I rarely write publicly about social issues, so please don’t take this article that way. And I should beg the pardon of some readers who might take offense at my words below.
Even so, I would like to share some thoughts about permanent skin markings, or what are modernly called tattoos. My caveat is that I was raised at a time when kids were taught not to consider them. But I don’t think that is my only motivation for this critique.
Rather I love beauty.
And I find tattoos to be one of the most disappointing inventions of man. They remind me of graffiti on the wall of a dirty, slimy, truck-stop bathroom stall. People who have them involuntarily disgust me. Honestly, I am instantly turned off and want to turn away. I can’t help it. Such marks are the opposite of beauty to my eyes.
Some people might find that hard to understand, and I recognize that there are all types in the world. So why should my preference for beauty be more valuable than someone else’s? I get that, and I understand.
Yet, I am wildly motivated by beauty. And I believe that human skin is wildly beautiful…as it is, and without needing to be altered. Such is how I am.
But it is not just physical beauty I pursue. I also find emotional beauty to be extremely attractive. And let me explain why tattoos are emotionally unattractive to me.
People will give all sorts of reasons for getting a tattoo. But probably most commonly it’s because they think them to be attractive…beautiful. And by getting one, they want to make themselves more beautiful.
But I would like to suggest that in many cases, there is a much deeper, and different motivation. For some, they rather get tattoos because they want attention. “Look at me!” And of course, that is probably rooted in a deeper issue which is “Love me!”
People need love. And some feel that by having others look at them, it might lead to love. Which could be true. Or maybe not. See, in this world of the internet, some people will do almost anything to try to get others to look at them. Even to defile their own precious skin. (Or get implants…or try to make their hair grow, or, fill in the blank.)
Now, when I see a middle-aged man, who has left his wife and is driving around Miami in a new yellow convertible with a 25-year old blond, I have one thought: Mid-life crisis. And when I see a person with a tattoo, whether rightly or wrongly, I tend to think: Desperate for attention.
For certain folks, getting a tattoo can be a despairing cry for help. It’s revealing. To me, it’s like standing on the corner with a sign, begging for donations.
People who are that desperate for attention and maybe for love, probably have not much to give. They may not be full of love, and therefore can’t share their overflow with others. Rather they may be pleading for such love themselves. And a tattoo seems to me like they are publicly broadcasting to the world that they are not capable of loving anyone; at least they might not be able to give love in a healthy way. Rather, they desire to get love from others. And if someone is that anxious, I guess I find it odd that they would want everyone to know it. To me, it is not something to be publicly advertised. And because of all this, I find body markings to be emotionally unattractive. Again, that’s just me.
Beauty is intimately connected to love; but also, to uniqueness and distinction. Think of a father with nine children. All of those kids will be seeking attention at one time or another from their dad. And some ways to stand out as different are by being beautiful, strong, funny, smart, loud, etc. A similar dynamic happens with children in school.
Beauty can at times lead indirectly to love, which is the ultimate goal for everyone. But sometimes there first needs to something to catch someone’s attention: great hair, nice arms, piercing eyes, smile, voice, etc.
And as attraction goes, the size of one’s community is also a factor. If there are nine kids in a family, there might be some vying for attention. But in a school of 900, the dynamics change dramatically.
Therefore, beauty in the age of the internet is also affected. A boy might have 100 kids in his class, and 50 could be women. But on his phone, he can see millions of beautiful women. With such odds, what chance do the girls in his class have for catching his eye? Of course, they still can, but the situation changes.
I think that this electronic reality is one of the reasons people turned to tattoos. They can be easily noticeable, and at one time, not everyone had them. (Nowadays it is just the reverse and so to be different, people will probably start NOT getting them.) Anyway, tattoos can be personalized so people might feel it is a unique form of beauty. Even so, such markings usually make me imagine that someone took a Sharpie marker and started to draw on their own arm. Certainly, doing so would be noticeable, and one might inquire about it. But in the end, I see no beauty in it. Rather, it seems the person is only about garnering attention.
What about Christians and tattoos?
The first time I saw a Christian with a tattoo, it was on the hand of 50-year old Ethiopian male evangelist. It was a cross, about half an inch long and it was old and faded blue. It was not beautiful to me, despite it being a cross. I surmised that he had received it when he was very young. My first thought was: He should get that thing removed. It makes him look old and dirty.
I think believers have the very least motivation for using skin markings as a way to get attention, and that is because we know the love of the Father. We have it. We need not seek out love or attention from any other humans. We don’t need people to look at us and we don’t crave human love the way the non-Christians do. We already know that human love is imperfect and will never ultimately satisfy. So why bother striving for it, right?
We also know that if God loves us as we are, then we are beautiful just as we are. We need not change. That does not mean we can’t do things to accentuate beauty if we want to. Anyone is free to do anything. But we don’t need to. Remember, we are physically beautiful; and more importantly, we are emotionally beautiful.
And when Christians are that self-confident, we can turn outward and look towards those who have not yet seen God. In so doing, we can reaffirm their own value and worth.
Despite my ranting here against such body marks, I have to pause and step back. I wonder if there is some good to be found in all this. I mean, although in my flesh I might personally find tattoos to be both physically and emotionally ugly, maybe I can think about them differently for a moment.
In this dying world around me, tattoos are easy to spot if they are visible. That’s because, by design, they are noticeable. What if some or all of these people are trying unsuccessfully to find attention and love through tattoos? Maybe I can look at and see the beauty inside of the such people. In some situations, it could even be possible to offer them that which we believe their heart desperately craves: A glimpse of the infinite and boundless love of God.
I wonder if God knows that such overt body marks are ways for his children to quickly see and understand those who are crying out for his love. Almost like God is pointing at certain people and saying, “Every time you see a tattoo, know that that person is likely in need of prayer, attention and love.”
© 2019, Alignment Life