Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality

For most, if not all of us, appearance is something we’ve struggled with. At a certain age, we become aware of, or even obsessed with how we look, pushing ourselves to prove our worth to everyone. This might not just be in terms of appearance, but also things like getting good grades or having the most friends. 

Appearance is a big problem because we feel like we have to look good or perform to be accepted. We all have different reasons – maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better, or even to impress the person we like. But does appearance really fill in that empty void we have at the bottom of our hearts? Is this what God wants for us?

For me, it started at around sixth grade. Being the introverted and closed-off person I was, I could only look at the ‘cool’ girls from a distance. Thoughts like “I don’t dress as cool as them” or even “I’m not as thin as them” filled my mind. And as an 11-year-old, this obviously wasn’t the best mindset. 

Fast forward to now, I’ve come to realise that what matters and what God looks at isn’t people’s perception of us, but it is our hearts. 

… 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.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Body Positivity or Body Neutrality

One day, I was scrolling through Instagram and I found an interesting topic about ‘Body Positivity’ vs ‘Body Neutrality’. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, here’s the difference between the two:

Body Positivity: “All people should love their bodies as they are”, “Your body is beautiful regardless of what society says”, “Everyone is beautiful in their own way

Body Neutrality: “Your appearance shouldn’t determine your value”, “We are who we are – we can’t change ourselves, so we should just accept who we are

The Psychology behind this

People are all different – some gain confidence by telling themselves positive mantras such as “I am beautiful”, “I love myself” or “I’ll do whatever my heart feels is right” until they become reality. But this doesn’t work – it’s rather toxic and could, in fact, make us feel worse

Whereas on the other hand, Body Neutrality teaches that we should just accept who we are – that there is no need to love or hate yourself, and that we should just accept our bodies, focusing on what it does for us.

A Recollection of thoughts

Now at first glance, I thought I sided with the Body Neutrality side, seeing that it’s more realistic, but on second thought, there were way more factors that came to mind. Here’s what stood out the most to me:

We are created in the image of God.

If we open to the very first chapter of our Bibles and look at verse 27, we see a verse that is crucial for us to understand. It reads: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”. This world is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. With so many new changes, new beliefs and new ‘norms’, we can find that it’s harder for us to hold onto the truth, that is, Jesus

After God created everything, He saw everything that He had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31). He created humans as the pinnacle of all creation, according to His image. Not long after this, in chapter 3 of Genesis, man falls into sin. Through this, the image of God is defaced – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Because of sin, we are destroyed. We seek for things in the world, hoping to find something that will satisfy us – this might include fame or money. We end up trapped in lies about our identity and self worth. Looking at our reflection in the mirror, we conclude that we are imperfect. We realise that all is vanity

In the New Testament, Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In the original language, to destroy means to utterly perish. Our one and only hope is in Christ Jesus who died and redeemed us, defeating the power of sin and death. 

On the cross, Christ sacrificed Himself to pay for our sins, giving us our new self, and because of that, we are renewed and sanctified continually. Paul says in Colossians 3:10, “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator”.

Since we’re created in the image of God, we are to set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). In everything we do, we must do it for God. This includes how we act, how we dress and how we treat our body. 

So how do we apply this to our lives?

Which view should we hold on to? Body positivity or neutrality? Truth be told, neither of these are precise. While we may see people showing off their trendy clothes or their seemingly perfect lives, remember that we are called to be different. Jesus said that if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, [because He] chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

We are made in His image, and our absolute highest purpose is to glorify and enjoy God forever.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Vivienne Han (17) writes and designs for RE Generation-Z. She hopes to use her interests to bring more teens to Jesus. When she isn’t busy drawing, you’ll find her watching random Ted-Eds or tending to her succulent garden.

The World’s Lies, God’s Truth. What’s Next?

Binge-watching & The Good Doctor

As soon as I got home from Teens camp, my brother and I decided to watch a The Good Doctor episode. For those who don’t know, The Good Doctor is an exciting drama depicting the ups and downs of life from the perspective of professional medical personnel, especially from the shoes of Dr Murphy, a resident surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital who suffers from savant syndrome and autism. As always, this show does not fail to coat a canvas with the variant colours of human emotions. Set in a hospital, sadness is sketched in times of death, loneliness is shaded in times of isolation, and anxiety is painted in times of painful suffering.

All seems good and well to the audience who watches this show. They might shed a tear here and there or relate to frustration and hopelessness experienced by bed-ridden patients. Such cathartic experiences seem normal to us, enjoyable at least, if not satisfying and crave-fulfilling.

Binge-watching TV shows have become one of our generation’s biggest cultural norms since streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Stan, and Disney Plus became popular in recent years. We all enjoy it because we all love stories. We love to watch others’ lives that we can relate or dream of relating to, whether it be imagining yourself with the confidence of Superman or imagining yourself as the girl who gets all the handsome guys in your favourite K-drama.

Worldly lies in our everyday life

But, do you know, that behind all these seemingly natural and neutral experiences, movies and TV shows have a much more significant influence on us than we can imagine? In The Good Doctor, behind all these entertaining medical stories, a worldly culture of pride, arrogance and “follow your dreams” is seen in the doctors’ actions. Even more so, away from the hospital, a culture of free sex and frequent partner changing is definitely an unquestionable norm. Not to also mention the deliberate choice of character diversity picturing, male, female, transgender, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, you name it. It is clearly evident that this show is trying to put out their post-modern philosophy of, “don’t judge. Let’s all be equal because the truth is relative. You can’t say I’m wrong, and I won’t say you’re wrong either”.

Satan’s lies like these underpin the majority of media we consume. They are so subtle that if it’s not by God’s grace, then we will never realise that it’s everywhere. It’s in our Netflix, our YouTube, our Instagram, our Snapchat, everywhere. We can’t run away; 24/7 we are bombarded by worldly philosophies that subtly seep into our skin ever so slowly that we fail to realise we’ve changed.

