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Vanity or Body Image Problem?

True modesty doesn't come from changing one's wardrobe. It comes from having one's heart changed.

May 5, 2021

Vanity is not a word you hear about much these days, but you do hear about body image problems. A body image problem sounds much more serious and important than the sin of vanity does. Today, I want to define some terms, briefly present what the secular psychologist thinks about this issue, what the Christian psychologist or the integrationist thinks, what one Keswick Christian author thinks, and then spend the main time with what the biblical counselor thinks. I want to give you, lastly, some practical tips on counseling a woman who is vain. 

Definition of Terms

Body image is defined as a person’s perception of the aesthetics, the beauty of or sexual attractiveness of one’s own body, what one thinks about her body. The phrase “body image” was first coined by the Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Paul Schilder in his book, The Image and Appearance of the Human Body, published in 1935. Human society has at all times placed great value on the beauty of the human body, but a person’s perception of her own body may not correspond to what other people are thinking.

Research suggests that exposure to mass media depicting the thin, ideal body may be linked to body image disturbance in women. The DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has made this a disease, and they call it “body dysmorphic disorder.” Dysmorphic means malformed or misshapen, pertaining to the shape or size of a body part. Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD is a listed as a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with some aspect of one’s own appearance, believing it to be severely flawed, warranting exceptional measures to hide it or to fix it. In BDD delusional (someone who’s delusional is out of touch with reality) variant, the flaw is imagined; it’s not real or if it is real, its importance is severely exaggerated. Either way, one’s thoughts about it are pervasive and intrusive, occupying up to several hours a day. The DSM-5 categorizes it in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and distinguishes it from anorexia nervosa. BDD is estimated to affect up to 2.4 percent of the population, and it usually starts during adolescence. It also affects men and women, usually equally. Whereas vanity concerns preoccupation with aggrandizing the appearance, BDD is compulsion to merely normalize the appearance, although delusional. In about one in three cases, the appearance concern is usually an overvalued idea. They tend to preoccupy over minimal or non-existent flaws in their appearance. They may view themselves as deformed or unattractive, generally focusing on the face, hair, and other areas of the body such as the stomach, thighs, and hips. Any area can be the preoccupation.

On average someone who is diagnosed with BDD tends to focus on five to seven different body parts, examining their appearance multiple times a day is a regular occurrence, and can take between three to eight hours of their time on a daily basis. Common behaviors include mirror checking or avoiding a mirror, outfit changing, skin picking, excessive grooming, and restrictive eating. Victims of BDD often identify with feelings of low self-esteem, shame, and unworthiness. Via BDD, some people experience delusions that others are covertly pointing out their flaws. They get paranoid. Because they’re so obsessed with their bodies, they think everybody else is. They use social avoidance or camouflaging with cosmetics or apparel, repetitively checking their appearance, comparing it to that of other persons, and might often seek verbal reassurance.  Its severity can wax and wane. Flare-ups tend to yield absences. They can withdraw and stop going to work or school. They tend to stay home and not socialize with other people, and they can become housebound. The distress of it tends to exceed that of either major depressive disorder or type 2 diabetes, and the rates of suicide ideation and attempts are especially high.

Let me just summarize the underlying psychological issues. Somebody comes to you, and they have this diagnosis. I want you to understand what this diagnosis means; it is describing how they behave and what they’re thinking. Underlying psychological issues are low self-esteem, perfectionism, negative body image, childhood physical abuse, depression, anxiety, self-disparagement, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, inadequacy, obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behavior between three to eight hours a day, and a tendency to greatly exaggerate any flaw. One out of three are delusional. They have high rates of suicide and suicide attempts and preoccupation with five to seven body parts, delusions that others are pointing out their flaws, depression, social avoidance, childhood sexual abuse, parental neglect, or have been teased or bullied. 

I did a brief survey of some of the psychology helps available. There is a popular workbook by Dr. Thomas Cash, a PhD psychologist, called The Body Image Workbook. It’s an eight-step program for learning to like how you look. He says, “Talk therapy does not work. Behavior modification does.” Another book that I found is Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate by Emily K. Sandoz and M. Troy DuFrene. They are psychologists, and the subtitle of the book is How to Let go of Your Struggle with Body Image Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I also have some Christian psychology or integrationist examples such as Loving Your Body: Embracing Your True Beauty in Christ by Deborah Newman, a licensed psychologist, published by Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family did a survey and concluded that the primary reason for women to have low self-esteem is because they have a negative body image. This book helps the reader understand that they are wonderfully and beautifully made in God’s image.

Another example is a book called My Big Bottom Blessing: How Hating my Body Led to Loving my Life by Teasi Cannon. She has a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Liberty Theological Seminary. She’s very funny, and she writes well. I read it, and it was an intriguing book. She’s very heavily influenced by the Sonship controversy, a Keswick view of sanctification. You don’t make effort; you just let God work through you. I was very uncomfortable with how she talked about God, which was in a very trite way. She did not view Him with awe, and I want to give you an example of this because I want you to be discerning. When you read a book that trifles with God, don’t use it. Cannon said, “I can almost hear the conversations that must have gone on in heaven when God was designing me. ‘This daughter of mine (this is God speaking) is going to love beauty, but I want her to love my beauty. So, I’m going to put a little extra padding on her to keep her from being vain. Vanity would kill her.'” Don’t talk about God like that. We are to bow before Him and humble ourselves before Him and glorify Him. 

I want to talk about the biblical counseling view now. I wrote a book a while back called Damsels in Distress, and it has a chapter on vanity that you could use as a resource that has study questions at the end of the chapter. More recently, one of my pastors Kent Keller and I wrote a book called Modesty: More Than a Change of Clothes, and that one is also very convicting. We originally titled it Gold Ring in a Pig’s Snout, and we loved our title, but P&R did not love it. We finally got to the end of the grueling process of editing, and they said, “We just can’t live with this title!”

It’s a heart change. It really is. Here’s some background to teach your counselee. You want to know what they’re thinking.  I would have them do a self-talk log. When they are thinking about their body, when they’re obsessing about it, when they’re struggling with that, I would ask them to write down what they’re thinking and then bring it back so I can see. Because as a man thinks in his heart so is he, and that is what is in their hearts. Vanity is something that is empty, futile, vain or worthless. Webster’s Dictionary says, ” Vanity, in the sense of the love of beauty, is an inflated pride in one’s appearance.”

Vanity in the Old Testament

Let’s look at Isaiah chapter 3 because this is such a vivid example of how God views vain women. It is a sign of a decadent society and unstable women. It’s a sign of the disintegration of a nation. The daughters of Zion, the Jewish women, had become like the societies around them, and the Canaanite societies were pagan. They were carnal, and the Jews turned from worshipping God to worshiping the Canaanite idols. Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ was born, and he prophesied about judgment to come. The southern kingdom, Judah, was about to go the way of the northern kingdom, which had become apostate, and they became idolaters, even sooner than the southern kingdom. They had already been taken captive by Assyria, and Judah was about to be taken captive by Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. So, they have turned from God to serving other gods; one of them for these women was the god of beauty.

Isaiah 3:16-24 says, “Moreover, the Lord said, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet, [They must have had ankle bracelets with bells on them or bells on their shoes, and when they would walk, those bells would go off and everybody would notice them] Therefore, the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.’ In that day the Lord will take away the beauty [Listen to this list] of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.” And you thought you had a lot to do to get ready this morning. “Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; [Putrefaction is the smell of rotting flesh] Instead of a belt, a rope [Because they’re going to be slaves]; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth [There will be grief and mourning]; and branding instead of beauty.”

These women thought they were so beautiful and so attractive, and they deliberately called much attention to themselves, and God saw this as very ugly. This is not a pretty picture, and neither is it pretty to God when we love ourselves and spend inordinate amounts of time and money on our appearance or obsess about our bodies, calling attention to ourselves. 

How to Overcome Vanity

Let’s look at how to overcome vanity. Obviously, vanity is a sin, but first, have your counselee read the following signs of vanity and mark the ones they know they are guilty of.

