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Is Cosmetic Surgery a Sin?

By Casey Price

Cosmetic (or plastic) surgery is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.  Here are some stats from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2006:

• 11 million cosmetic procedures were performed– that’s a 48% increase from 2000
• 5% of all cosmetic surgeries were performed on people aged 13-19 (that’s 550,000 teens if you’re not a math wiz)
• 90% of patients were female
• $11.5 billion were spent on cosmetic procedures (including surgical procedures such as breast augmentation and nose reshaping, and nonsurgical procedures such as botox and chemical peels).

You can’t throw a stone in Hollywood without hitting someone who’s had some kind of surgery to make something bigger, smaller, or tighter.  The surveys you get in your email or on MySpace often ask you questions like, “if you could change something about yourself, what would it be?”  If we are unhappy enough with our bodies this can cause us to ponder actually doing something about our “flaws.”  After all, recent studies have found that 87% of patients reported positive consequences following cosmetic surgery, such as improvements in their overall body image and less negative body image emotions in social situations.  As a Christian you might be concerned with what the Bible says.  Is cosmetic surgery a sin?

Perhaps a more appropriate question would be if cosmetic surgery is beneficial.  When dealing with this issue there are a number of things to take into consideration.  Ask yourself these questions:

• Is the amount of money that I would spend on cosmetic surgery the most beneficial way to use that money?
• Are there alternatives to cosmetic surgery that I haven’t explored?
• Am I in danger of becoming addicted to cosmetic surgery?
• What is my motivation behind wanting cosmetic surgery?
• Do I expect a whole new life after cosmetic surgery?

Remember that cosmetic surgery is a big deal.  It may not seem that way when you see it in the media.  That’s because we see our favorite stars once they are healed and everything looks perfect.  We don’t see the less glamorous side, like all the pain they go through.  Cosmetic surgery should not be taken lightly.  Talk with people you trust about your desires and pray about it.  Be aware that with every surgery an inherent risk is involved.  If you do decide to have cosmetic surgery, research both the surgery and the surgeon thoroughly.  Also wait until you’re fully matured and don’t have any more growing to do.

Money Matters
Most forms of plastic surgery are expensive.  The current national average for the five most popular cosmetic surgical procedures (breast augmentation, nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and tummy tuck) range from $2,750-$5,063; for the top five minimally-invasive procedures (botox, chemical peel, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, and hyaluronic acid) range from $264-$686.  Could the money you used on surgery be used for something more valuable? 

Alternatives
Also, keep in mind that there are alternatives to many forms of cosmetic surgery.  Instead of getting a tummy tuck could you watch what you eat and start working out?  Could you use lip gloss that plumps your lips instead of getting silicone injections?

Addicted to Plastic Surgery?
Two thirds of cosmetic surgery patients are repeats.  Lots of people find that once they fix one thing on themselves they tend to focus on and obsess about until they can fix that.  And the cycle goes on and on.  Typically, the people who get countless surgeries have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (this is a disorder affecting  normal-looking people who perceive themselves as hideously deformed), but people without BDD can become addicted too.  If you have an addictive personality you might want to think twice before getting cosmetic surgery.

What is Your Motivation?
One of the most important things to consider is the motive behind the desire to get plastic surgery.  That is what God sees.  Do you want something done because you want to attract attention from the opposite sex, or are you doing it because you really don’t like how you look?  Is there a medical reason for this surgery?  Some people have deformities from injuries that only cosmetic surgery can fix.  Or is it pure vanity?  Or are you being pressured by someone else? 

A Whole New World?
Also keep in mind that cosmetic surgery isn’t a miracle cure for low self-esteem, and there is no such thing as the “perfect body.”  You can’t expect that after cosmetic surgery you’re going to look like Jessica Alba.  She has a personal trainer, dietician, make-up and hair people, and gets airbrushed to look as perfect as she does in photos.  Getting cosmetic surgery probably won’t open up a whole new world for you.  If you are entirely unhappy with the way that you look, just remember that plastic surgery and the thought that you will look “prettier” won’t necessarily make you happy.  True happiness comes from Jesus.

Accept Your Body
Most people scrutinize their bodies.  I do this too – I’m my own worst critic.  There are a number of things I would like to change about my appearance.  I’m going to tell you something I’m sure you’ve heard from your mom a million times: love and accept yourself and your body the way it is.  Sounds familiar, right?  It’s also the best advice I can give.  Now this sounds easy, but it could take some time and some effort.  The teenage years are plagued with self-doubt and self-consciousness.  Lots of teens don’t like the way they look or feel.  Insecurity is often a huge problem.  One way to combat this is to try and focus on the things that you do like about yourself, physical or otherwise.  What do people often compliment you on?  Focus on that.  When you look in the mirror instead of focusing on the things you don’t like about yourself (like a big forehead or a small butt) focus on the good things (like a great smile or gorgeous eyes).

Also remember that a lot of people probably don’t notice your “flaws.”  They may just be a big deal to you.  Think about it – do you judge people on one physical attribute?  Chances are you don’t.  You probably take in the whole person.  That’s what other people do as well.  They don’t see you for the one or two things that you don’t like about your appearance.  Chances are they haven’t even noticed them or, if they have, they don’t define you by that one thing.

The biggest problem comes when you excessively scrutinize yourself.  If you are thinking about yourself more than anything else it’s time to shift the focus outward.  Get involved in more activities at school or church to shift your energy on more positive things.

What Should I Do?
Cosmetic surgery is a way of enhancing your appearance - like an extreme version of dying your hair or wearing make-up.  Overall, I would say plastic surgery in and of itself is not a sin (the exception being transgender surgeries where a man can anatomically become a woman or vice versa).  However, the motive behind getting cosmetic surgery done is where the sin lies.  Everything we do should be to glorify God.  If you truly feel that having a smaller nose or bigger boobs will make you feel more comfortable and better about yourself, then do it.  Pray about it, do the research, and talk to people you trust.  Most of all, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

SOURCES: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/
http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep05/surgery.html

comments?

"i love, love, loved this article! you made some very excellent points, and it was so well written... it was awesome! you rock!"

Commented by Shannon, 25 - March 13, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

"Yah, thanks. you are right. everything we do is to Glorify our Lord Jesus Christ"

Commented by Bimb's, 23 - August 27, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

"I m working on my Contempary Ethics Paper and my Topic is Cosmetic Surgery. Thank you  so much for artile its has been really help ful. Can i use your research for my paper? "

Commented by Jude, 22 - April 25, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

"Amazing and insightful post.  I think that people getting plastic surgery can seriously use this as a medium to get motivation or to turn down their surgery, especially if they are religious.  Thanks!"

Commented by Robert, 20 - October 28, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

"Thanks very much! helped alot with my debate, very good points!"

Commented by Daniel, 15 - February 6, 2011 @ 5:59 am

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