“She’s drop-dead gorgeous.”
“What a handsome young man!”
“Your hair looks so pretty.”
We hear expressions like these nearly every day, either directed at us or someone else. For most people, it feels good to receive and even give these types of compliments – myself included. But the thought recently crossed my mind… When we compliment someone’s appearance and nothing else, what are we really saying? What message are we sending?
I have come across dozens of articles about how, when complimenting children (especially girls), the focus should be on something besides their looks. However, those same children are hearing adults complimenting one another based on external appearance every day. It’s important for us to think more deeply about what we value in ourselves and others, and how we are conveying that.
When we compliment someone’s appearance and nothing else, what are we really saying? What message are we sending?
A person has no control over the face and body they are born with. Yes, there are things that can be done to enhance one’s appearance, but only so much. And after a certain point, one might wonder, what is really the goal here? If a person is spending hundreds or thousands on clothes, hours in front of the mirror, or even going under the knife, what are they trying to gain? Does it really make them more likeable to those who know them? What about to God?
On the other hand, a person’s character is something which can be polished every day, without spending a single penny – and the results are better and longer lasting. I would much rather spend my time with someone who has a beautiful soul than a beautiful body. Someone who chooses to be kind, loyal, and honest. If a person lacks these qualities, and is not even trying to develop them, it doesn’t matter how pretty or handsome they look on the outside. Yet sadly, many times the people who are popular are also conventionally good-looking and people gravitate towards them, even if they are arrogant and act like jerks to those who they think of as lesser than them.
In a society that preaches the importance of not judging others, we still place an incredible amount of importance on looks. The beauty industry is thriving more than ever. Millions are choosing to have cosmetic surgery. And eating disorders are on the rise. As much as we might say that we are focusing on and changing our appearance only for ourselves, I do wonder whether we are putting as much effort into our inner self as we are on our outer self. It’s nice to get complimented on how we look, but no amount of praise for the external will truly satisfy the internal. If we feel empty inside and are dissatisfied with who we are as people, or we are not good towards others, then shallow compliments will never fill that emptiness.
Ultimately, we must accept that our faces will wrinkle and our bodies will age, whereas our character has the potential to grow more beautiful every day.
Let’s re-evaluate where we get our sense of self from and how we judge others. I know it sounds cheesy, but true beauty is what’s inside, not what we see on the outside.
“O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to cover yourselves and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of God so that perhaps they may remember.” [Qur’an 7:26]
“Indeed, God does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your heart and actions.” – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) [from Sahih Muslim]
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