How do you have a good self-image in the face of so many deceptive images of beauty and worth promoted by the media?
Having the right image is a common issue in our society. Women and men are faced with many pressures to look and act as if they were Hollywood stars in popular magazines and newspapers. At different points in life, we may find ourselves becoming attached to these deceiving media images that exert pressure on us, tempting us to dress, look, or act a certain way in order to be accepted in another's group, environment, or overall community. Many people tend to worship the stars and their lifestyles, wealth, and high class of society. But thinking that we need to copy these images to be accepted is actually limiting. These are false images that would side-track us from understanding our individual nature.
To understand our true natures, we need to begin with a re-examination of the definition of image. We read in the Bible:
And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Gen 1:26)
We are all God's image and likeness -- making us equal, not burdened by any labels or rude misjudgments that attack our divine nature. Our real image is not restricted by having to look a certain way in order to be beautiful. God crafts and fashions us as God's perfect image and likeness of being.
In our attempts to flourish as God made us, we are often faced with discouraging situations or forceful temptations to worship what we don't really want to worship but feel we have no choice but to worship for some reason. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were faced with such a situation:
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sounds of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. (Dan 3:7)
The three young Hebrew men did not want to worship Nebuchadnezzar's statue and chose not to bow down. Their actions protested worshipping Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. So Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a burning fire. But the expected consequence did not happen: they did not die. When Nebuchadnezzar's obedient servants were told to bring them out of the fire, there was no evidence of ash and no "smell of fire" upon them (Dan 3:27). They were completely free and alive. They chose to stand up for God and for their identities as God's image.
We, too, can take a stand for what we know defines our real image -- not a shrine, a golden carved object, or perfect-looking models in magazines, wearing the most fashionable clothes. Instead, we can stand for how God made us, which is our real identification. We do not have to rely on other people's opinions about our image and the way we look to make us feel happy or good about ourselves.
The next time that we see magazines glaring at us in such a way that makes us feel inferior, less beautiful, or less important than the models staring back at us, we can defend ourselves with the understanding that we all (even the models and celebrities) are made in God's image and likeness, which is a precious and undeniably valuable gift given to us by God. We express God's beauty and can treasure this beauty in our hearts and make it flourish in the world.