The Cult of Appearance

With social media, especially TikTok, obsession with appearance has almost been elevated to the status of a cult. Young people today and some older people do not seem to be able to develop and sustain a solid sense of self; it all must come from outside them – how many follow them on different social media platforms; how many positive comments from people! Some features in TikTok even allow people to change their physical features so that they think they look more beautiful and acceptable to the users. Then, when someone makes a negative comment, their whole apparent identity constructed on this appearance crumbles without apology. Some dating apps also have features that permit users to change their appearance to become more attractive. Often, when they meet in person, the vibe changes and they are both disappointed.

Appearance deceives. And so, obsession with appearance is a minefield of disappointments. The prophet Samuel sets out to anoint the new king from the house of Jesse but was deceived by the appearance of Jesse’s boys who were tall, muscular, intelligent and mature. But God sees the true nature of the soul beyond the physical appearance. We are given to the superficial life of appearances: big houses, flashy cars, expensive jewelry, immodest dressings to call attention to the body, etc. But what about the enduring qualities of the soul: peace, joy, love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, confidence, etc.? These give value to our lives, relationships and our service of God. As in the gospel, we pray to the Lord to open our eyes so we can see beyond the appearances that deceive us and hold us captive to the things that do not endure. The ways of God are always hidden; we need good spiritual eyes to see and the strength to follow them even when everyone is captivated by appearance!

~Fr. Cornelius Okeke