1. I am overly concerned about how I look. 

2. I’m unable to graciously receive compliments. Instead of graciously saying, “Thank you,” I become embarrassed or angry at that person. 

3. I feel depressed or anxious because “I’m fat.” 

4. I’m on a quest for thinness that sometimes results in abuse of my body through bulimia or anorexia.

5. I overspend on clothes, hair, and makeup.   

6. I compare myself to others and how they look. 

7. I say things to elicit compliments from others. 

My husband is so funny. We were going to a party years ago, and we dressed up. And I had on what I thought was a very pretty dress. I was a lot thinner back then. I got all dolled up, and I came, in all of my grandeur, into the living room, and he’s sitting there waiting for me to get ready, and he didn’t say anything. He did say, “Are you ready to go?”  Finally, I just floated around him, and he didn’t say anything. I said, “How do I look?” He looked me up and down and said, “Fine.” So, I’m thinking, “That’s all I’m going to get.” We went to the party, and a friend of ours was there. He was not flirting with me; he’s just a nut, and the two of us at one point ended up at the buffet table together, and he said, “You look stunning!” I said, “Oh, thank you!”  When we got home, I told Sanford, “Do you remember when I asked you how I looked before the party?” He said he didn’t. I told him that he just said that I looked fine. He said, “Well, you do look fine. Your slip wasn’t showing. I mean, you know, you’re fine.” I asked if he wanted to know what Mike said? This got his attention, and he kind of turned a little red, and he said, “What?” I said, “He said I look stunning!” He said, “I think you look stunning, too!” It doesn’t matter what I look like; I am stunning. Just don’t bother to ask, but some people say things to elicit compliments from others.

8. I refuse to have sex with my husband because I feel ugly or fat. 

9. I often apologize for how they look.  

I know a lady in my hometown, and I’ve known her for a long time. I don’t see her very often, but every once in a while, I run into her. She’s beautiful. She looks like a model. Every time I see her, she apologizes for how she looks, and I’m thinking, “I wish I looked like that.” Obviously, that’s what’s on her mind. She’s obsessed with it. 

10. I find myself thinking about my body flaws often. 

11. I dress in a sensual or immodest manner. 

12. I go back to the mirror again and again to see how I look. 

13. I withdraw from social situations because I feel self-conscious about how I look. 

14. I feel anxious or depressed about how I look.

Sanford and I went out to eat with another couple one night, and I was just having so much fun. We were just talking and laughing. After the meal, I went into the restroom and looked in the mirror, and I had dried food on my face. I mean, it was a big blob of food. I was so embarrassed! I cleaned it off, and when we got in the car to go home, I said, “Didn’t you notice that big blob of dried food on my face?” He said, “Yeah.” “Why didn’t you tell me?!” And, he said, “I didn’t want to embarrass you.” Anyway, now he’s like the police about my face, saying, “You’ve got a crumb right there!” We’ve been married 51 years! It’s been a long time!

Using Scripture with Your Counselee

Second, you want to teach your counselee what the Scriptures have to teach us about vanity. The Old Testament emphasis is “beauty is vain.” Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” If you look up the word “vain,” it means futile, worthless, nothing, useless, or mere breath. As you get older, it’s ultimately a losing battle. You do the best with what you have. Psalm 4:2 says, “How long will you love vanity?” The author is not talking about the love of beauty, but about what is worthless or empty. The New Testament emphasis is reflected in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, which says, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discretely, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive apparel, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.” By modest and discreet, Paul is saying that her good works and gentle and quiet spirit are her adornment. This is our true beauty in God’s eyes. The woman who loves Him is beautiful.

Kent Keller and I wrote the book, Modesty: More than a Change of Clothes, and the end of the book has some general suggestions, but it was tempting to just start out on page one: Okay, here’s a list of rules. We didn’t do that because it’s a heart attitude, but most of the styles these days are immodest. They show cleavage, belly buttons, and various and sundry outlines of private parts. We were out to eat in a restaurant, and I noticed this teenage girl. Everybody noticed her. She came in to eat, and I thought, “My goodness! She is practically naked.” Then her mother came in, and I thought, “She IS naked.” I don’t even know how they got in there. She really wasn’t naked, but she may as well have been. I thought, “How sad for that girl that she has that kind of mother.”

