somewhere and just love it. ‘Lust prefers to take the body and discard the soul. Love deeply desires the soul, glady accepting whatever body that accompanies it.’”
“Girl! I feel you. I’ve had body image issues for a long time. Long before I got married. All of the things I hate about myself, my husband has loved. The first time my husband saw me, he was in awe. All of my insecurities faded. There are so many worldly lies shouted at us about what beauty is. It’s all lies. Real love surpasses all of it. Find peace in that.”
“When I asked [my husband] once if he would not want my old body back he said: ‘please don’t be insecure about this all. This is still you! If this is the body that surrounds you, than this is the body I adore.’ … Intimacy is nothing to be looked at but to be felt and loved and lived and cared about. It is not a Instagram moment but your integrity and how Our Lord wanted you to be. Exactly like that. Perfect and wonderful. You are beautiful!”
Humans are relational and we thrive on our interactions with others. It’s critical that we surround ourselves with people who can lovingly guide us back to truth when society leads us astray. Media matters, but community matters more.
— Forest Hempen
Former Marketing & Communications Associate