Redeeming Beauty: The Eye of the Beholder It’s Saturday night. A guy shows up at his girlfriend’s house to pick her up for a romantic night out. He is right on time, but she is running a few minutes late and is still in jeans and a T-shirt. “I can’t decide which dress to wear. Can you help me out? Wait right here. I’ll be right back.” Before he can even answer, she disappears into the bedroom to change. Moments later she reemerges from the bedroom. “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Is this a loaded question? You bet it is. No matter how he answers it, he will immediately find himself trapped. How does this work? It has as much to do with the nature of the question as it does anything else. Like lawyers, women are experts at posing questions that seem to have no right answer. What’s a guy to do?

There’s an old joke. You can decide for yourself if it’s funny or not. It goes something like this: A woman comes into the room and asks her husband, who is watching television, “Does this dress make me look fat?” The husband pauses for a moment, and then he responds, “No, the dress is fine. It’s the pint of ice cream you eat every night that makes you look fat.”

Not a great answer. Here are some other incredibly wrong ways to answer the question, Does this dressmake me look fat?
“I guess not. A few extra pounds look good on you.”
“Fat? Compared to whom?”
“Well, you’ve been fatter.”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“It doesn’t matter to me.”

The guy doesn’t even have to say anything to miss the mark. Hesitating, stuttering, or pausing before answering is equally as tragic. And pretending not to hear the question isn’t any better: “I’m sorry, honey.
Did you say something?”

Remember, beneath the question, Does this dress make me look fat? a woman is really asking, Am I lovely? What she is looking for is a man who will do three things:
tell her the truth,
confront her shame,
and confirm her loveliness.

Any woman who asks this question already has a pretty good idea of the right answer, so if a guy lies, she knows it. Does she look fat? On the surface, this is a yes or no question, and this part of the question must be addressed if the man is to have integrity and authenticity.

And though her butt may look as big as a Clydesdale pony’s, it’s her shame that the guy is actually dealing with. The question of her heart is, Are you with me for how I look, or do you see something else that keeps you here?

When she asks, “Do I look fat in this dress?” one of two things can happen: Her shame will be exposed or it will be diminished.

He can answer, “No, you look great, and I really like the way the dress shows off your ________ .” (Fill in what you really notice. The blank could be anything as long as it’s honest. It could be eyes, skin tone, hair, or another attractive body part.) Keep in mind that, even though he says she looks great, she may not like his answer. If she rejects it, her shame will be exposed, and she will change dresses anyway. If she accepts the answer, her self-contempt will be diminished, and she will be humbled — as long as the guy is telling the truth.

This is where a man can really bless a woman. This is the moment when he can help her grow in maturity, wisdom, and love. This is a moment when he can help her see herself as God sees her. She asks, “Do I look fat in this dress?” He answers, “No, and I really like the way the dress shows off your eyes. Do you want to know what I like more than that?” . . . Dramatic pause . . . “How you are so generous with your friends. You care for them so well.” This would surprise her. It would speak to her character. She would know that he really notices her.

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What if he answers, “Yes, it does make you look fat”? What should a guy do? Duck behind the couch? Run for cover? Get an extra blanket for the doghouse? Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot a man can say after “Yes” that will really matter. She already knows she looks fat and he just confirmed it, and now the shame she felt is out in the open and exposed. But for the heck of it, let’s finish the sentence.

So he says, “Yes.” There is blessing to be given here too. “Yes, you do look fat in that dress, and I wonder if you already thought that. If you really want my opinion, I like the blue dress you wore last week.

You look great in that dress. But you know what I really see when you ask me that?” . . . Dramatic pause . . . “I see a woman who hates her body, and it breaks my heart for you. I wish you could see yourself the way God sees you.” It takes a good deal of courage to do this. It also takes equal measures of strength and tenderness. And any man that stops at a simple yes (or no for that matter) is not courageous but cruel.

Any guy who can candidly tell a woman she looks fat with gentleness has credibility. He’s a man that tells the truth. When a question is answered honestly and the woman is confirmed for who she is by a man who cares for her deeply, it creates a sense of security and wholeness (even if it’s an answer she doesn’t like hearing). It creates a sense of being known and understood. When a man is committed to telling the truth, confronting shame, and confirming the loveliness of character in a woman, he is doing the work of God. When he dodges the question, he is being a childish coward.

The hope is that the woman, regardless of how she looks, can begin to live more deeply out of her identity in Christ. Her sense of femininity is rooted in being loved, honored, valued, and cherished by another for who she is, not for how she looks.

Women are made to reveal beauty. Men are made to view it. This is how beauty can be redeemed. Men are made to delight in the beauty of a woman. But if men only look at the skin, they will miss the depth of loveliness that a woman has to offer. And if women look to men for their definition, they will always be disappointed. True beauty is about a woman’s character — about her story — and it always refers to what God has done in her.

Though men don’t define a woman’s loveliness (God does that), they do have the power to confirm it or tarnish it. So when a woman asks a man, “Do I look fat in this dress?” what she is asking is for confirmation of who she is. Whatever the man’s answer, he must address her character, her nature, who she is in God’s image, if his answer is to be truthful.

Here’s the Point The real question behind Do I look fat? is, Am I lovely? Based on what we just told you, here are three high-payoff things you can do that will bless the woman you love and keep you out of hot water.

  1. Tell the truth. Didn’t your momma always say to tell the truth? And keep in mind that she already knows the answer before she asks the question. She’s asking for confirmation rather than information.
  2. Confront her shame. Your words carry tremendous power, which is why you can’t answer the question with just a yes or a no.
  3. Confirm her loveliness. Remember the question really isn’t just about the dress or her weight. There is something bigger at play. But just in case you forget these three things, remember this: “We’ll Leave the Light on for You!” at Motel 6″.

Adapted from Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat? by Stephen James and David Thomas.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen James and David Thomas. All rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishing.