Woman, Thy Name Is Vanity

I wrote a comment here on a post about the primping that women do. Women put up a lot of effort and worry in terms of their appearance. Taking care of yourself is important. There is no question that a person should be presentable, but the amount of effort, along with the reasons for that effort should be of concern.

1. Cultivate Your Character Not Your Appearance.

This point was addressed in 1 Peter 3:3-4 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10 here, which reflects a proper application:

It could be stated that in the drive to create a good appearance in women, that many of them have abandoned character entirely. And with no guidance from her parents or society, we get the feral women that are all too common today, both in Churchianity and without. It is not a coincidence that these feral women make poor marriage prospects for men, and many men are responding to the lack of worthy choices in women by simply choosing not to marry at all.

One’s appearance is a reflection of their character. Whether the person is slovenly or has their body torn up by their own hands or even chooses to not age gracefully, this is a reflection of the self-esteem and values of the person involved. The general association of primping and fancy dress with prostitution before the Lord and others (another reflection of character) should not be missed.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

2. Who are you really trying to impress?

It’s one thing to look your best and work on yourself for you (and to glorify God). But it’s quite another to do things to show off to others. All together, most everything in this world is vanity:

Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. (Psalm 39:5-6)

As this article relates, women are thoroughly angst-ridden about their appearance:

The other most fascinating thing about these women is that always apply needless worry over issues that they deem to be sacrilegious. While the guys would mostly not even take any notice or on most occasions, even thinks that it looks sexy or appealing. All they continually do is create their own living hell by assuming that there are problems when there are very few at all. It is just astounding how those females apply their own thinking, their minutiae management techniques onto our sex and just assume it to be one hundred percent correct, just because they want it to be so.

The reasons why women are so concerned about their appearance are telling. They come out in the surveys done regarding women and their appearance:

But for women, it’s the support of other females that provides the biggest lift with 81 per cent admitting a compliment from someone of the same gender meant the most to them

Observations like this are repeated again and again. A woman doesn’t usually primp and work on herself for her, but for the favor (and competition) of Team Woman. But again and again, it’s observed that it doesn’t take much in the looks department for men to find women attractive:

If they were really serious, they would find a way to fix it, instead of just wishful thinking. Men are a lot more tolerant about how women look than they are about themselves. Maybe one day, they will eventually come to realise just that bleeding obvious fact.

The reasons why anyone does what they do should be examined with the proper priorities in mind.

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Who are you really trying to please by doing this? Your first concern should be God who does not look at outward appearance, but at the heart. Your next concern should be the man who is or will be your husband. The Lord doesn’t care about your outward appearance at all and your husband really doesn’t care as much as you do, so by the love of God please stop worrying so much about such things. It ruins your self-esteem and looks to do it, and it ruins your health as well.

3. The sum total of your worth as a woman is not your external appearance.

The sheer effort and pride women take in their external appearance is evident all over:

They create a rod for their own backs. I can remember having a next door neighbour, she had two kids, divorced of course but got the house. She would not step outside the house without the full treatment of war paint, the full works, even when gardening. The weird thing about it all was that she was a bit of a stunner, tall, long hair etc. So there is a major difference between reality and what females assume to be an issue or a problem, as we are all already are well aware.

It seems in many women I’ve run across, they lay their complete value in their external appearance. As the woman in the quote, this make-up and some form of primping regiment is common for every thing. It’s as if all the make-up, hair primping, and other things is this identity. It’s the mask of their entire identity. This goes into looks as well, as many actresses (and women at large) are famous for working themselves to death, in addition to throwing lots of money at plastic surgeons at an attempt to stave off the inevitable aging of their bodies. The only answer that one can come up with is that the appearance of these women (and yes men are starting to do it too in increasing numbers) is their entire identity and they are struggling to keep an appearance that matches their internal self-image.

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:19-21)

Trying to remake yourself into your own image is an abomination against God. For whatever reason it may be, a fundamental part of life is to accept yourself as God put you on this earth to be. Wrapping up your self-worth in your identity is vanity. In the end, your appearance will be gone, you will be in the ground, and it will all become irrelevant no matter how much you strive. Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!

