How to Age Gracefully in a Culture Obsessed with Beauty

How to Age Gracefully in a Culture Obsessed with Beauty

The day I turned 40 didn’t hit me the way I thought it would. I felt young, so I thought, “Why let a number bother me?”  Busyness defined me, but I had energy to sustain it all. I didn’t feel like I was “over the hill.”

Now that I’m almost 45, that feeling has slightly shifted. The number does bother me. It’s funny how five years can make a difference. Suddenly, I feel older. My body gets tired more quickly. Stress hits me in strange ways. My brain reaches capacity more quickly than it did in the past.

Our Culture’s Message on Age and Appearance

I am also noticing differences in how I look.  My thick, dark hair is suddenly thinning and showing shades of gray. Oh, and my eyelids are lower than they used to be, which I’ve learned are called “hoods.” And let’s not forget the many “distinct” lines on my face that weren’t there before.

graphic board for "For Everything There Is a Season: Reflections on Turning 40"Conversations about aging remedies are louder to me than they were before. My ears perk up when I hear women talk about medicine that helps your hair grow thicker, a new “firming” eye cream, or Botox. Our culture constantly bombards us with the ways we can and should look younger. It tells us that we should lose weight and look fitter, have our nails done, indulge in skin treatments, change our bodies surgically, and color our hair so it never looks gray.

It’s like we are living in a “Hunger Games”-esque world. It’s an older movie, but if you’ve seen it, you know how the people in “The Capital” have spent so much time, energy, and money on how they look that they almost don’t look like people anymore.  Similarly, it seems that we women are trying to remain young forever, always bettering the way we look and not allow the aging process to happen. 

I don’t write these thoughts in judgment. I get my nails done every month. I love a good pedicure. I have prioritized a facial every few months for the past 10 years. I exercise every single day and love feeling strong and fit. I enjoy new makeup and finding a firming eye cream that works (but is there one?). With age, I am beginning to see that it is endless, because there will always be something to “fix.” So as we get older, what can we chase that has lasting value? How can we age gracefully?

Where Do We Find Our Value when Youth and Beauty Disappears?

The Bible says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal(2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)

As we age, how can we focus on growing our character, i.e., what is “unseen,” within us? Proverbs 31 answers this question as it is often referred to as “The Woman of Noble Character.” For context, I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but here are six “unseen” qualities that stand out to my heart.

6 Qualities in Women Who Age Gracefully
Unseen quality #1: She is a steward.

She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; and her lamp burns late into the night. She is careful with her money” (Proverbs 31:13 & 18).

This woman is a good steward of what God has given her and a hard worker. God has given us all that we have and we get to take care of it for Him. Are we using what we have been given to the best of our abilities? Or are we just collecting more and letting things go to waste?

Unseen quality #2:  She helps those in need.

She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).  This one really hits me in the heart. I live in a nice neighborhood and teach at a private school. It seems like I don’t interact with people who are “in need” unless I go looking for them. It’s easy for us to sit comfortably with our friends who are just like us. Are we stepping out of our comfort zones and serving those in need?

Unseen quality #3: She has integrity.

She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25). What does the noble woman look like? First, she is wearing strength. Strength is defined as “the quality or state of being physically strong.” Are we taking care of the body God has given us?

Secondly, she wears dignity. Dignity means “being worthy of honor and respect.”  Do our words and actions cause others to respect us? Lastly, she laughs without fear of the future. She has loosened her grip and realized she isn’t in control of her life.  She trusts that her future is in God’s hands. Her emphasis is on growing in strength, dignity, and submission.

Unseen quality #4: She is wise with her words.

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). Whew, this is a tough one.  I like to talk and sometimes too much. We may have great things to say, but do we stop and consider our words before we speak them?  Are we kind with our words?

Unseen quality #5: She fights for her household.

She carefully watches over everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness” (Proverbs 31:27). Consider what the word “household” means for you. For me, it means my marriage, my children, and even my physical house.

As we consider what it means to “watch over our households,” we can ask: How are we paying attention to it? Often prayer is the best way! We can fight for our people by laying everything before God and asking him to take the reins. Prayer is a privilege and responsibility, and you may be the only one doing it.

Unseen quality #6: She fears (stands in awe of) the Lord.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised  (Proverbs 31:30). Drop the mic, ladies. Here it is. Firm skin, deep brown hair, fit legs, shiny nails—all of it fades! 1 Peter 3:4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

As we seek the Lord and grow in our relationship with him, we are becoming more beautiful with a beauty that never fades over time. In fact, it only increases more even as our outer self wastes away, because our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

I hope that my daughter’s generation of women will be eager to age because they see older women who fear the Lord, are wise, and assured of who they are in Him. While there is nothing wrong with caring about what we wear and how we look, let’s also strive to age gracefully and be intentional about cultivating wisdom. Let that be our emphasis because while our outward beauty may fade, God within us will radiate a beauty far greater than we can strive for.

We judge our own appearances and likely others’, too. Here’s how to see the beauty in those around us: Can We Just Admit We Judge Other Women? – 203

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