Society has brainwashed us into becoming a bunch of shallow douchebags and frightened clones. (Myself included.) Now what do I mean by that eloquent and sophisticated statement? Society has brainwashed us into using observations of a physical body to make value judgments about a soul and consequently frightened us into conformity to their standards. I submit to you that we are not merely a body with a soul, but we are a soul inhabiting a body made in the image of God, and I challenge you to challenge the standards society has built and break them down. I challenge you to let your freak flag fly… it means BE YOU, flaws and all. Be vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown says “Vulnerability breeds connection.”
According to an article on Body image on Brown.edu, “Intolerance of body diversity has a lot to do with the meaning of size and shape in our culture. Being thin and/or muscular has become associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.” Being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking in will-power.” As a result, “fat” isn’t a description like tall or redhead – it’s an indication of moral character: fat is bad. Size prejudice is absorbed at a very young age; children as young as five have ascribed negative characteristics to silhouettes of fatter children. In part, this is because size prejudice is also widely reinforced; media, friends, family, and even well-respected health professionals can echo the message that fatness is inherently wrong and dangerous, thereby exacerbating the pressure to control our bodies.”
Once upon a time, I looked like this.
A boy called me fat in front of my entire youth group and no one said a word. No one stood up for me. No one apologized. That silence still rings in my ears to this day. That’s when I knew something had to change. I was trapped in a body I didn’t want. So I stopped eating, and puked up whatever I didn’t eat. I lost 50 lbs over the summer between middle school and high school and the next year I gained it all back and then some and endured more ridicule from my peers. I became judgmental toward others in order to protect myself from others judging me. My physical appearance became my identity, because other people seemed to think I was nothing more than my outward appearance so it must have been true, right?
Tina Fey, in her book titled “Bossypants" comments on the burden of perfection the media has placed upon women and men. She says, “I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then…Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
We must look a certain way to be accepted by society. Which, according to the Bible, is completely untrue. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If we are to follow Christ to become more like God, then we must do the same. Luke 18:9-14 says, He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This is apparent evidence that God does not only refuse to define us by our outward appearance, but also does not define us by our works, good or bad, but at the motives behind our actions and at the state of our heart. We can all do good things for the wrong reasons as well as bad things with good intentions. Everyone knows the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10, God accepted and called upon Zacchaeus not because of what he looked like OR what he did, which he happened to be a tax collector, which was a pretty dishonest job, but because Zacchaeus sought Jesus. That’s why Jesus picked Zacchaeus out of the entire crowd of people surrounding him. Zacchaeus was earnestly desiring to know Christ, and Christ blessed him for it. Jesus did not dismiss Zacchaeus because of the terrible sins he had committed, but Jesus loved Zach in spite of his sins. So who are we to dismiss others by what they do or look like if God doesn’t? That mentality puts ourselves on a pedestal higher than God and reflects our arrogant attitude. No one is greater than God that they may judge another for who they are inside or out. James 2 says Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This passage speaks against favoring the rich and dismissing the poor simply because of their appearances. Christ came to this earth to free us from the enslaving standards and laws by which we needed to measure up. Because he lived a perfect life, and took our imperfections and crucified them with him on the cross, we are now free to be imperfect and boast in our weaknesses because in our weakness, Christ is strong. Christ is glorified in our weaknesses! This does not give us the excuse to sin, but the freedom to come before God and others unashamed, unafraid, and no longer defined by our flaws and sins, and we can declare we are righteous because of Christ! He did not choose a bunch of morally and spiritually strong superstars to carry out his will in the bible, he chose a couple of tattletales, a murderer, whiney prophets, drunkards, swol meatheads easily persuaded by hotties like Delilah, and even shady tax collectors and prostitutes. He did not do this to show the power of humanity, but the weakness of humanity and the power of God in our weaknesses!
When will we stop making value judgments based on appearances? I say let your freak flag fly. I’m done hiding who I am because society tells me who I am is not enough. I’m done worrying about what people say about my appearance. If people call me a freak for it, then I’m going to let my freak flag fly and resist shaming myself for who I am any longer. I challenge you to start letting your freak flag fly and giving others the freedom to let them fly their freak flag as well. I’ll start the ball rolling. My name is Erin Darling, and I curse like a sailor; I’ve survived depression and a suicide attempt; I obviously love food; I have hip dysplasia and have had 7 surgeries to correct that birth defect; I’ve spent over $200 on Legend of Zelda merchandise; I obviously love Star Trek. And most of Jesus still loves a freak like me, and I love Him back.
Now here is a song called Freak Flag, from the stage musical Shrek! It pretty much sums up perfectly (and melodically) what I've been trying to say.