Thursday, June 14, 2012

to dye or not to dye?

To dye or not to dye? This question came up on Jenny's blog, and I just couldn't resist jumping in with a typically over-long comment! Here's an edited version of what I wrote, for women considering the pressing question of whether to dye their greying hair or not. If you want some more practical and no doubt godlier reflections, check out her blog post and the comments.

Like all things the Bible doesn't legislate on, whether or not to dye your hair comes down to the freedom to serve one another in love (Gal 5:13). It's the doctrine of demons to declare a created thing "bad": it's good if received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:1-5). We're not to submit to rules like "do not handle! do not taste! do not touch!" (Col 2:16-23).

So yes, hair dye, waxing, and, dare I say, even botox and surgery to improve appearance are not evil in themselves: they are good gifts of God to be received with thanksgiving (you only have to think of times they are "necessary" - as in reconstructive surgery after injury - to see that this is true).

Yet physical beauty is fleeting, and we're to adorn ourselves with trust in God, gentleness and good deeds rather than with elaborate hairstyles, clothes and makeup (Prov 31:30; 1 Tim 2:9-10, 1 Pet 3:3-4). We're free to use these things with godliness and thankfulness, but not to over-value or get our value from them. Do we spend more time studying our reflection in the bathroom mirror or the mirror of God's word? (James 1:22-25) Are we living in luxury and self-indulgence? (James 5:5)

So how do I decide whether to dye my greying hair or not? Well, partly this is a matter of personal freedom: I may decide to wear lipstick, or colour my hair, because I like and enjoy it, and that's okay as long as I'm not enslaved to it as an idol (obsessed, spending too much money, and so on). I may need a godly friend to help me sort this one out!

It's also a matter of context: what is loving for those around me? Am I bringing honour to Christ? These are the main principles at stake.

Some principles that occur: the "weaker brother" principle (Rom 14). Do others in my Christian community see what I am doing as evil? Will I lead them into sin - to act against their own conscience? I may abstain from hair dye for this reason. (I hope this isn't an issue for many of us!)

The "all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some" principle (1 Cor 9:20-23). I imagine if I was ministering in a posh suburb or to film stars (thank heavens I'm not!) botox etc. might be part of the deal. In my case, I choose a hair style that is appropriate for our local community. Although there's also the other side of this: it's good to stand out and make choices that set us apart as different (Titus 2). So I have to evaluate the impact of what I do on those around me.

For example, I work among uni students and I don't age gracefully, so I try to look a little younger in how I dress and what I do with my hair and makeup. Maybe this is just vanity, I don't know. Younger women don't need me to be "young": they need my age and the wisdom that comes with age (Titus 2:3-5) and grey hair can be a symbol of this (Prov 16:31). As they get to know me, it's character they'll notice, not appearance. But it's good not to put obvious stumbling blocks in their way.

Who am I kidding? For me this is really a matter of personal preference. I think I might do the "funky grey" thing if my husband liked short hair. But since one of the ways I love him is by keeping my hair long (not my first choice), and since he likes my hair this way, I dye it (his preferences are the ones I honour after God's). I was planning not to, but there you go. I have thick, wiry hair and I think I'd look a little odd with long grey hair! (Think Macbeth.) And yes, maybe I spend more than I should: my (perhaps pathetic) excuse is that I don't have that convenient-coloured hair that you can easily dye yourself. Plus I've built up a close relationship with my (relatively cheap) hairdresser, including some conversations about Jesus, and, like all good hairdressers, she owns my hair, and it would feel strange to back out of those long hair-dying sessions now...

In other words, in different circumstances I might make a different decision. I'm not holding myself up as an example, just letting you know how this decision worked out for me. I'm sure that the choices my friends and those around me were making had a huge impact on me; every decision we make impacts others, which is a sobering thought and perhaps should give us pause as we reach for the hair dye.

Whether we dye our hair or not, the principles remain the same:

  • don't legislate on issues where God has allowed freedom
  • receive what God has made with thanksgiving
  • use our freedom to serve others in love (e.g. husband, church community, or non-Christian friends
  • honour those who make different decisions to ourselves (unless they are making them for ungodly reasons, in which case it may be loving to bring the issue to their attention).
If we do this then we are honouring Christ by our decisions, whatever they may be.

Can you think of Bible references or principles that I've missed?

This post first appeared at The Briefing today (posting it there made me feel very brave and more than a little foolish).

image is by foxtongue from flickr


Sandra J said...

Thanks, Jean!
I've been going grey since my late teens, & now at 35, working with uni students, i justify dying my hair (partly) to look closer to their age...
But I think "looking old" is the underlying horror that makes most women dye their hair after a certain age (look around a train carriage next time you're travelling and try to spot the woman whose hair is NOT dyed!)... there's not much shame left in this culture, except the shame of being old. I suppose it comes from fear of that great taboo that secular society doesn't know how to handle; death. It's a far cry from Proverbs 16:31 ("Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life"). So... i wonder if Christians can (should?) stand out & be different in this, because of our different attitude to ageing & death...

PS. I think you'd look great with a long grey mane ;)

Rachach said...

Hi Jean,
Great work! I enjoyded reading this post and I think you've covered it all.

Jean said...

You first, Sandra! ;)