Dani Mathers, the 2015 Playboy Playmate of the Year, is in trouble. She is facing possible jail time.
In July, 2016, she accidentally posted publicly on Snapchat a selfie in which she feigns shock next to a surreptitiously taken photo of a nude elderly woman showering in the locker room of an LA Fitness exercise center. “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either,” she posted.
The public reaction was swift and brutal. About the nicest thing said was, “Shame on you for body-shaming a woman who should be applauded for caring about her physical health!”
Mathers quickly deleted the photo, and issued several apologies:
In those apologies she said, among other things:
“That is not the type of person I am.”
When Annette and I saw the story, our reaction was:
Well yes, Ms. Mathers, that is exactly the type of person you are. It was a rude and shameful thing to do, regardless of whether you sent the photo and message publicly or only as “part of a personal conversation with a girlfriend,” as you originally intended.
The good news, however, is that you don’t have to keep being that type of person.
Seeing who we are is the first step
Mathers does seem to be genuinely sorry for what she did. In her apologies, she said, “I have never done this before, I will never do this again. You have my word.”
And that is good. The most important part of being truly sorry for our wrong actions is to commit ourselves to never repeating them because we recognize that they are wrong.
But when Mathers says, “That is not the type of person I am,” she is fooling herself. And she’s making it harder for herself not to be that type of person.
You see, our words and actions come from the person we are. And sometimes they show us things about ourselves that we would rather not see. Sometimes, when we are blind to our own character flaws and they slip out into public view, as happened with Ms. Mathers, we are forced to look at parts of our own character that we would rather avoid.
That, too, is good. Seeing exactly who we are as a person right now is the first step.
Another way of saying this is that if we don’t see the ugly parts of ourselves, we can never develop our beauty.
The first step in developing physical beauty is to assess the current state of our body. This tells us what we need to work on.
In the very same way, the first step in developing spiritual beauty is to assess the current state of our character. When we discover parts of ourselves that are really rather ugly, it tells us what we need to work on.
It would be better for Mathers to honestly admit, “That is the type of person I am.” Recognizing this, she could then honestly apologize for the ugliness of character that she showed by her actions, and commit herself to overcoming that ugliness and developing beauty of character.
How to develop beauty
Developing health and beauty, whether physical or spiritual, starts with seeing, recognizing, and acknowledging the parts of our body or of our spirit that don’t match our goals and ideals for ourselves.
This means both setting realistic goals and recognizing where we haven’t yet met those goals.
For example, if we want to reach our best body weight for our height and body type, we must first:
- Consult standard health references to determine what our weight should be, and:
- Weigh ourselves on an accurate scale to determine what our body weight actually is.
This tells us just how much weight we need to lose. We can then start on a diet and exercise regimen to achieve our goals. Once we have achieved them, we can stick with a healthful diet and exercise regimen to maintain our body at the goals of weight and general health that we have set for ourselves.
In the very same way, if we want to develop beauty of character, we must first:
- Adopt and develop a standard of inner beauty for ourselves, and:
- Assess our current character and determine what we are actually like as a person right now.
This tells us how much “weight” of inner ugliness we are currently carrying around in our psyche. We can then engage in a regimen of a healthful diet for our mind and heart, and of exercising our ability to speak and act in more kind and thoughtful ways.
Spiritual diet and exercise
Diet and exercise apply just as much to our spirit as they do to our body.
A healthful diet for our mind and heart consists of learning what it means to be a person of beautiful character.
There are many sources for a healthful spiritual diet. Here are just a few:
- We can read inspirational and self-help books.
- We can watch videos about how to develop ourselves as person.
- We can listen to our friends, co-workers, teachers, and even our boss when they tell us what we’ve said or done that is problematic, and how we could do better.
- And of course, if we belong to a religious congregation, we can learn from our spiritual leaders and from the sacred literature of our religion.
If we want to develop beauty of character, we must feed our mind and heart with a regular diet of new understanding, wisdom, and yes, love. Because in addition to feeding our minds, we must also feed our hearts by accepting and sharing the love of our family, our friends, and the good people we see and meet each day.
As we feed our minds and hearts in this way, we must also commit ourselves to a regimen of exercising our abilities to be thoughtful, kind, and loving.
What does that mean?
It’s really very simple:
- It means committing ourselves to saying things that are good and true, rather than lying to ourselves and others, complaining about everyone and everything, and generally spewing a lot of toxic substances out of our mouths.
