How's Your Soul?
How long do you spend getting ready in the morning? Is your hair just right? Have you worked out enough, do you have a six-pack? Can you still fit into your "skinny jeans," or does your face have acne? Why can't I look like him or her? All it takes is one look at Jeffree Star's or Nikkie de Jager's YouTube channels (Two of the most popular makeup and beauty influencers in 2020) to see the standards of beauty and worth our youth aspire to every day.
These are the questions and comparisons that bombard youth all the time, and a lot of time, media and photoshop play a massive role in how they view themselves and their worth. They (and we) have become obsessed with the questions, "Am I beautiful enough, handsome enough, attractive enough, and smart enough to others?" Youth spend hours comparing themselves to photoshop, celebrities, and society's examples of beauty in the quest to be enough. Some of you do, too.
Instead, as parents and leaders, we need to be asking our youth, "How is your soul?" Dorothy Parker once said, "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes deep to the bone." This statement means real, authentic attractiveness (beauty or handsomeness) comes from a healthy soul. When your soul is starving, drowning, exhausted, or not tended to, then everything we do on the outside is for nothing. I would argue that real beauty is much more all-encompassing than what culture and media would have us believe.
Our society is a culture of quick fixes and self-help books. We are all looking for that easy cure-all to provide the results we want with as minimal effort as possible. Often, the instructions or steps to achieve that Chris Evans(Captain America) or Kim Kardashian physique is just a little spray paint, contouring, and glue, and no one will be the wiser. But when the winds of life come and press in on us, we are left looking like a hot mess and wondering what went wrong. In listening to this surefire advice, we teach the younger generations that neglect of the internal is acceptable, and in my experience, that rarely ends well. To achieve long-lasting, real, and authentic health and beauty, we need to do the work. We must take time and develop new rhythms for our lives that focus and give our souls care and attention.
It's time to take a moment and ask ourselves, "Do I ever pretend?" When was the last time I projected an image of spirituality when it was all a facade? Last week, yesterday, minutes ago? Do you ever convey that you have it all together or are always right as a parent or leader?
Our fears of letting our children see us struggle and losing the upper hand and the ability to be the authority in their life are unfounded. When we are vulnerable and let them see this, we build connection.
We are all born with intense desires and needs to feel loved, valued, worthy, and belong. Our kids have learned to pretend to be the people that society and culture have told them they want them to be, whether that's what's best and healthiest for them or not. We seem not to care because we are doing the same thing. I understand these desires and needs are God-given, and I'm not downplaying that we need to have them fulfilled, but we need to teach our youth today how to fulfill those needs by tending to their spirit and soul.
Sadly, most of the Christian community does not address this issue, much less assist with managing it well. Instead, many times we are taught the opposite within the church. The standards that say youth must consistently serve, read the Bible, and pray more to be "Holy" enough, or as one kid told me, "To have enough Jesus points accumulated." This idea neglects the very mindset of self-care for your soul. In other words, to be spiritual, we have taught this generation they need to suppress the needs of their soul in the name of the "image of spirituality." This image, I would argue, is just as harmful, if not more harmful, than the focus on the physical image we project to everyone.
Instead, we need to ask our youth what their soul needs and then help them find it. We must learn to cultivate a rhythm of care for our souls that displays our Creator's authentic and genuine beauty within us.
My challenge for you is to take some time to assess and evaluate what your soul needs. What could use some attention in your life? What does your heart need? Is it rest, fun, connection with a friend, relationship with God's creation (nature), or something else entirely? The more we take care of our needs and souls, the more beauty will radiate from us as God truly intended. Begin new rhythms in your life to model to those around you, including the youth in your life. Once you have done this, I encourage you to ask your child the same question. Be open and authentic with what you are doing in your own life. Your youth will see the change, which will demonstrate that what you say and what you do align. Then work together on new rhythms that help refocus attention to both of your souls as you walk this journey of life together.