Taking Off Your Makeup

When it comes to makeup, I’m the kind of girl who has managed to get by with the most meager knowledge of how to wear it. I know the basics, but anything venturing near the realm of real makeup competence is beyond my skill level. I wear just enough to cover up the circles under my eyes without flirting with the risk of “clown face.”

Even so, I was incredibly convicted by something I discovered in my research last week. I’ve been studying the work of Maria Harris, a Catholic professor of religious education who wrote a lot about female spirituality. In her book Dance of the Spirit, she challenges women with the following words:

“Possibly the suggestion that we take off our makeup, or go outside without it, creates a feeling close to panic. (“Oh God, no”) If we react that way, it may be we are shocked by the suggestion that we allow someone else to see us as we actually are.”

Harris then adds,

“I know. I wear makeup. But I marvel at women who go without it, and I notice how comfortable men are in public without it. And I wonder what our doing away with it, not all the time but on occasion, as an experiment, might do in awakening our spirituality. After all, in West Side Story, Maria didn’t sing, ‘I look pretty.’ She sang, ‘I feel pretty.'”

Harris then goes on to describe other forms of makeup that we wear to hide ourselves, such as the facial expressions we don to mask what we’re truly feeling. Those of us who are driven by the need to people please are prone to behave as expected, even if our hearts and minds would have us do otherwise.

But no matter what kind of makeup you use to hide who you really are, I am inspired by Harris’ charge to occasionally step out from behind those veils. I also appreciate her balanced approach–rather than condemning all makeup as an evil itself, she encourages women to keep it in check. From time to time, take off your makeup and go out in public–it is a quick indicator of where your confidence lies!

In fact, I decided to make an experiment out of this idea. A couple days ago Ike and his family had planned to spend the day Christmas shopping, so I made the decision to leave the house without an ounce of makeup on my face. I valiantly descended the stairs as I announced, “Today I am going out without makeup on as an act of Christian discipleship!” (My husband understandably rolled his eyes. It was the appropriate response.)

However, my confidence faltered as soon as I walked in the first store. I kept wanting to tell the sales people, “I don’t normally look like this.” As if they even cared! Goodness, what an eye-opening experience it was! Eventually I adjusted to the change, but the whole time I kept asking myself, “Why do I feel so naked without makeup?”

As I pondered my makeup crutch, I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says,

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

True beauty, as God defines it here, takes a lot of work. Worldly beauty does not. And yet, I spend most of my time cultivating worldly beauty instead of godly beauty. Which is why I feel so naked when my worldly beauty is taken away–I am not confident in my spiritual beauty because I haven’t invested the same amount of time into it.

For another clue as to why I feel so naked without makeup, I need only look to my ancestral sister, Eve. When sin entered the world she immediately felt naked and ashamed, so she tried to cover herself. Thousands of years later I continue to feel that shame about who God created me to be, focusing on my faults instead of rejoicing in the divine image written into my being. As Harris said above, I am afraid for people to see me as I really am, even though God Himself created me this way.

So I challenge you to try this experiment yourself. For some of you this isn’t much of a challenge because you’re one of the glorious few who can leave the house without a shred of eye-liner or mascara and feel totally beautiful. I admire you! But for the rest of you who draw confidence from your makeup, pick a day to shed your makeup and then study your heart in the process. See what you discover and even report back here. I would love to hear what you learn!