I want to read you a quote from the book: “If you have a heart that loves God, you will want to please God. According to the Bible, the heart is the part of you that thinks your thoughts, feels your emotions, makes the choices of your will, and lives on after your death. A heart that is concerned about pleasing God will express itself modestly by what you think, do, say, and wear.” It’s not just clothing but what you think, do, say, and wear. “True modesty can only come from someone who is more concerned about showing the world how great God is than how great she is.” True modesty doesn’t come from changing one’s wardrobe. It comes from having one’s heart changed. If you want to be modest (or you could say if you want to be not vain), God must be first in your heart. When you choose to be immodest (or depressed or withdrawn because your body doesn’t look like you want it to), then you’re choosing your own sinful desires over God’s desires, so that He is not first in your life.” The New Testament emphasis regarding vanity is modest clothing, and how you look, how you act, and good works.

Most good works are done behind the scenes; few people know about them. This is a woman who quietly works in the kitchen to clean up after the church picnic or she sits by the bed of a friend who’s recovering from surgery. She takes meals to the sick. My daughter had a very serious bout with cancer almost two years ago. Things are going well now, but the outpouring of love was just amazing. People came to clean her house, bring meals, doing just anything that she needed. This woman brings meals to the sick, cleans the house of a woman in her church whose husband is dying. She goes to the nursing home and faithfully visits those from her church and then visits others who don’t have visitors.

She’s like the woman in the Bible named Dorcas in Acts 9 who was full of good works and acts of charity. There was so much grief in the Christian community in Jerusalem when Dorcas died that God used Peter to raise Dorcas from the dead. She reminds me of my friend Patty Thorne who has great joy in serving the Lord through serving others behind the scenes and working hard. Patty truly is the most beautiful woman in this regard. She’s like the holy women of old who hope in God. 

I want to also show you 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says, “Your adornment must not be merely the external [so you can have some external adornment], braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable [eternal or unfading] quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Don’t let external adornment be your only beauty. Peter could not be saying here that women are forbidden to wear dresses and jewelry. He is saying to not let it be your only beauty, and don’t be ostentatious about it so that you call an inordinate amount of attention to yourself. True beauty is what’s on the inside, a gentle and quiet spirit. Godly women reflect reverence in their behavior by dressing in a manner that is not sensual, provocative, masculine, excessively gaudy, or ostentatious. Instead, their adornment is their good works and their gentle hearts and quiet spirit. The attitude of their hearts, what they’re thinking and desiring, is pleasing to God. 

Let’s talk about a gentle and quiet spirit. I did a huge study on this because it does not mean that you whisper when you talk. It means two things. First, a woman accepts God’s dealings with her as good, even in trials. And second, it means she’s not given to fear or anger. If you put all that together and do a huge study, that’s what you’re going to conclude. This is how biblical counselors would describe in a biblical way what the Christian integrationist would describe in a psychological way.

These women are not grateful for the bodies that they have. The last verse in the 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to be thankful for all things “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” They’re not content. First Timothy 6:6 says that if we have food and covering, with this we shall be content. They are a lover of self, according to Romans 12:3. Second Timothy 3:2 talks about the last days when men will be lovers of self. Vanity is a lust for beauty. James 1:14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (desire).” It’s coming from within us. “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” This is a lust for beauty. These counselees could be described as not motivated by a love for God or love for others, but by the love of self and other’s approval. First John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lust, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” These are things to teach your counselees, but you need to speak the truth in love. You need to explain; you need to teach them. Talk about the Old Testament emphasis. Talk about the New Testament emphasis. Let God convict them.

Third, instead of being jealous, we should be glad for others if they are more beautiful. It’s hard not to hate them, but we have to forgive them for being beautiful. You have to tell yourself, “It’s okay that they’re more beautiful,” and thank the Lord for it. First Corinthians 13:4 says that love is not jealous.