- And it means committing ourselves to treating other people with kindness and thoughtfulness, and serving other people in good, practical, and helpful ways in our job, at home, and when we’re out and about in the community, whether that community is local or virtual.
In short, exercising to develop beauty of character means practicing beauty of character every day in our words and actions.
Getting over the hump
This can be a lot harder to do in reality than it sounds on paper.
When we are physically unhealthy—living on junk food and being couch potatoes—it can feel like the hardest thing in the world to start eating more healthfully and to get ourselves up off our duff and start exercising regularly.
But really, the hardest part is just getting going in the first place.
An automobile uses considerably more fuel when accelerating from a stopped position than it does when it’s cruising along the road at a constant speed. In the very same way, it takes a lot more energy and effort of will to initially get ourselves going toward a more healthful life than it does when we’ve reached the “cruising speed” of our new and more healthful way of living.
So keep in mind, as you drag yourself off the sofa to actually cook some good food, or to get out for a brisk walk or for a whirl on the elliptical machines at the local gym, that it gets better and easier than it is right now. Once you get over the initial hump, you’ll find your own cruising speed. And before long you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do this a lot sooner.
Developing inner, spiritual beauty works the very same way.
At first, when we realize with a shock that we really aren’t as good and beautiful a person as we thought we were, it’s tempting to throw up our hands say, “Forget it! This is just too depressing!” and give up before we even get started.
That’s exactly when we need to assure ourselves that the first few steps will the hardest, and after that it will get easier.
- It may seem impossible to actually pick up that self-help book and start reading it. But once we do start reading, the hardest part is already behind us. From that point onward, we just have to keep on going.
- It may seem impossible not to spew out our usual streams of complaints at all of the latest awful stuff, and instead look for something good that someone has said or done, and say “Thanks! I appreciate that!” But once we actually start doing it, we find that not only is it not so hard, but it’s actually much more satisfying and enjoyable than all of our old anger and bitterness.
You see, the point of our life on earth is to grow into the best person we can be. When we pass on to the spiritual world, our character and direction will be set. We will remain the same person that we became here, and we will keep going in the same direction on our spiritual journey that we set for ourselves here on earth.
Spiritual growth takes practice and discipline. In the early stages, our inner self may not match our outer expressions of kindness. Even if we’ve learned to be kind and polite most of the time, we may feel very differently toward people within ourselves. And we may not feel like expending the effort to develop real love and patience for our fellow human beings.
But every once in a while, when we say or do something really mean or stupid, we may realize with a shock exactly why we need to expend that effort on developing our spiritual beauty.
If we do expend that effort, and persevere in our efforts, before long we will find that our expressions of kindness are becoming truly genuine on the inside. We will not only act kind and polite, we will be kind and polite. And though nobody’s perfect, we won’t say and do really mean and stupid things quite so often. That’s because instead of feeling superior to others, or jealous or angry or mean or spiteful, our inner thoughts and impulses will be mostly about how we can give others help, comfort, joy, and happiness.
And as I said earlier, our words and actions come from the person we are. When we develop our inner spiritual beauty, it shows in our words and actions.
Dani Mathers has a choice—and so do we
For Dani Mathers, it probably feels much easier to tell herself, and to try to convince the world, “That is not the type of person I am.” It would feel much harder for her to admit to herself, “Yes, that is the type of person I am,” and to do the hard work of overcoming that inner ugliness and developing her spiritual beauty.
And though it’s easy for us to join the mob and dump on Dani Mathers, the body-shaming beauty, don’t we all have the very same problem, each in our own way?
We all have our ugly parts. Sometimes those ugly parts break out into the open, as they did for Dani Mathers, and we feel the real shock of just how ugly we are, and can be, as a person.
When that happens to us, we have a choice to make.
- Will we justify ourselves, make excuses, and claim, “That’s not who I am”?
- Or will we recognize that that is who we are . . . and do the work required not to be that type of person anymore?
For each one of us, the choice is ours.
If we choose to put ourselves on a healthful regimen of spiritual diet and exercise, we can develop a beauty that does not fade as our physical body ages, but grows only more beautiful and lovely with the passing years.
And that is a beauty we can take with us to eternity.
For further reading:
- Paula Deen’s Secrets: The Inner Self Revealed
- Repentance: The Unpopular Partner of Forgiveness
- It’s not fair that God made some people incredibly beautiful, and others just average!
- Will My Body be the Right Weight and Appearance in the Afterlife?
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth