Does a Christian need to take care of her appearance? Is it permissible to change one’s appearance, to consult a plastic surgeon? An abundance of face and body care products – is it good or bad? Are the advice on appearance of monastery elders relevant in the world? What does define female beauty – appearance or inner content? Father Constantine Lisnyak answers these and other questions.
Can a pretty face be considered a sin? We didn’t have any choice in how we were born.
It seems to me that this approach to the issue of beauty is very narrow. Why is it supposed to talk only about female beauty? I would like to focus on the inner component of the beautiful. An artist is not only one who knows how to paint pictures or does something else creatively, but also one who knows how to notice the beautiful in the world: flowers, clouds, trees. Let us recall how St. John of Kronstadt kissed flowers with the words: “I am kissing the hand that has created you”. Everything in the world is so complex and beautifully created that it is impossible not to admire the plan of the Creator.
If we narrow the topic and talk about the beauty of women – what can I say? Woman is the crown of creation because she was created last. The substance from which Adam was taken is hard: it is earth, clay. A woman is created from a completely different material – from a rib, that is, from a living creation. This means that a woman is the most beautiful and most perfect creature on earth.
Beauty and a sense of beauty are characteristic of man by his nature. We can look at the world around us and know our Creator through it. Enjoying female beauty is natural. It’s like with food: God wanted us to enjoy it. What is the sin in it? Everything is from God, and beauty as well. After all, it is He who creates all these plexuses of chromosomes, the individuality of each person. Beauty is natural for the world created by God; it is not by chance that Fyodor Mikhailovich says that it will save the world.
Of course, everyone has their own perception of beauty. Someone likes dyed hair, heavy makeup, false eyelashes, super-manicure. Such a girl is walking and thinking that she looks the most advantageous way. And a man brought up differently does not perceive her. It’s like with music: anyone who listens to the classics from childhood cannot seriously take modern “untsa-untsa”. There are people who like a chaste appearance. I recall the famous boxer Mohammed Ali in this regard. Once he saw his daughter in revealing clothes and said that female beauty should be hidden from prying eyes, as everything precious in nature is hidden: gold, pearls, diamonds.
It seems to me that now there is a degradation in the perception of beauty, some kind of vulgarization. Girls are told that it’s fashionable to be nasty, from the screens of TVs and computers there is a wave of some kind of aggressive feminism, which generally shakes not only the psyche of women, but the foundations of the family. Mankind and its entire history are based on a family. Because it is so important what we consider beautiful: if something vulgar and gross is considered beautiful, then these qualities will be appreciated in women as well. What will happen if women with such qualities are chosen as wives? If a girl grew up in a chaste family, where she was raised by both father and mother, then, most likely, everything will be fine in her life – the example of the mother and the authority of the father work even without words and put the child on the right track. A guy looking for a girl to create a family, rather than to gain sexual experience, will look for a person of the appropriate appearance, behavior, inner order. This is also a matter of upbringing.
What about young girls who do not want to wear long skirts? Those who like to do makeup and look pretty?
I am not a tyrant in terms of fashion and care of oneself. I have a very democratic attitude towards this. If a girl comes to church in a short skirt and earns the greasy eye, I think she does it unintentionally: she just does not have other clothes in her wardrobe. Many simply do not understand what the church is and how to dress there. When a person becomes a regular parishioner of the church, his behavior and clothes change. Getting churched, women, as a rule, refuse aggressive self-expression.
Extremes and fanaticism can spread in the other direction as well. Often in churches you can see women who were told in some monastery that dyeing hair and doing makeup is a terrible sin. As a result, in their forty-five or fifty they look completely unattractive, while each of them has a husband at home.
There are legends about the Orthodox Christians that we are marginalized people and obscurantists – so why feed these rumors? It seems to me that everything should be moderate. Conscience should tell a person how to look and how to dress. If a woman adorns herself with no frills, this is normal and permissible.
In issues of beauty there is also a medical aspect. We know that there is maxillofacial and plastic surgery. Is it permissible to perform surgeries that improve the appearance, make it more beautiful – or one should just live the way she was born?
Let’s look at the situation soberly. It is one thing when super-rich women turn to surgeons, not knowing what else to improve in themselves. Quite another – when a person has overbite and he or she needs the installation of braces, for example. What is wrong with correcting a physical handicap? Adontia (lack of a tooth), appearance defects such as everted ears, ugly moles and the like – why not consult a doctor? This is an opportunity to improve a person’s quality of life, to help adapt socially.
Of course, such issues need to be solved individually. It is impossible to give any general recommendations – who can contact a plastic surgeon and who cannot. Definitely, maximalism must be avoided. If a girl is extremely embarrassed about her appearance and cannot create a family for this reason, she can turn to her spiritual father, take a blessing – and have surgery to get rid of the flaw that torments her. I do not see in this a corpus delicti and something egregious. What is the sin in it?
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds