By Akin Ojumu

A defining characteristic of the modern age is the preoccupation with the outward appearance. Hollywood’s false portrayal of the glamorous persona only serves to fetishize external attributes. And the reality TV fictional depiction of what’s considered elegant has only catapulted the situation into the realm of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Professional careers are built around image shaping and an entire industry is centered on brand identity. People go to great lengths – spending significant amounts of their wealth and fortune or, as the case may be, their meagre resources – to make themselves look good to the gaping world.

With the advent of cellphones and the social media, the lid has now been blown off our innate desire for vainglory, which had hitherto lurked deep within our soul with no outlet of expression. The pathological fixation with the outward appearance is epitomized by the kind of stuff people post on their social media feeds. 

The following two examples are just a drop in the bucket:

It is Sunday morning, and John Doe is decked from head to toe, looking peachy in his designer suit. Looking at him, you’d think he stepped out of GQ magazine. Inside his late model posh car, he takes a bunch of selfies in various poses, making sure he captures the leather interior. He goes ahead and posts them all on his Facebook timeline with an all-CAPS caption that reads, “ON MY WAY TO CHURCH.” 

Jane Doe just had a makeover and the mask-like heavy makeup on her face is screaming, “Look at me! Notice me!!” Gazing admiringly in the mirror at herself, she absolutely loves the image that reflects back to her. Unable to resist the urge, she picks up her phone, puts on a pose with her big eyes and glittering pink pouty lips and snaps a few dozen selfies that she immediately uploads to her Instagram page to show off her gorgeous new look.

There is something about modern-day society that seems to make the craving for affirmation to be highly pervasive. Our world is replete with situations that have turned the longing to be loved into a widespread cross-cultural phenomenon. The excessive concern about our physical appearance and the yearning to be affirmed are, clinically speaking, symptoms of a deep-rooted sense of inadequacy that borders on histrionic personality disorder. This is a sign of someone who is unconsciously compensating for something in her life that she thinks is missing or deficient.

Yet, it is all a lie. There is nothing lacking or deficient in any of God’s children. We are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Those whispering voices in our heads constantly telling us we don’t look good enough, thin enough, or tall enough, have one objective in mind and it is to sow the seed of doubt in us about whom God has made us. All they are after is to make us curse God for making us imperfect and cause us to, as it were, go and "sew fig leaves together" to cover our imperfections in an attempt to fix God’s mistakes in our creation. 

It is time we silenced the lying tongues of the hosts of hell. Each and every one of God’s creations is fearfully and wonderfully made. We are each an expensive piece of Artwork in the eyes of the Almighty God. 

Too often, however, this very fact is lost on many of us. Oftentimes when we meet people, we size them up in our minds; in a split second, we assess them from top to bottom and make up our minds about the person standing before us. Those whose physical appearance – i.e., hairstyle, dress style, makeup, accent, etc. – we deem to be substandard and not up to snuff, we quickly dismiss. And those that meet or surpass our expectations we obsequiously embrace.

I have a firsthand experience of this that I'll share with you.

For most of last year, I kept my head unshaven, as depicted in the above picture. Between February and October of that year, neither clippers or scissors touched the hair on my head. From a prior minimum of 12 haircuts a year, I dropped to a combined total of 3 visits to the Barbershop in the year 2020. After 9 months of leaving my hair uncut, I looked like the disheveled vagrant who wanders about from place to place pushing along the shopping cart containing all his worldly goods. 

I got a lot of stick from a lot of well-meaning people and those in my circle of influence for keeping such an “unhealthy” appearance. Because they never before saw me look like that, some even believed I must have a few loose screws upstairs. While some were bold enough to come directly to me to ask what’s going on, others, in the name of “raising a prayer point for Boda Akin,” whispered and snickered behind my back.

But guess what? My disheveled appearance did not bother me a bit and in the 9 months that I carried around my bushy hair, I was very much at peace with myself. You know why? Because I knew for a fact that whether shaven or unshaven, I am who I am and remained the same. The hair does not make the man.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Who you are has nothing to do with your physical appearance. The totality of a man is not in the fancifulness of his attire and the aggregate sum of a woman is not in the colorfulness of the mascara on her face. A man should not be judged by the length of the hair on his head or how bushy is the forest on his chin, but by the fecundity of his mind and the richness of his soul. In the eyes of God, we are not defined by what’s on the outside and our lives do not add up to the abundance of our temporal possessions. What makes us us is what we carry on the inside of our soul. It is the Christ in us, the hope of glory.

So, whether clean shaven and decked up in a tuxedo or disheveled with an unshaven head and bristly chin, it doesn’t change a thing about who I am or whose I am. What's most important to me is this very fact. I am a child of God. I have got the Spirit of the Most High God. And I have got the life of God in me. For me, that's all that matters.


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