More than skin deep



“How do I look?”

Whether we actually ask that question or not, most of worry about our outward appearance, and spend time every day making sure we look as presentable as possible.

In a study conducted some time ago by researcher Judith Langlois and a colleague at the University of Texas, she found that when it comes to faces, at least, the more “average” someone’s features, the more attractive they are judged to be.

The down side of that is since no two of us look alike (so we can tell each other apart), few of us will look exactly “average” in the way her study defines it.

Langlois used a computer to construct faces that were a blend of several dozen people’s, creating a composite of such features as nose length, chin prominence and the size and shape of the forehead and mouth. In so doing, the more pictures that went into the composite, the more the result represented the average face of the male or female college students from which they were drawn.

When other students were then asked to judge the attractiveness of the composites and then of the individual faces—without being told which was which—they invariably found the composites to be more attractive than the ones of the individual faces that went into them.

I found this interesting, leading me to think, Why can’t we just celebrate our differences and our unique features instead of trying to look like some arbitrary “ideal”? Why not teach our children there are as many ways of being special and beautiful as there are people? And then work at what makes us truly beautiful and special from the inside out?

I once gave some high school students in a religion class the assignment of bringing me a picture of a face they thought might do for the face of Jesus if he were to appear as a human being today. I got quite an interesting assortment, ranging from pictures of handsome movie stars to those of average American males of various races.

The one that really got my attention, though, was the wrinkled and aging face of Mother Teresa, taken from the cover of an old Time magazine.

What better image to represent what a modern Jesus might look like?

Beautiful way beyond average.

Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to [email protected] His blog can be followed at


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