Outward Perfection

For decades, women have bemoaned the perfection of Barbie, Snow White, Cinderella and all the other characters created by the toy and entertainment industries. Amid the complaints, though, we’ve continued to purchase the offending items encouraging the creation of additional beautiful, perfectly shaped, elegant, dazzling, talented, ethnically-diverse figures. And, as if that isn’t enough, we now fight to get our kids into modeling, commercials, movies, and, unbelievably, beauty pageants.

Sadly, the reality is that all of these things negatively impact the child’s character development and value system. Certainly, parents have a responsibility to guard the activities, entertainment and associations of their young children.1 Sometimes, though, the negative influences are so obfuscated, so indistinct, so well disguised, that parents are unaware of the impact on their young child until the child begins to act or speak in an undesirable way.

One of the main concerns heralded by psychologists is in the area of self-esteem. Trying to obtain the perfect look portrayed by plastic toys and cartoon characters, or trying to win parts and prizes are extremes of the same problem: An unhealthy sense of self-esteem. The view of one’s self is erroneously lowered below that of others or falsely raised above others. At either end of the spectrum, unnecessary amounts of money are spent to try and achieve the outward appearance of perfection. What lacks is a humble, balanced view of self and others. Philippians 2:3 says: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.”

An unhealthy sense of self-esteem also impacts one’s understanding of what is of value. The commercialized toys, entertainment and competitive activities skew the young child’s focus of self-worth linking worth with appearance and performance as well as the opinions of others. Jesus dealt directly with this problem in Luke 11:39: “And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” “Be not deceived: Evil communications corrupt good manners”, said the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Opinions pertaining to outward appearance are very powerful weapons. It should come as no surprise that the toy and competitive entertainment activities are especially harmful to the development of pro-social skills. From toddlerhood, children are being taught to compete against each other, to feel and demonstrate disdain for competitors. Didn’t Jesus say: “… Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt 22:39)? “Grudge not one against another” (James 5:9). “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart...” (Leviticus 19:17).

Along with loving your neighbor, not grudging or hating others, Christ has warned us to not even be angry with one another without a just cause; He warned us not to damage or destroy the name or reputation of another person lest we be in danger of hell’s fire (Matthew 5:22). These affective responses are directly linked to the child’s emotional development: Being able to understand the feelings of others, being sensitive, accepting, respectful, kind, empathetic and able to form and sustain positive relationships.2 “True character is a quality of the soul, revealing itself in the conduct”.3 “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: And an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35).

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16-20)

The sum result of these negative influences is a lack of spiritual development – both in the child and the parent. The love of self is amplified; selfishness reigns and the desire for spiritual truth weakened. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

“The only hope for children is to teach them to deny and not indulge self”.4 Count it a privilege to be free from entrapping tentacles of commercialism and the sinful knowledge of this age; in doing so you will become wise in the things of God (Romans 16:19).5 “…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). And as a rule, when choosing toys, entertainment and activities for your child, follow the guidance in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”


 © 2012, C. Gillan Byrne


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1White, E. G. (1954/2002). Parental Vigilance and Help (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 460, ¶ 1-3). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

2 Kagan, S.L., Moore, E., & Bredekamp, S. (June, 1995). Reconsidering children’s early development and learning: Toward common views and vocabulary (National Education Goals Panel ISBN-0-16-048151-1). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

3White, E. G. (1954/2002). Importance of Character (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 161, ¶ 2). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

4White, E. G. (1954/2002). Responsibility for Eternal Interests (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 473, ¶ 1). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

5White, E. G. (1954/2002). The Battle for Reform (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 465, ¶ 4, 5). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.