Fourth, learn to accept compliments graciously, believing that the other person was sincere. Do not judge their motives. Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think on things that are lovely, assuming the best about the other person. First Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love is not rude. I know women whose husbands try to compliment them, and they don’t feel pretty, so they just become offended by their husband. Eventually their husbands will quit telling them how pretty they are.

Fifth, realize that true beauty lies on the inside, not the outside. This is what is precious in God’s sight. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above…” We need to help our counselees think about God and have an awe of Him. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” This is our purpose. It’s to glorify God and proclaim His excellencies instead of worshipping ourselves and obsessing about ourselves. We can look to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as an example. The Bible says she was beautiful, but it is also said of her, especially later on in her life, that she adorned herself by being submissive to her husband. Then Peter goes on to describe her as a holy woman who hoped in God. I remember the first time I read the Bible as a new Christian, and I remember reading that verse. I thought, “Lord, make me like that. I want to be a holy one. I don’t want to be old.” She’s a holy woman of old, but now I am old, but I want to be a holy woman who hopes in God. Another example is our Lord Jesus Christ. We know from Isaiah 53:2 that there was nothing about His appearance that we should be attracted to Him. We know from scripture that King David was a handsome man. I wish we could have seen him, maybe we will someday. David wrote about the Lord’s beauty, and he described it as the beauty of His holiness in Psalm 27:4 and 29:2. Don’t you love that?  

There are lots of scriptural warnings concerning vanity. Vanity is vain according to Proverbs 31:30. It’s a depressing pursuit and ultimately hopeless. Beauty, says Proverbs 6:25, is one of the ways the adulteress draws her prey. The young man is warned not to seek her beauty in his heart. Jerusalem trusted in her beauty. God had bestowed great splendor on her, and she played the harlot, turning to idols (Ezekiel 16:5). Satan’s heart was lifted up because of his beauty (Ezekiel 28:17). 

Teach your counselees to not be legalistic about dress and makeup. Some people don’t wear any makeup and only drab clothing. And this is dog-ugly! There’s no reason for that. Enjoy the freedom that God has given you; it’s okay to have some external adornment. But some people really think that the plainer and drabber they are, the more pleasing to God they are.

They may be delighting in what Colossians 2 says is self-abasement; that’s asceticism. Colossians 2:23 says, “These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” Outward beauty without inner beauty is a monstrosity. Proverbs 11:22 says, “As a gold ring in a pig’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks moral discretion.” The Bible describes the vain woman as a lover of self, a form of pride in Romans 12:3 and 2 Timothy 3:2. They’re not content, not grateful, have a lust for beauty and are not motivated by love for God and love for others. Exhort her to turn her passion from loving herself and calling attention to herself or avoiding people to a passion for God and serving Him regardless of what she looks like. She must thank God for what she looks like and be grateful no matter what. Encourage her to grow old gracefully in order to leave a legacy for her daughters and the younger women in the church that it was the Lord Jesus who mattered to her. Don’t live as a vain and proud woman but as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). Vain, proud women can go one of two ways. They can flaunt how they look to call attention to themselves or they can obsess over their body flaws and be depressed and anxious.

You want to teach her a high view of God. Take her through a good study of His attributes such as A.W. Pink’s little book The Attributes of God. I use that a lot. It’s not easy reading there, but the chapters are short. I would tell her every time you get to a Scripture reference that’s cited or even written out, stop reading and look it up in your Bible and think about it. Go back and underline the parts that you stand out to you, that you think are important. Then when she comes back to counseling, we go page by page, and she tells me what stood out to her, and I’ll tell her what stood out to me. You want to teach her the put off and put on concept by having her do a self-talk log, and then coach her on setting her mind on the things above now. I have a website,, and I have some free Bible studies on there that you can download and use, such as the salvation worksheets and the sanctification study. Then there’s the put off and put on study. At the end of the studies, if the counselee does the homework, there is a place that asks what you know you need to put on and off. This will just make a nice little list that can be your future agendas for counseling. 