Ideal vs Reality

We’ve just spent three days you could say, “bombarded” by the Word of God. There were no phones, so no distractions from social media. Great. God’s Truth – 100% win! Satan’s Lies – 100% lose! But the reality is, that’s not everyday life. We can’t get rid of all screens. And the solution is definitely not ditching the internet and running to a monastery somewhere in the mountains. We still live in this world even though God says we are not of this world.

So, my question is, what’s next? We don’t live in retreat world where all we do is read the Bible. In fact, God does not call us to live an everyday life in retreat world where we are in a safe sanctuary, away from anything to do with the world. God as called us to be apart from the world, but He calls us to live in the world to accomplish His will and serve those who need Christ. And so, now that we are no longer in retreat, how do we stand amidst the striking temptations of Satan?

1)  Read God’s Word Every day.

I genuinely encourage and would go as far as to say that this is a definite must for anyone who calls themselves followers of Christ. The world will continue to bombard us with lies, and how can we counter lies if not with the Truth? Christ is the Truth, and Christ is fully revealed in the Bible. If you don’t read God’s Word, you’re a dead man trying to stand against Satan’s multitude of legions. Christ is the Truth, and only He can bring us victory against sin and against the lies of this world. 

When I say read God’s Word, I don’t mean a quick glance at today’s devotional or skimming past the verse of the day on your Bible app. I mean a true strive to get to know the Truth and get to know Christ personally through His Word. It takes time, effort, grit, tears, a broken heart, and a whole lot of prayer to catch a glimpse of who Christ truly is, to catch a glimpse of the Truth. But it’s totally worth it.

I said earlier that we all loved stories and relating to other people’s experiences. Well, the Bible is the ultimate story. It is the true, factual reality of this universe. And it depicts not only of experience we can relate to but experiences we can relate in because we are part of this story. We are part of God’s ultimate story. We are people whom God chose before He created the world, we are people God sent Jesus for, we are people who God leads now in sanctification, and we are people who God will rise in glory at the end of times. Read Ephesians 1 for more.

We must acquaint ourselves with the Truth. Apart from Him, we have no hope. A soldier would not dare to go into battle without armour and training. O, Christian, do you dare to venture into this world without being equipped with the Truth who can set us free? I encourage everyone to give our mornings to seek God in His Word before we do anything else. Even before we check our phones, so that before we set our eyes on the world we are called to serve, we have started our day by fixing our eyes on the Truth, our one and only hope.

2)  Find community. Find church.

Apart from getting to know God personally through reading God’s Word, we need a community of believers who can encourage us in our walk of faith. Who has ever felt like their devotions are dry, empty and with no real knowing of God? My hand is definitely up.

God does not call us to be individual Christians. In fact, God has called us to be the body of Christ. He has called us to be in communion with each other, with fellow believers so that we might build one another and encourage one another to grow in faith and preserve in following Christ. See Ephesians 4 for more.

If you’ve never been part of a church community, I’ll say, you have to find some. If you are part of a church community, let me ask, is there real communion that takes place as God intended? Is church community to you just a friendship club or is it filled with a genuine love for one another after Christ’s love to build one another up and encourage one another to grow in coming to know and love Christ who is the Truth? Remember, we’re in this together.

3)  Pray. Pray like a helpless man because you are.

We can try our best to read God’s Word every day, we can be active in church community and ministry, but there is one thing we can’t do: know God, know the Truth who is Christ. As Matthew 11:27 says, “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Here is the reality, and here is an essential point.

If God does not work to reveal Himself to us, there is no way we can know Him. If His Spirit does not work, our hearts cannot be changed. John 15:5 truly holds, “apart from [Christ] you can do nothing”. And so, what can we do?

Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matt 5:3). Those who are warriors of Christ are warriors of prayer, warriors of complete utter helplessness in self ability and are in complete utter surrender to God who will provide us with the gift of knowing Him, living for Him and being used by Him.

Apart from God, we indeed are nothing as humans, and so, let us surrender fully to Christ as our hope in prayer.

Today, tomorrow and the rest of my life.

About two and a half years ago, in the same hotel, in a similar retreat, I gave my all once again to Christ. From that retreat, God burnt a fire and a zeal in my heart to get to know Him and to live and serve Him. The next morning, as I meditated and reflected on all the things I had learnt at that retreat I prayed to God, “Don’t let this fire burn out Lord. Keep it alive for years so that I can always keep fighting for You”. I still have that prayer that I wrote down in my Bible, and I can testify that God is faithful because that fire is still burning as bright as ever today.

So often, our fire and zeal for God kindled at retreats burns out after a couple of weeks because we forget and return back into our old sinful habits. But I encourage you to pray just as I did because God is real and faithful and active. Fall to your knees and cry for a revival. Beg to God for a whole heart that burns to know Him and serve Him. And with such, wake up each morning with the same prayer, with the same cry, with the same plea for a heart that loves God and His Truth. Plea that He gives us a greater love for Himself and a dying love for this world.

O teenager, our generation needs Christ. I need Christ, you need Christ, and many out there are lost, they desperately need Christ. The time has come for us to surrender all for Christ. Do not wait, do not delay. If we do not surrender now, when will we? Surrender not just today, but wake up to surrender again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, till all our days are past, and we are called home by our Master.

Give our lives not just in retreat but give our everyday life. After all that God has done for us, what more do we have to give?

May God Be Glorified,

Your Brother in Christ,

Hans

Hans Sangtoki (17) is the coordinator of RE Generation-Z. He has a passion for serving his generation and sharing hope in Christ. He also has an interest in classical music and dreams of conducting an orchestra one day.

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