“She needs to get a nose job. That girl has a schnoz.”
If I heard it once in my teenage years, I heard it many times. As adolescence descended on me, my nose grew in not just larger than average, but hooked, and not just hooked, but visibly crooked. The first time I saw my face in profile via a three-way mirror, I cupped my hand over my mouth in horror.
Solomon may have complimented his beloved on her nose being “like a tower of Lebanon” (Song 7:4), but I can tell you from experience: big noses on women are seldom complimented. There’s a reason why even impossibly gorgeous women like Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively have had nose jobs, why Lady Gaga’s character in the film A Star Is Born loudly laments her distinctive nose (and the real singer-turned-actress has taken her share of flack for stalwartly refusing to go under the knife). For my own part, it fills me with chagrin that Lady Gaga is Hollywood’s idea of “a woman with a large nose.”
God blessed me with youth leaders who raised me right. I spent my early adult years believing that the only true beauty was found in godliness, that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov 31:30) I knew that, as they appeared in the media, the fashion models and pin-up girls were an insidious lie Satan whispers to us, an unobtainable trick of plastic surgery, make-up sorcery, and photoshop meant to engender doubt in our God-given identities and galvanize our vanity. I would read Max Lucado’s You Are Special again and again and remind myself that if I just spent enough time with “Eli” and put faith in what he thought of me, rather than what the world thought of me, the “grey dots” people kept trying to slap on my nose would not stick.
And yet, there were days that I would look in the mirror at a face that I otherwise liked marred by a large, crooked nose, and I would cry.
Cosmetic surgery for both genders is on the rise, but women continue to seek it out in much greater numbers than men. Prevalence aside, I agonized over whether plastic surgery for pure cosmetic reasons was something that a Christian woman should do. Was it not unadulterated vanity? How could I spend so much on something that was just for me? Could I not give the money to a better cause that I cared about, like the fight against human trafficking?
And—comical though it may seem—what if my old nose came back in the resurrection??
As far as that last question goes, it turns out that most of the church fathers who commented on resurrection bodies concluded that either all humanity would turn into genderless beings, or women would turn into men. With that I decided a nose was the last thing I needed to worry about growing in the resurrection.
A search of Christian blogs, apologetics sites, and magazines turned up about a dozen recent articles weighing in on the subject with a range of opinions from “of course it’s sinful and unchristian” to “it depends.” While many were willing to comment on the matter, few were willing to cop to actually doing it outside of medically indicated plastic surgery (which, in my opinion, is not the same thing).
My turning point arrived in the form of orthodontic braces. Not that I got braces (I’d had them years before), but in consideration of the disparate Christian attitude towards braces versus cosmetic surgery. For example, the Duggars, in all their fundamentalist glory, have spoken out against cosmetic surgery—yet some of the Duggar children had braces. Braces do have some medicinal value in bite alignment, but they are primarily marketed and sought after for their cosmetic potential.
We Christians accept easily enough that it can be psychologically damaging to go through life with crooked teeth, and we’re willing to spend thousands of dollars fixing the problem. So riddle me this: if it’s acceptable to fix crooked teeth, why is it unacceptable to fix a crooked nose?
I have a theory on that:
Braces are normalized and acceptable because men want them as well as women, while cosmetic surgery is desired primarily by women. If men wanted cosmetic surgery as much as women did, Christians of both genders would seek it out as needed without thinking twice. The Christian aversion to even once-in-a-lifetime plastic surgery to fix very obvious cosmetic defects is just garden-variety sexism.
On March 16, 2016, I drove to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and dropped off the final defense copy of my master’s thesis. Then I made my way to the nearby Highland Park Hospital, my conscience clear, and said good-bye to my “old” nose forever. TEDS would not be the only thing I would graduate from that year.
I was single at the time, so my brother brought me home from the surgery, and even though my nose had a cast on it, the change was apparent. He did an actual double-take and complimented me on the improvement.
“You know, I always thought your old nose looked like a witch’s nose,” he confessed. “But I knew you couldn’t do anything about it and I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, so I never said anything.”
“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” I replied.
And in my heart, I praised God.
Cosmetic Surgery to the Glory of God? — Her.meneutics
In Perspective: Plastic Surgery — New Identity Magazine
Should Christians Get Plastic Surgery? — Hot, Holy & Humorous
Is it Okay to Get Cosmetic Surgery as a Christian? — CARM
What does the Bible say about a Christian having plastic / cosmetic surgery? — Got Questions.Org
Is Plastic Surgery a Sin? Doctor Argues “Jesus Performed Plastic Surgery” — The Christian Post
The Duggars Don’t Want You To Get Plastic Surgery, Because God Might Have Meant For You To Feel Insecure — Crushable
Should A Christian Women [sic] Get A Breast Augmentation? — Unlocking Femininity
Is It Okay For a Christian Woman to Have Plastic Surgery? — The First Hundred
Jack, while I cannot deny that there’s a cosmetic improvement, you’ve always been much more than a nose to me.
Thanks Malcolm. 🙂 I was always more than a nose to me too; it was just something that constantly bothered me and I’ve never regretted fixing it.
First impressions matter, like it or not. No one should have to carry the burden of correctible problems.
Cosmetic surgery is a tool, neither good nor evil on itself. For a person who has a good sense of self, cosmetic surgery allows the individual to set down a burden.
Thanks Martha. I couldn’t agree more. <3
Thanks for the braces angle on this.
Thanks for sharing your story! I think you’re beyond the bee’s knees and a breath of fresh air for being open about your procedure. I got a rhinoplasty when I was 17 to remove a dorsal hump. Actually, the surgeon reshaped my tip and thinned the bridge as well, but I honestly didn’t know what the end result would be other than removing the hump! We all yearn to have our inner beauty reflected outwardly, and there is absolutely nothing biblically wrong with seeking out a one and done surgery to make this dual display possible. I went through the same roller coaster of reading Christian articles (post-surgery) weighing in on the ethics of cosmetic enhancement, until finally landing on your post. I’d like to add that one thing that really bothered me about said articles is an argument that “God doesn’t make mistakes.” True, he doesn’t, but in a world felled by sin, whose to say cosmetic deficiencies aren’t part of the curse? Thanks again!
Hi Heather, I’m so sorry I just now got around to approving your comment! I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting this blog for a bit. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and that there’s someone else out there who went through this. I think probably a lot of (mostly) women have gone through it, but are afraid to talk about it because of the stigma. I agree, the saying that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” while meant to be comforting, can be theologically difficult in the face of human deformity, disability, or simply cosmetic issues (like a crooked nose). Blessings, – Bridget
Thank you for this article. I am booked in for a nose job and have been so concerned about the thought of sinning in order to have one. I feel a sense of Christian shame for wanting it / yet it’s something I really want to do,
Thank you so much for this article.
I have been wanting a nose job since forever but i was always scared that it is a sin and disrespectful to God. I have prayed so much for it and read many articles about it. I have been always trying to accept it because I always feel guilty for complaining about it( only to myself, because i am embarrassed to mention it to anyone). There are people with so much more difficult problems.
However, when I think about how badly it affects my life it simply breaks me. It stops me doing things, hate being photographed, hate when people have to look at my side profile, didn’t go on dates because of this etc. I know it might sound so childish, but it is just constantly at the back of my mind.
Sometimes when I read articles, or Q&A s I feel that those people are answering it who have not experienced the problem.
I am still in doubt about what to do, but you helped me a lot.
I am struggling with the idea of getting veneers for myself and desiring the same for some of my children and my daughter needing a nose adjustment, as well as podiatrist needs. I am really struggling. But I had braces and have thought through the same things you mentioned. I see it these three ways.
A. Marriage is honorable I don’t normally get expensive haircuts maybe on my birthday and I don’t get my nails done once in a while I splurge on bedroom attire…I see it like this if I am going to invest in something to enhance my husband and Is view of each other in this sense I will feel much freer to laugh at his jokes because I won’t be embarrassed and He will enjoy a beautiful smile on his wife then isn’t it honorable?
B. My children need to know that our bodies are not gods we do not worship our self. Christianity is the author of seeing our flaws and going to the good doctor to get them corrected. I felt guilt in acknowledging a flaw in my children it was painful. Then I realized we are not in bondage to our bodies. I am a person who believes in no birth control including vasectomy but it’s because I do not feel I have the ability to decide who has the right to exist and who doesn’t and what God may do with the life of a person and what may be deleted because it inconveniences me.
3. If I know that there is a physical abnormality on my child one that they struggle with and feel uncomfortable with and I have the right and ability to alleviate this pain I feel I should. Not to act when it is in my power to do so is provoking my child to wrath and that I not stumble my child but that I would generously give that they could be thankful and glorify their father in heaven.
If I feel this way about my children than doesn’t God feel this way about me as his child?
Perhaps those in other countries without resources to do these things would be blessed by those of us who have experienced the joy of this change and we could share with them and help them to receive the same care.
Please pray for me as I continue to move forward I am fighting a lot of condemnation.
Hope you got the nose job and it was a big success. I disagree with your stance on bc though. Some people who would not make good parents at least have the selflessness and awareness to use bc or get surgically sterilized. I commend this
I am 66 years old and weeks away from retirement. I have decided to have a neck and face lift, in part, honestly, to use some of my extended sick leave (1200 hours) before it swirls down the drain when I leave my job. I am not wealthy, but have the money to do the procedure. (No husband or kids.) I figure, why not? I tithe and offer and others say I am generous. I feel a little guilty, but googling some articles on the topic of Christian plastic surgery has made me more comfortable with the idea. There is freedom in Christ, right? I was also encouraged by the fact that some say plastic surgery is a neutral issue.
I’m sorry I’m just now seeing your comment Deb! I hope the neck and face lift went well for you. Happy retirement!
Deb, I’m 60. One month before I hit 60, I got my eyelids done and a neck lift. I hope yours turned out just like you wanted. I did struggle bc I too am a Christian, but after soul searching, I decided that God wants me to feel good about myself. I’m thankful for God and how He put me together, but life is hard and stuff falls down. If the paint on a barn starts chipping, it gets a sanding and a coat or two of paint.
Blessing to you!
Well, at risk of going on a limb here. What if circumstances don’t allow for work done on my nose even if for medical reasons only. Being in the most expensive area in the US and cut off from family and support I will never possibly be able to be beautiful. And you would call me a sinner for being ugly? Sorry if I’m forced to depend on toxic people indefinitely and government subsidies for assistance to survive but I can’t keep internalizing harmful messages like these. I want to cry myself to sleep and never wake up just looking in the mirror. Please keep some perspective.
Hi Sara, I’m not sure I understand your comment. Who is calling you a sinner?
I fled from a toxic home situation when I was 18 and was on government assistance for years. I received no financial assistance from my family when I became a single mom. I paid for my septorhinoplasty with tax refund money and a loan.
I don’t have an answer for you, but I’m so sorry for your pain.
I always want to get a rhinoplasty but I have this guilt what should I do?