Please God, then please your spouse when it comes to the things you do. Both will accept you for who you are. The rest of the women in the world or other men are irrelevant.

19 thoughts on “Woman, Thy Name Is Vanity”

  1. I ran into a firestorm on this just the other day on the TC site (and it’s still going at SSMATD), incurring the wrath of two of the (female) blog-owners. One claimed that I “really don’t like women and wish them ill”, went on to call me a “tyrannical twit” and then accused me of “trying to mount other men’s wives” (amongst other things). What had I done to earn such obloquy? I’d dared to say that 1 Peter 3 does teach wives that they should avoid beautifying themselves with outward adornments, but that many women ignore this.

    It’s amazing the vituperation that this received.

    What you’ve written, Ballista, is right: beautification is a rod which women have made for their own back, yet one which they are loath to relinquish. …Even women who identify as Christian (and even those here on the manosphere).

    After my position was misrepresented for the nth time, here’s what I wrote by way of a clarifying summary, as I think it picks up on what you write above (emphases added):

    Finally, despite what many here clearly believe (or wish to imply), I’m not trying to put a yoke on women: quite the opposite. I’m trying to point out to women that the world’s obsession with outward adornment is something they’ve been freed from in Christ. His Way is neither the West’s way, nor Islam’s way. The manosphere is full of men telling women that they should work hard on their appearance (and of women who are constantly fretting over the same): I don’t find this in Scripture. Peter’s teaching is in line with that of Christ — an easy yoke, and a truth which will set women free.

    …And Christian men should uphold Peter’s teaching, and not expect their wives to stay on the beauty-industry’s treadmill: has the latter made women happy and given them peace? (There also arises the question of good stewardship of that which we’ve been blessed: how much money do Western women — and men — spend on make-up, hair products, jewellery & fashions, etc.? What does God think about this?) Put simply, the avoidance of gluttony/obesity excepted, a Christian woman should not be striving for physical beauty as the world does, but rather showing the world that rare beauty of which Peter speaks — and which the world can’t match.

    I’d be interested in your comments. …Though prepare to be attacked if you agree with me.

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  2. Esther Vilar’s the Manipulated Man, p31-32 is interesting related to this issue:

    Whatever men set about to impress women, counts for nothing in the world of women. Only another woman is of importance in her world.

    [Describes the feelings a woman has when a man looks at her.]

    But if another woman should turn to look — a rare occurrence, for her own judgment is infinitely more remorseless than that of a man — her day is made. She has achieved the impossible — the recognition, admiration, and ‘love’ of other women.

    Yes, only women exist in a woman’s world. The women she meets at church, at parent-teacher meetings, or in the supermarket; the women with whom she chats over the garden fence; the women at parties or window-shopping in the more fashionable streets; those she apparently never seems to notice — these women are the measures of her success or failure. Women’s standards correspond to those in other women’s heads, not to those in the heads of men; it is their judgment that really counts, not that of men. A simple word of praise from another woman — and all those clumsy, inadequate male compliments fall by the wayside, for they are just praises out of the mouths of amateurs. Men really have no idea in what kind of world women live in; their hymns of praise miss all the vital points.

    @WWW I really need to read the post and thread in question and I haven’t gotten the chance yet.

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  3. This is confusing. Not to me, but it invites all manner of charges from all sides.
    The most common angle is that a man who complains that his wife has gained weight invites the silly retort about how he is shallow and all people age and what will he do when she starts showing signs of age. Using this as rationale for NOT caring how she looks is the common tact of Christian women in discussions of outward appearance.

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  4. One other side bar to this ballista, I wonder about you take on it. The various obsessions with food and medicine that seem to, at least consumer wise, be driven by women appear to have as a goal, immortality. I know that is an unfair characterization, but reading how anytime someone mentions food, a particular diet, an exercise program, and holistic medicine, its a related drive inside the person, related to what you are getting at here, that has folks so religiously bound up in that.

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  5. The TC thread is closed (as are all threads after 72 hours) but the gist of the debate was that while we agree in principle with WWW’s understanding of Scripture, we believe that our duty is to conform to our husbands’ wishes.

    What became a theoretical debate about make up or not, hair dye or not, etc. was less than theory for us because the author of the post (me) and the lead editor at TC (Vanessa) have both experienced the tug-of-war early in out marriages when we set out to “obey” 1 Peter 3:3 while simultaneously disobeying and disregarding our husbands’ preferences for makeup, hair dye, etc.

    It is a very long thread and of course you’ll have to read it for yourself to determine which of us was more Biblically correct, but as I told WWW, after having been around this mountain I finally concluded that I would simply submit to my own husband.

    It was amazing the peace that brought to my marriage. My husband even eventually came around to appreciate my reasoning behind wearing longer skirts and such ( as long I was tasteful and not frumpy). I began to take better care of myself and eat better and suddenly I needed far less makeup than I thought I needed before.

    But still, he has certain things he likes me to wear and a certain way he likes me to look. The debate basically became down to: Does a woman obey her husband, or does she take a legalistic, prescriptive approach to 1 Peter 3:3 regardless of what her husband has to say about it?”

    The ironic part of the whole debate Ballista, is that in my experience, most Christian women don’t give a rat’s butt about what their husband thinks. They get fat, they dress for comfort, they simply do. not. care.

    We (at TC) are often accused of being too focused on weight, on health, on looking well. But we are trying to get wives to shape up. If it were true that married Christian women were concerned about their health and their attractiveness to their husbands, we wouldn’t discuss it. But I have seen no evidence of that. At. All.

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  6. most Christian women don’t give a rat’s butt about what their husband thinks. They get fat, they dress for comfort, they simply do. not. care.

    So much so they circle up to defend their right, not just to let themselves go, but they defend the right to DEMAND that the husband still see them as hot hotties because its the inside that counts and we all get old and start to sag and what a circular nonsensical mess.

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  7. I must say that Elspeth and Empath have hit it just right. There seems to be only the outermost sides of the pendulum in nothing in the middle. Either beauty is an idol that is worshiped, even to the extremes, because of cultural and worldly influence, or women “don’t give a rat’s butt about what their husband thinks” and “demand that the husband see them as hot because its the inside that counts.”

    Indeed, I would say it is “what is on the inside that counts”, because if a wife has the inner qualities of modesty, submission, servitude, a giving heart, and humility, she would seek to please her husband in how she looks. If she says with her life that what her husband likes doesn’t matter, then she is proud, arrogant, and selfish and that isn’t beautiful. What is on the inside is showing outside. Clean the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean also.

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  8. @WWW from what I see there’s a number of extremists arguing the position of 1 Pet 3:3-4 from their own positions. Of course, the problem that comes from there is the inability of the extremist to see the value and correctness that’s presented in the others arguments. To that end, I could pick out things from all the combatants participants that I both agree and disagree with, but there really isn’t anything there that I need to address personally (those involved need to work it out with the Lord). But my position should be clear from the post above and here.

    But to go to the interpretation side of things, 1 Pet 3:3-4 can be further informed by 1 Tim 2:9-10, 1 Cor 9:24-27; and 1 Timothy 4:8.

    @Elspeth As I wrote above (or maybe elsewhere, oddly enough this is a recurrent topic that’s on four different blog discussions and two other places that I’m aware of), there’s a line between “taking care of yourself” and pure obsessiveness. That line is very easy to cross, especially for a Christian woman, given the admonitions in Scripture to not be like the world or go after the flesh.

    I hope you can see the value in what WWW is trying to say, which I am also saying in the post above. There is a inner beauty (not aping the ridiculous use of the phrase by Dr. Bals) reflected by the Spirit through character, and joy that forms an attraction more beautiful than any primping or adornment. It could be argued that Like was said by @Chris, cleanse what is inside the cup and the outside will be clean also. An attractive interior makes the exterior attractive despite all the exercise, make-up, adornments, and primping. I have a video which illustrates this well (though I posted it for another reason) in a blog post I have sitting in my draft folder.

    But I know my personal preference is towards inner beauty, especially since I’ve met literal beauty queens before (as well as a number of other women) that rendered themselves completely ugly by their words and their actions. Inner beauty reflects itself into outer beauty in a woman.

    @empathologism I would say the same things. There’s a very fine line between “taking care of yourself” and obsessiveness which is easily jumped over by the Christian. There’s a difference between being healthy and being narcissistic. Honestly, it’s really the same issue.

