A Social Awakening of Sorts

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About two weeks ago, I stumbled upon this article.

I’ll give you a quick rundown: Match.com released advertisements in London that suggested that certain physical characteristics are “imperfections”. They showed a close up photo of a woman’s face with freckles and red hair. This was paired with another ad that featured a man with heterochromia. The text overlay read “If you don’t like your imperfections, someone else will.” And “#LoveYourImperfections”. Seems a little counterproductive, but we’ll get back to that.

Enter angry mob with torches and pitchforks.

Internet denizens cried foul, accusing the advertisements of bullying. Twitter was ablaze with social justice warrior rants. Match.com eventually broke under the pressure and had the advertisements removed.

In the middle of all this, I had a social awakening of sorts.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the unpopular opinion that our current generation is overly-sensitive and that we’re creating a society of victims by crying bullying at everything. I’ve even seen articles comparing the soft, weak young men of today with the tough, burly young men of yesteryear who got drafted into wars. Because that’s a totally fair comparison. For the most part, I tuned it all out. I consider myself and my friends to be functioning members of society with healthy levels of self-esteem. We know where our worth lies and we aren’t so easily shaken. I believed the same was true of my fellow young people.

But, wow. Watching all of this drama unfold made me realize just how much power people give to anything that upsets them, particularly in advertising and media. I’m not about to deny that there’s some unfair standard-setting malarkey going on in the industry at large, but these ads were hardly bullying. They were tactless and clumsy at best, yet some couldn’t bear to look at them because they claimed it would make them feel awful about their physical appearance (you can read about this in the article). People are now priding themselves on another battle won against bullying, but really all they’ve done is shown that almost anything the media says will send the general public spiraling out of control.

As someone who possesses freckles, I was not offended by these advertisements at all. I was mystified by them more than anything. Their biggest crime was that they totally missed the tone that a dating website advertisement should strike. Up-close shots are often used to produce an uncomfortable or intense atmosphere. So they don’t exactly draw in the masses to find their true love. Also, that tagline. #LoveYourImperfections? Love my imperfections after you’ve implied that I don’t? Love the imperfections that someone else will love for me anyway? This doesn’t make any sense! Who green-lighted this mess? I digress.

There’s no need to go on a witch-hunt every time something in the media rubs us the wrong way. Let’s start choosing our battles a bit more wisely – if we don’t, anything and everything will eat us alive.

Stressing to Impress

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Trying to impress someone else isn’t a bad thing. It drives us to do more and to be more than we ever would have if we weren’t doing it with another person in mind. The more it’s possible that we might lose that person, the more we are usually willing to do for them. The people we try to impress most are usually strangers to us.

It’s terrible, isn’t it? But I would rather go out of my way for a guy I think is cute than for one of my brothers. I would rather go out of my way for a girl I think is cool than for one of my own sisters. I would rather go out of my way for a professor or a boss than my own mother. I think I do this because I know my family has to love me no matter what I do. Strangers are free to choose whether to love me or not.

Even worse, we do even less to impress God, who loves us eternally and unconditionally. The Bible tells us to do everything to God’s glory, but so much of what we do is to advance our own interests.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Wanting to impress strangers isn’t bad, as long as we’re not trying to impress them in sinful ways, but it shouldn’t be our priority. Impressing God should be our priority. If we focus on impressing God first, we’ll find ourselves loving family and strangers alike more deeply and more completely than we can currently imagine.