Prone to grow: Learning grace from a Dove commercial

If you haven’t yet seen the latest ad by Dove, take six and a half minutes to watch it before diving into this post

When I heard about Dove’s latest campaign, I was curious how they would follow-up on their last huge marketing effort: the real beauty models. As one who works in the marketing and communications fields, these campaigns have been grand slams for Dove. I’d give my left pinky if one of my projects garnered the level of exposure and buzz these campaigns have created. (I’m right handed, so that one’s not going anywhere). I’ve read some articles from people less than thrilled with the messages in the videos, but those seem to be the exceptions. Judging by the number of times I saw this video posted on Facebook by ladies I know, I’d say Dove has another success on their hands.

The video exposes the dichotomy between how we see ourselves and how others see us. It starts off with several different women describe themselves to a forensic artist who draws their portrait based only on the words they use to describe themselves. These descriptions were almost all negative: a protruding chin, crow’s feet, and freckles to name a few. “My mom told me I had a big jaw…”

As I watched the women in the video describe their physical imperfections, I was reminded of a recent sermon by my pastor. We’ve been studying through the beattitudes, and the second one was particularly tough to hear.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

Traditionally, we misplace the object of that mourning. While we often think of morning in response to loss or tragedy, in the original Greek, this idea of mourning applies to our sin. Mourning over our own sin and the separation it causes. Approaching the Father with complete remorse. Recognizing our own faults and their consequences. Seeing our sin like these women described their appearance.

Now perhaps you’re thinking I’m jumping on a popular bandwagon for blog hits and comments, but hear me out on this analogy. I’m rather similar to the women in the video in how I see myself physically (and if we’re being honest, there are more guys who would agree with me than would like to admit). But that’s rarely how I see my own sin. This sermon was tough to hear because I need to mourn my sin, but too often, I tend to minimize the remorse.

But that’s not where the video ends, and mercifully, it’s not where our own spiritual story ends, either.

The artist asks some new friends to describe these same women. Somewhat predictably, the friends paint much more attractive portraits of these women. “The stranger’s [description] was a little more…gentle.” I realized this is how God sees each one of us: in the best possible light. This is due to no merit or achievement of our own, but because through the death of his perfect Son, we have right standing with the Father.

Mourning is our appropriate reaction. Grace is God’s merciful response.

For better or worse, we’ve been taught the magnificent benefits of grace–and there are many. But I often fear that we’ve over-corrected in trying to avoid the Bible-thumping “hell, fire, and brimstone” sermons of generations past and missed the very essential components of mourning and repentance. To fully appreciate grace, one must fully mourn.

This mourning doesn’t prevent future sin any more than mopping the floor prevents future dirt. But mopping gets the floor clean, just as mourning should draw our attention to the One who can clean us. As a result, we should be a little less likely to “mess it up” in the future.

But at least for me, that doesn’t always happen. Because I skip the mourning step, I’m often drawn back into the same sin patterns, and the cycle commences again. We have to find the appropriate balance of repentance and grace. To see things as God sees them, we first have to be honest about the mirror we’re looking into and the person reflected back at us.

These women are more physically attractive than they admit to themselves. I wish I saw my spiritual self like they saw their physical appearances. Then I could truly appreciate the beauty that God creates.

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