"TEEN BREAST IMPLANTS." That's the title of an article I read recently by a Knight Ridder reporter. I'd read a similar article a few months ago in the LA Times about junior high students in Southern California getting breast implants. Before I blather on, let me say something to readers who have maybe already had surgery for breast augmentation. That's not exactly what I'm writing about. When a man decides to get hair plugs or a woman gets breast implants-- well, that's a personal decision. I can imagine that for some people it helped deal with issues of low self-esteem. Some of them probably even knew that this wouldn't fix the deeper problems, but it still seemed to help. So, please don't read this column and feel a lot of guilt. But what does it say about our society that so many teenager girls are feeling the need to get "boob jobs"? Everywhere they look they see "perfect" models: on The O.C., on magazine covers, on MTV videos. What they don't see is the dysfunction that's often behind those models (eating disorders leading the list). The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that 32,000 women in America got breast implants in 1992. Last year the number was 247,000. But here is the really disturbing figure: there was a jump in the number of girls 18 and younger from 3872 in 2002 to 11,326 in 2003. The article I referred to above is about girls who are asking for bigger breasts as graduation presents. (At this point I'm wondering: can a Church of Christ minister even write about this? But I press on . . . .) We live in a culture that values the exterior. We obsess on accidents of birth. What would a culture look like that values compassion, forgiveness, and unconditional love over curves, low body fat, and athletic prowess? That's where the church comes in! We are the ones who follow Jesus Christ, the teacher who keep focusing on the heart. He reflected the words of God: "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." There are readers of this blog who are parents, teachers, coaches, cheerleading sponsors, etc. What a great place for you to be! You have a chance to teach and model our belief that it is the character being formed within that really defines a person--not the shape of the body. I still love the song Steven Curtis Chapman wrote for his daughter: I can see the tears filling your eyes And I know where they’re coming from They’re coming from a heart that’s broken in two By what you don’t see The person in the mirror Doesn’t look like the magazine Oh but when I look at you it’s clear to me that I can see the fingerprints of God When I look at you I can see the fingerprints of God And I know it’s true You’re a masterpiece That all creation quietly applauds And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God Never has there been and never again Will there be another you Fashioned by God’s hand And perfectly planned To be just who you are And what he’s been creating Since the first beat of your heart Is a living breathing priceless work of art and Just look at you You’re a wonder in the making Oh and God’s not through no In fact he’s just getting started . . . . Today I'd like to ask for lots of comments. Let's help one another. What suggestions do you have (from reading, observing, or--even better--from experience) for helping us raise our sons and daughters to buy into better values, to resist the Britneyization of our teen culture, and to feel comfortable in their skin?