Shh Beauty … Be Quiet

{By Lana Jackson}  

This scripture used to bother me. A lot.

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.

1 Peter 3:3-4

I remember reading this scripture when I was in my teenage years. It puzzled me. I remember thinking: is Peter instructing women not to accessorize, attempt a fish-tail braid, and make silence our personal ambition in social circles? It seemed to me that God made women with this innate desire to be beautiful and with a desire to talk?

Why does it seem like this verse is contrary to my very nature?

what is biblical beauty

I should say, I emphatically believe that God’s word calls us to bring every area of our lives under Jesus’ lordship — that includes beauty and fashion. And so, as a woman who not only loves God and his word, I scoured commentaries on 1 Peter and my study Bible, hoping my conclusion was wrong, until I came across an online article entitled “Give Me A Quiet Mind” by: Mary Kassian, author of The Feminist Mistake.

Here’s what Kassian had to say:

1 Peter 3:4, encourages women to beautify themselves with the imperishable beauty of a quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. When we think of the word “quiet” the first thing we normally think of is audible sound. We equate “quiet” with “not talking.”

When the Bible talks about quietness, it’s not referring to an absence of verbal noise as much as it’s referring to an absence of spiritual noise. Although there’s a connection, quietness has more to do with the state of our hearts than the volume of our words.

Quiet describes a mindset of calmness . . . It’s being settled, steadfast, and peaceful. A quiet disposition is like a still, peaceful pool of water, as opposed to a churning, agitated whirlpool. A quiet spirit is the opposite of an anxious, distressed, disorderly, and clamorous one.

Basically, Kassian is saying that a quiet, trusting spirit is beautiful to God (Proverbs 3:5-6). I believe that is why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). It is because her spirit is resting and trusting in God. A woman who trusts God for her bad hair days, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and mistakes is beautiful. She is more beautiful than a woman who is striving for beauty and significance on her own terms.

As I got older the Lord began to show me this type of woman through my friends, and characters in books and movies. I slowly began to get it. So, in my Bible next 1 Peter 3:3-4 are the names of these women: Abbi, Jilene, Melissa, Katie, Anne Shirley, and Danielle de Barbarac. You’ll notice the last two are fictional characters, one from the beloved Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery and the second one from the 1998 film “Ever After” played by Drew Barrymore.

quiet gentle spirit and beauty

All of these women have quiet spirits, though they endured great difficulty in their lives. As I observed them they began to look more beautiful to me. I wanted to look like that; I wanted to have the same restful beauty. There is a radiance to a woman who is at peace when everyone else is putting on their crazy pants, as my sister Jilene would say. There is an attractiveness about someone who can maintain poise in the face of difficulty, the way Jesus had poise when people taunted him and spat in his face. He was the master at having a quiet spirit.

As I began to look at society, at my worldly female peers, they looked less beautiful.

In fact, they looked tired and agitated, kind of like Anne Hathaway in the end of Devil Wears Prada. You know, when she’s running around like a crazy person trying to do a job a million girls would kill to have—though it was killing her. Yeah. Sure, worldly women look incredibly chic but they began to appear me as being spiritually worn out from godless living. They seemed emotionally drained after moving from one undefined dating relationship to the next and mentally stressed from climbing the corporate ladder in the name of feminism.

In other words, they had noisy spirits. Sure, they looked outwardly beautiful but inwardly I could see they were perishing. I began to wonder: I look great right now on the outside but is my spirit noisy on the inside? Have I let the lust of the eyes and the pride of life make me less beautiful?

How noisy is your spirit?

I came to the conclusion that the quietness Peter is referring to has more to do with the state of our hearts than the volume of our words.

As I explored this scripture further, I had an aha-moment and the New American Standard version of 1 Peter 3:3-4 provided this last bit of clarity on beauty. The verse reads:

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NASB

It’s as if God is saying that beauty should not only be external it must also be internal. I know, I know we’ve all heard that right? Inner beauty. I know it sounds tired. But I think God is saying there’s more to this than being a sweet girl, with a warm heart and a generic inner beauty—whatever that is.

I believe through this verse God is saying:

Outward beauty is the shadow. Inner righteousness is the reality.

Beauty teaches us about righteousness. Whether we are looking back at Eden or forward to the face of Christ, we see beauty in the forms of right living, right desires, and right relationships to God and people. And because it’s right we call it beautiful.

Something is beautiful because it is right, our culture has forgotten that.

Peter is saying to women, it is not right to just be outwardly beautiful. Yes, it is good and holy to be outwardly beautiful. In fact, I believe that fashion and style are important and part of caring for the temple of God that is our body. I believe this because your outer beauty, your attractiveness is meant for more.

It is meant to allure people to a much truer beauty that resides in the soul, in the heart where Jesus lives. In other words, use outward beauty to allure a broken world to the hidden person of the heart, the person who desires and exudes the righteousness of Christ. And as you do this, do it with a quiet spirit that hopes in the Lord, because this is pleasing to God.

Could this be the heart of God toward his daughters in Peter’s words?

Could this be God’s heart towards me, an admirer of beautiful things and a lover of Jesus?

Jesus wants us to be beautiful. The world needs us to beautiful. Do everything beautifully, with a quiet spirit that hopes in the Lord for everything.

Remember: Beauty is the shadow. Righteousness is the reality.