Redeem the Meaning of “Beauty” for Your Girls [From Dr. Kelly Flanagan, UnTangled]
To celebrate the Fourth of July Britt, the girls and I spent the weekend with my in-laws at their lake house. It’s actually more of a down-home, shabby-chic fishing cabin…and for me it’s one of the most relaxing places on earth – simple, cozy, slamming screen door, and the smell of whatever is being prepared for the next meal wafting about…which we start talking about as soon as we are wiping our mouths from the previous meal. And beautiful…surrounded by beauty – the sun glistening off the lake, the dappled sunlight making its way through the canopy of trees, and the beauty of my girls…their sun-kissed faces, their laughter.
During that weekend…between meals, the occasional swim or tube-ride, and contemplating my navel…I contemplated the beauty of my girls. With my oldest inching towards the far end of being a tween and my youngest barely holding on to the vestiges of little girldom, I wondered how they would describe their beauty. Would they limit their definition to how culture defines it – all the externals and mostly fleeting things…or would they go deeper, recognizing as I do that they are most beautiful on the inside…in the most lasting of ways?
As I reflected on all of this, I remembered a blog I’ve started reading fairly regularly called “UnTangled”…and with the tagline “tell a redemptive story with your life. now.” you probably understand why it’s become one of my favorite weekly reads. It’s written by a guy named Dr. Kelly Flanagan…and besides being a really powerful writer and licensed clinical psychologist, he is the intentional daddy of a young daughter. Well back in January this year, these three things about Dr. Kelly were profoundly evident in his post “Words from a Father to His Daughter (From the Makeup Aisle)” where he writes to his 4-year old daughter about the real source of her beauty. He’s a much better writer than I am…so I’ll let him take it from here…
Dear Little One,
As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:
Instant age rewind,
Choose your dream,
Nearly naked, and
When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.
But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.
A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:
Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.
Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.
Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your gloves off. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.
Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.
Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.
Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.
Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.
Where are you the most beautiful?
On the inside.
From my heart to yours,
Pretty powerful stuff huh? Ironically I haven’t shared and discussed this with my Brown or Littlest One, but I’m going to this week. I really look forward to that. And if you’re the daddy of daughters…or mommy…or aunt, mentor, or friend of a young girl, I’d encourage you to do the same. Our kids…particularly our girls, are flooded with what the world says about beauty…so slowing down long enough to redeem the true meaning of the word beauty with them could really be powerful…life-giving.
I know…again, you might be thinking I’m a bit schizophrenic…with one day posting about making blueberry pie and the next day on a topic as deep as this. But our lives are filled with both the trivial and the profound…and it’s my belief that it’s important that we work towards finding the beauty in both.
I hope you found this post from Dr. Kelly as impactful as I did. And if you did, I’d encourage you to go to his website (www.drkellyflanagan.com) and take a look around…there’s plenty to like there … you could also subscribe to his newsletter. I’ve not met him, nor have I even spoken to him…but we have exchanged a number of emails about our shared passion to live out a redeemed story…and from what I can tell, he is the real deal.
[Thanks Dr. Kelly for letting me borrow your post for RYGblog…and for helping me pause long enough to consider the truer things of life.]
Take care all,
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“But our lives are filled with both the trivial and the profound…and it’s my belief that it’s important that we work towards finding the beauty in both.” So true! Great post. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Chrissy! Yea…some people don’t consider things long enough to see the profound, much less the beauty in it; while others minimize the trivial, thereby discounting that there’s any beauty in it. There’s beauty in it all, you just have to look harder at times. Thanks again friend! – D.
Thanks for sharing this message! I can’t wait to share it with my daughters tonight.
Great blog, Doug. I’d read Flanagan’s earlier in the year — I tend to get a lot of “Girl Power”-themed items in my FB NewsFeed, go figure! — and was moved by it then and again now. Thanks for reposting!