The Lesson I Learned in South America that I Never Want to Forget


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For eight days in Bolivia, I did not see one fashion magazine. I didn't compare my appearance to some air-brushed, photo-shopped model who represents some unrealistic idea of beauty.
I’ve been carrying a lesson around with me since returning from South America. It’s a lesson that I hope to use often to take captive my streaming thoughts of self-deprecation.

Those thoughts that continuously tell me that I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, and I’m can no longer be considered “young.” The thoughts that end every compliment I hear with a qualifier.

For eight days in Bolivia, I did not see one fashion magazine. I didn’t compare my appearance to some air-brushed, photo-shopped model who represents some unrealistic idea of beauty.

For an entire week, I visited women who didn’t have time to worry about designer fashions and accessories. Women who were just thankful to have a roof over their heads and a bit of food for their family to eat.

Not once during that week did I feel like the “chic-ness” of my outfit was in question, or that the price of my handbag determined my value.

We were viewed as representatives of World Vision. People who valued kindness and compassion. People who valued character over commercialism.

Now that I have been home for a week, I keep thinking about how desperately I want that to be true. I don’t want my worth to have a price tag, in my mind or in anyone else’s. I want my worth to to be found in my character . . . in those qualities that God says are beautiful:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12-13 (NIV)

I wonder, do you share my struggle. Do you long for your daughters to be free of their battle with the mirror? Do you desperately want to be free yourself?

I don’t have all of the answers yet, but I am making some changes in my life that I believe will help.

  • I am giving up fashion magazines.
  • I am using my DVR and fast-forwarding over television commercials.
  • I am going through my closet and giving away every item I haven’t worn in the last year or two.
  • I am going to pray more and ask God to make me who He wants me to be, and by His grace that He will help me to stop making comparisons.

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

That is the lesson I learned from the women in Bolivia.

I left Bolivia better having been touched by their kindness and their beauty and I want it to last

Photo Credit – Amy Conner for World Vision 2011

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  1. I know you wrote this post a long time ago, Deb, but when you left a comment on my blog, telling me how your experiences in Bolivia had changed your life, I went looking through your archives to find out more. I’m so glad I did that. This was just what I needed to read today. It’s funny how God orchestrates things like that. Character, is so much more important than appearance. I love the Mother Theresa quote you included.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment on this, Dawn. I needed to reread it myself. It’s funny how easily we can get caught in the comparison trap. I just want to be thankful for every day and use it well. Blessings my friend!