Genuine beauty

The global skin care industry generates some $24 billion a year. Some $38 billion dollars are spent on hair care products, $18 billion on cosmetics and $15 billion on perfume. The global cosmetic surgery industry — surgery performed solely to improve the appearance of healthy people, not plastic surgery generally to repair damage caused by accidents or deformities — rakes in some $20 billion, with between $13 billion to $15 billion in the United States alone. (Source: Alex Kuczynski, Beauty Junkie, 2006, Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, pp. 4, 7-8.)

Added to the costs of these products and services are those of clothes purchased in order to dress in the latest styles or fads, and gym memberships or home equipment to help tone and shape bodies. Many of these products and services, for the most part, are purchased in pursuit of beauty or, in numerous cases, in an effort to retain the appearance of youth.

Granted, some products and services fall into what society at large accepts as necessities: we need personal care items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and lotions to keep us clean and comfortable, clothing for a variety of occasions and seasons, and visits to barber shops or hair salons for cuts or trims. And day by day, we're learning how important it is to exercise in order to maintain our health and improve our level of fitness.

Still, the total costs of these products and services are almost beyond ability to comprehend. However, even if the dollar amount could be dismissed, there's another factor to tally: the time spent in searching out, evaluating, purchasing and applying these products or undergoing various procedures or regimes designed primarily to improve physical appearance.

What if we, as a society at large, were to invest as much time to improve our minds, enrich our souls and nurture our spirits as we do to enhance our outward appearances? What difference would it make in our lives if we spent as much time every day reading the scriptures as we spend in front of the mirror? To whom do we wish to be most presentable — the world or the Lord?

This is not an either/or situation. We need not give up personal care and exercise. It is a sign of proper social deportment and a positive statement regarding our dignity when we make an effort to look our best. Certainly, we don't want to be slovenly in our dress, unkempt in our appearance, lacking in our personal hygiene or become physically unconditioned. However, neither do we want to become "beauty junkies," so preoccupied with every detail of our grooming, fashion and exercise regimes that everything else is relegated to lower levels of importance.

The person whose schedule allows for an hour at the gym or running path six days a week but not even a few hours every month or so to attend the temple, when such a sacred edifice is within a distance to reasonably do so, might need to give some thought about what type of fitness is most desired — physical or spiritual. If a parent's calendar has a place for regular salon treatments but not personal time with a child then that parent might need to evaluate priorities. And if an individual can spend an hour or more on grooming every morning but can't find a few minutes for personal or family prayer, or scripture study, then perhaps more thinking might need to be done about what is really important: that which is on the surface or that which is in the heart, mind and soul?

No one is expected to forego basic grooming endeavors or exercises that enhance appearance, health and fitness. May we all, however, strive to find a balance of our time and resources in their applications with those efforts that produce inner beauty.

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