Transforming our Thinking

I made a chart called Vanity, a Self-Focus versus a Mind Set on the Things Above, a God Focus. 

1. If I could just be ten pounds lighter, then I could be satisfied. Instead, I should think, “I have the freedom in the Lord to diet and lose 10 pounds, but whether I do or not, Father, help me to be like Paul and learn to be content (Philippians 4:11).” 

2.  I wonder if that young man noticed me. Instead, I should think, “I’m going to serve the Lord with gladness, whether that young man ever notices me or not (Psalm 100:2).” 

3. I cannot go to church because of the scar on my arm. People will notice. Instead, I should think, “I can go to church, and I will because the Scripture says to. I’m going to go because I love the Lord, and if I have to feel uncomfortable, I will just have to feel uncomfortable (Hebrews 10:25).

4. She was looking at me. She thinks I’m ugly. Instead, I should think, “I have no idea what she’s thinking. Only God knows. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and I’ll smile at her and say ‘Hello.'” First Corinthians 4:5 says we are forbidden to judge motives and hidden things. The Lord will do that when He comes back.

5. My thighs are misshapen. Instead, I should think, “Well, these are the thighs that God gave me. They look like my mother’s. Thank you, God, that no matter what they look like, I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.”

6. I hate what I look like. Instead, I should think, “Lord, forgive me for being so self-focused and ungrateful. I’m praising You for what I look like (Psalm 150:6).” 

7. Why did God grace her with such beauty and make me look like this. Instead, I should think, “Lord, I’m glad for her that she’s so pretty, and I’m going to tell her.” Love is not jealous. 

8. I’m too tall. I hate being tall. Instead, I should think, “Lord, thank you for making me tall and giving me life. Help me to focus on showing love to others instead of thinking about myself (Matthew 22:39).” 

9. I can’t stand it when I look in the mirror. Instead, I should think, “Actually, the truth is that I can. Instead of inspecting all my flaws, I’m going to sing a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to God when I look in the mirror (Ephesians 4:19-20).” The person who’s Spirit-filled, meaning controlled by the Spirit, is singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making melody in her heart to the Lord. I just had cataract surgery this summer, so now I can see a lot better. I can see what I look like a lot better. I used to be kind of hazy and fuzzy, and now I’m like, “Oh my word, I didn’t know I look like that.” 

10.  I confess that I check my body flaws many times per day. I even have a particular order—my neck, my hips, my thighs, my ankles, etc.  Father, forgive me for being obsessed with my body. Help me to remember when I’m tempted to turn to You in thanksgiving and praise. Psalm 100 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” 

11. I’ve tried to lose weight. Everyone that says I’m too thin, but they’re just trying to be nice. I can see what I look like. Instead, I should think, “They may be right. These are what the Bible calls the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6). They are trying to help me. I will thank them, pray, and ask God to show me, and go to the doctor and let him evaluate whether or not I’m medically too thin.”

12. My husband wants to have sex, but I can’t bear to let him see my body. Instead, I should think, “Lord, help me to minister to my husband in this way. Help me to concentrate on pleasing him instead of obsessing about what I look like (1 Corinthians 7:5).

13. A friend said I looked pretty at church, but I know that’s not what she was really thinking. I was rude and unloving when I did not simply and graciously say “Thank you.” Instead, I should think, “Only God can know what she was thinking (1 Corinthians 13:5).” 

14. I cannot afford to have plastic surgery, but I’m going to anyway, and I’m going to charge it. The right thought would be, “I’m reminded that the ‘wicked borrows and does not repay.’ Father, forgive me for thinking such a thing (1 John 1:9).” 


We do live in a very vain and narcissistic society. You can’t even turn on the news without seeing women dressed inappropriately. We’re just like the Jewish women in Isaiah’s time, the daughters of Zion. We biblical counselors can help our counselees turn from their vanity to setting their minds on the things above. They can learn to be content and actually be beautiful in God’s sight. Let me read again 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”