On Plastic Surgery

Saw a post today on plastic surgery, and it reminded me of some thoughts I’ve had recently about the topic.

Korean women and men who have undergone plastic surgery have become the butt of many jokes. We’ve all seen articles detailing the statistics, or the before/after pictures, or row after row of images of almost identical Korean pageant models, or the family with the attractive parents who have the not-so-attractive children. We chuckle incredulously, and we comment, “Why would anyone do that to themselves? Why can’t they just love themselves for who they are? It’s what’s on the inside that matters.”

As is often the irony, we who make such comments do not practice what we preach. Not even close. Every single one of us has ignored or treated differently other men and women simply because we did not find them attractive. (If you cannot admit this, you’re either a fraud or you’re Jesus. I know I’m guilty.) We say with our mouths, “It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” but through our actions, we show precisely the opposite. And after some time, after seeing how good-looking people are treated, after job opportunities are lost to better-looking candidates, after being ignored at the club or the church over and over, after seeing the type of men and women idolized by the media, people put two and two together. Is it any wonder people feel incredible pressure to make themselves look better?

Ultimately, we all do it. Through the makeup we wear, the way we dress, the way we do our hair, and the way we diet and workout, we all try to manipulate our appearance because deep down inside so many of us believe it matters (though, again, we say the opposite). Yet, we have the audacity to look down our noses at those who take the surgery route to make opportunities for themselves? Yes, it’s more drastic, but is it fundamentally any different?

The pressure society places on men and women regarding looks is relentless and merciless. Certainly, there are people who are able to bear it, like the woman in that TED talk. But not everyone is able, and many do end up getting plastic surgery. Now, let’s think about this for a second. Do those people really need our mockery for genes they could not control? Have we thought about what life experiences and circumstances led them to make that decision? Are we unable to imagine what kind of history of pain and turmoil could culminate in a person opting for cosmetic surgery, and do we really think that person needs more pain heaped on top of this after s/he gets the procedure? Indeed, motivations vary from person to person, and I am not here necessarily condoning the practice, but, from what I can tell, past pain is often a catalyst for plastic surgery. Christians, how does the gospel say we should respond?

I regret greatly and I repent for the way I have talked about plastic surgery in the past. The plank in my own eye is large. I only pray and hope that I can do my part in changing what society values and that I can see the humanity in every person I meet regardless of their appearance and regardless of their history regarding cosmetic surgery.

In an interview I posted some time ago, Dustin Hoffman had this to say about his role in Tootsie and the realization he had when the makeup artists said they couldn’t make him more beautiful: “I went home and started crying, talking to my wife. And I said, I have to make this picture. And she said, Why? And I said, Because I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill physically the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out. There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. And, that was never a comedy for me.

Those who get plastic surgery are not comedy; they are people. And Jesus loves people.

[Image Source: http://www.seoultouchup.com]

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