Over the last two weeks I've been going over some of the many, thoughtful responses to the JHJ Body Image survey. Last week we looked at the actions we can take to combat the negative body image that naturally arises when we find our husband is unfaithful, or has a sexual addiction.
Even more than those actions, women repeatedly stated that the greatest help in regaining a healthy sense of themselves and their bodies came from being careful about where they took their cues from.
Not Giving Credence to His (Negative) Opinion
In Beyond Boundaries Dr. John Townsend talks about the unhealthiness of putting too much emphasis on “the bad other.” When our husbands are in the addiction their thoughts and actions can be poisonous to themselves and others. Thus, any negative opinion they might have of our body should be (to whatever degree is possible) completely ignored.
Says one respondent: “I view my health as being more important than what he thinks. I really don't care what any man thinks of my body or me. I am happy with how I look, take care of me for me and believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Another respondent states: “It's not about him any more, it's about maintaining my health as I age.”
Listening to His (Positive) Opinion
It may sound like I’m contradicting myself (didn’t I just say to ignore his opinion?), but the fact is that as our husbands recover they can contribute positively to our body image.
There's one problem with that, though: multiple survey respondents mentioned that it’s difficult (perhaps impossible) to take anything positive he says at face value. This is a normal response to having been lied to (repeatedly, and about fundamental issues) in the past.
I’ve found that time and consistency can change our reluctance to hear him. In the meantime, it may help to remember that any understanding our husbands get of our true beauty is a revelation from God. When they verbally express that, they are being a vessel of God’s goodness in our lives. Considering how much time they’ve spent being a tool of Satan… this is a definite improvement.
Said one respondent, who was doing well in her body image journey, “My husband has been very affirming since getting into recovery. He says… he loves who I am inside and out. He regularly tells me I'm beautiful and the object of his desire now... Interestingly his complete acceptance of me as I am has helped me be motivated to make some changes. I've lost 25 pounds, and we have started walking together.”
Listening to God’s Opinion
When asked “What techniques have you found helpful in rebuilding your body image” the number one recurring answer was "God." Whether it was through prayer, reading scripture, or simply seeking out His opinion, turning to God helped women find the truth of who they really are. Here are some of the more in-depth explanations of that journey from respondents:
“Yes my view of myself has improved for I see that it is so carnal and useless to dwell on how bodies look. That is not God's desire for my focus. I look to Him more and more for my self-confidence. I am aging. Big deal! So does everyone unless they die young."
“I had a deep desire to know that I was attractive to the opposite sex but the Lord helped me from the beginning to see that kind of thinking as a black hole: behavior that would grieve Him. Something that would take me and my whole family down, down, down. I am SO GRATEFUL. I have had real victory here but am always aware that I could slip."
“I admire older women now even more because I see there is beauty in aging. I want that. I see women aging gracefully. I admire them for it. I look for examples from older women who have no control of how old they are and have no control over their looks but are still doing God's work and not allowing their looks to define who they are. That's it really, I can't let what my husband did and what he saw define who I am. I am first and foremost Christ's. I am of a high value to Him, He bought me with His life.”
Taking our cues from God, and the people He's speaking through (including our sisters on this journey), is the course of wisdom.
Thank You Survey Participants!
A big thank you to every woman who participated in the Body Image survey. I wish I could hug each of you. I’d ask God to put something of his love and truth into that hug. The truth that you are a creation of mind-blowing, eternal glory.
May you get a glimpse today of your own beauty… and the beauty of the One who made you this way and delights in you.
In the coming weeks I'll be looking at the results of the new JHJ Spiritual Crisis survey.
This song combines two of my favorite chapters in scripture: Isaiah 61 and Isaiah 55.