Male Insecurities Day 1: Physical Insecurity
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, ESV)
“I have a great idea! Let’s go to the gym!”
“Take your shirt off! You’ll get a nice tan!”
“Check out these new shirts! They’re slim fit!”
For many men, those three lines above spell out a litany of horrors. The gym? Filled with guys in much better shape than I? Take off my shirt and show off my dad bod? Slim fit, aka vacuum sealed shirts? For many of us, it’s a rousing “no thanks” to all of the above. Why? Because we suffer from physical insecurity, fearing what others think about our looks. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. If you don’t suffer from it, congratulations! Where does it stem from? I don’t have the ability to give the psychology behind it; all I know is that I get uneasy pondering what other people think about how I look. Do they notice the weight gain? Do they inwardly smirk when my clothes look a little too snug? While you are congratulated after losing weight, it’s pretty rare for someone to comment on how you look when heavier. And so, inwardly, the battle of insecurity begins to play out.
I can’t say that you need to get over it, because that might never happen. I can’t say you need to get in shape, because you might not have the ability to. Instead, I would turn our focus to 1 Timothy 4:8. Admittedly, exercise “is of some value.” I wouldn’t imagine anyone could say (with a straight face and clear conscience) that the Bible encourages us to be inactive. Exercise is helpful in many ways. It relieves stress; it can prolong useful life; it can be enjoyable. But I also wouldn’t imagine anyone could say that the Bible encourages us to be obsessed with bodily exercise. Culture today encourages such an obsession. Some share videos and pictures of their 4-hour daily gym routine. They post social media pictures of their meals, consisting of an amalgamation of horrific ingredients that I would never consider eating. Yes, our body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit within” (1 Corinthians 6:19), but we shouldn’t worship our body, nor should we hope to have others worship it either. Therein lies the issue. The “some value” of 1 Timothy 4:8 has been replaced with “ultimate value.” Our physical bodies shouldn’t be the sole drive of our life.
Paul is very clear in his writing to Timothy (a young man, mind you, that may have faced the very same insecurities). Physical exercise maintains our bodies here, but we’re still going to die. The body one man carefully sculpts into a spectacle to behold is still going to rot in the ground. It may help our physical life, but there is another, much more profitable exercise to which we should devote our lives. Here, Paul refers to it as “godliness.” In verse 6 he talks about “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine you have followed.” It’s a more intense exercise, or at least it should be, because there shouldn’t be any “cheat days.” There shouldn’t be any days off; in fact, there shouldn’t even be any time off at all! Living a godly life focused on living for Christ and putting others ahead of yourself is a life that will be filled with study, trials, stress, anxieties, love, loss, sacrifice, and labor. It takes immense dedication and requires perseverance.
It probably won’t lead to people looking your way, but will result in a far superior payoff. Godliness comes with a double payday! Your life will be more fulfilling. Your relationship with God will be better. Your ability to help others will improve. But beyond that, living a godly life “holds promise…for the life to come.” Nobody in Heaven will know or care how much I could bench press or if I had six-pack abs. But my Father does care about how much I lived my life according to godliness. And isn’t His opinion the one that matters most? Your reward for godliness won’t be seen in a mirror, but will be seen in the approving eyes and words of your Heavenly Father! That’s a reward worth striving after, as it is eternally secure—it’s His promise to us. My physical insecurity is no match for His eternal security!
Feel free to hit the gym, and feel free to exercise. But remember to keep the proper balance and strive toward what has eternal value.