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Shaping up for God

Stock image by James Farmer
There is plenty of talk about body image issues in young women but men can also be prone to having low self esteem and self worth.
We find out how some Australian Christian men perceive their own bodies and to ask whether physical appearance relates to a person’s potential.

Jonathan Foye: 24, freelance journalist and a Uniting Church Chaplaincy Associate, NSW

Do you lead a healthy lifestyle?

I lead a busy lifestyle. I do find the time to exercise though. I go to the gym a couple of times a week. I find I work better once I’ve done some exercise.

So you go to the gym in order to function better rather than to improve your physical appearance?

Yes. I don’t have any physical target or weight — it’s simply for the sake of getting exercise and for my mental health.

How do you perceive yourself?

I don’t perceive myself in terms of my body or my body image. I care more about my brain and personality and who I am as a Christian.

Are those the characteristics you value in other people as well?

Yes, I think so. I don’t think the body is something you judge someone on in the long term. It may be the first thing you notice about someone but that impression may dissipate when you have a conversation with them.

Did you always hold such a strong perspective on body image?

Coming to this view was a gradual thing for me. I didn’t always feel so comfortable about my body image — especially in my teens. My perception started to change as I got older, especially after I exited high school and started to mature.

Andrew Johnson: 28, Social Justice Minister at West End Uniting Church, Brisbane

Do you lead a healthy lifestyle?

Now that I’m a bit older I’m a little bit more careful about what I eat. When I was younger I had one of those bodies where I could eat whatever I liked and I would put on no weight … it negated the need for me to eat right or do any exercise.

How do you perceive yourself?

Tall, skinny and scrawny. I try and project my character rather than my actual body and I generally do this through how I dress. I try to look trendy and confident. At job interviews for instance, I always overdress. I wear my favourite tie and my favourite shirt and cufflinks.

Do you judge other people on their appearance?

We all do it. I do it subconsciously. It’s the first thing you see of a person and you make your judgments accordingly.

How do you think Christians should perceive other people?

I think judgments made on stereotypes and misconceptions are something we’ve got to guard against. However, someone’s physical appearance or characteristics can often reflect something about their inner self and we should recognise this as well.

It is a bit simple to ride off one’s physical appearance saying, “It’s only the inside which counts”. It’s more complex than that.

James Matthews, 45: Minister at Mt Pleasant Uniting Church, WA

Do you live a healthy lifestyle?

I live by the guideline, “Too busy not to exercise and too busy not to pray”. I have two children and a wife as well as being a Uniting Church Minister and I exercise regularly. When I’m training for something I do at least one [training session] per day.

I find that exercise improves my life at home and work as well as keeping me fit.

Is keeping fit a part of your spiritual life?

Oh yes. I believe that if you truly want to be healthy all round then it actually requires some emotional, physical, spiritual and even, healthy thinking.

Do you believe we are made in the image of God?

Yes I do. We can be compassionate, generous, sacrificial and a whole heap of attributes that are like God. I am happy knowing there is something about our humanness that reveals God in some way.

This article was first printed in The Transit Lounge

Photo : Stock image by James Farmer