    And to the other thing – most women just show how ugly their inner selves are when they go to the other extreme, same goes for the ones that are narcissistic and obsessive about their external appearance.

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  9. Ballista, thanks for the comments: at last someone understands my position on this!

    @Elspeth

    The debate basically became down to: Does a woman obey her husband, or does she take a legalistic, prescriptive approach to 1 Peter 3:3 regardless of what her husband has to say about it?”

    No, Elspeth, this was not what the “debate basically became (sic) down to”: neither you nor Vanessa (nor Keoni) grasped my point, which was not a “legalistic” one. You and Vanessa may have taken a “legalistic, prescriptive approach” on first reading 1 Peter 3 (and found in so doing that the “Christian burqa”/pious frump route proved nothing but a blight on your marriage), but please do not confuse what you did for what I said. I honestly don’t know how else to explain it, but Ballista’s position above is (as far as I can see) essentially my own.

    And Ballista, thanks for posting the quote from The Manipulated Man: I am fascinated by this idea that women seek to please/impress other women rather than men. As a man I find it so odd that a woman should seek to look attractive to other women (unless she happens to be a lesbian, of course). I couldn’t care what other men think of my appearance, and it strikes me as perverse that women look firstly for female approval concerning what they wear. …And yet I’ve heard another (female) blogger in the manosphere confirming that this is indeed the case. Moreover, I also understand that women will often spitefully tell other women that their outfits & makeup are ‘cool’/’hot’ when they are actually ‘ugly’/’trashy’ — perhaps the way women appear now is merely the cumulative effect of decades of this sartorial sabotage. Either that or widespread demonic possession…

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  10. No, Elspeth, this was not what the “debate basically became (sic) down to”: neither you nor Vanessa (nor Keoni) grasped my point, which was not a “legalistic” one. You and Vanessa may have taken a “legalistic, prescriptive approach” on first reading 1 Peter 3 (and found in so doing that the “Christian burqa”/pious frump route proved nothing but a blight on your marriage), but please do not confuse what you did for what I said. I honestly don’t know how else to explain it, but Ballista’s position above is (as far as I can see) essentially my own.

    If I misunderstood your point, then I stand corrected. It did appear that your very specific outlines about what was “adornment” and therefore prohibited by St. Peter seemed to indicate that we were in fact debating whether or not our husbands were out of line for their preferences, and how we as wives should react or not to that.

    As we ended our debate on a cordial note at TC and i have no desire to resurrect the acrimony, I will say as I said there. We agree on much, and where we don’t, I am obliged by Scripture to obey my own husband, as I know you agree.

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  11. It did appear that your very specific outlines about what was “adornment” and therefore prohibited by St. Peter seemed to indicate that we were in fact debating whether or not our husbands were out of line for their preferences, and how we as wives should react or not to that.

    My “very specific outlines” (by which I assume you mean my mention of hair dye, high heels and make-up) merely followed what was in the text (“outward adornment”), and contrasted Peter’s admonition with the tastes of the world.

    And after all this it seems that you didn’t read the text itself: Peter did not “prohibit” anything — he merely gave teaching. It is not (as I pointed out on your site) graven in tablets of stone. …But it is still God’s Word, and we ignore it to our detriment (and His disappointment). But commandment? No!!! You may have taken it as such, but as I say, please do not confuse what you did for what I said.

    Are you a Catholic, by the way? You write “St. Peter”: that always sounds Catholic to my ears…

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  12. @WWW

    Moreover, I also understand that women will often spitefully tell other women that their outfits & makeup are ‘cool’/’hot’ when they are actually ‘ugly’/’trashy’ — perhaps the way women appear now is merely the cumulative effect of decades of this sartorial sabotage. Either that or widespread demonic possession…

    Vilar goes on to talk about that. Women will often do things just to spite other women. I can’t say I’ve seen any formal posts on these attitudes (it’d about have to be from a woman), though I’ve seen a couple of female commenters talk about it at other places every once in a while. I guess that’s the human condition, though. Men compete at jobs and other events like races for output and pride. Women, I guess, have their own domestic level competitions with other women in these lights…

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