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Outer versus Inner

How much do you care about your outer appearance?

I was a VERY fortunate teenager. For almost all of my adolescence I had like zero acne. I never really had to deal with the horrifying moments of a gross pimple on prom night or the mean insults of unkind peers. For whatever reason, good genes or good health, my skin was flawless.

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When I moved to the very humid land of S.E. Texas, that story changed a bit. I still didn’t have any real dramatic breakouts, but I had enough that I was embarrassed by them. The different amount of water and pollution in the air meant that I would need a different cleaning routine if I was going to fight this, but I was in grad school and didn’t have the time or the money to figure out exactly what that meant.

Before moving to Texas, I honestly didn’t give acne a second thought. I didn’t know how it worked or why it happened. I just knew that somebody at some point told me that eating chocolate gave you acne, but I ate plenty of chocolate and never had it, so that blows up that idea, right?

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Wrong. There are lots or reasons that people may break out with what we call acne.

There are four main causes of acne:

  1. Excess oil production
  2. Clogged hair follicles
  3. Bacteria
  4. Excess activity of certain hormones

While there is no single food that “causes” acne, studies have shown that a diet with a high-glycemic index (high in sugars and carbs) causes irritation through the body and increases the production of sebum, an oily substance in your skin. So if you don’t keep track of it, that bit of extra chocolate might be the first step in your body having more acne.

While that is an external factor that you can change, others like the excess hormones are internal and are harder to change. It is interesting to me that each of the 4 different causes have different ways of showing themselves. Hormonal causes usually happen during puberty or based on women’s cycles and they usually appear on the jaw line.

Although all of these are different, regular cleaning and care can prevent most of them. The first 3 at least.

The biggest thing I’ve come to realize now that I’ve had acne is that you almost always are more aware of it than other people. Most of the time people don’t even notice, with some obvious exceptions.

Recently I was just daydreaming, and I started to think about the similarities between acne and sin. The biggest thing is how it occurs when something goes wrong. It could be caused by something external like someone pressuring you or internally like a sin of pride.

Then, most of the time, no one else is even aware of our sins. We can get very good at hiding them, like we do a breakout of acne with makeup.

But what if our sins were just as obvious to the world and showed up on our face like that prom-day nightmare? Would that change how we thought about sin?

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“It’s not cheating unless you get caught.” 

Would you still cheat if once you did you had a big blemish on your face that told everyone you did?

How much time is spent on vigorous routines of washing our faces with the latest chemical or technique? What would happen if we applied the same sort of diligence to our souls? What if when we sinned, when we first recognized the blemish, we immediately tried every possible way to get rid of it? What if we went to confession, if we went to Mass to receive the healing Eucharist, or if we changed our ways to prevent this sort of breakout from ever happening again?

I know this is all hypothetical and I do not endorse going back to the days like The Scarlet Letter when everyone’s sins were pinned to their clothes. I just wish people would care as much about the cleanliness of their souls as they do the cleanliness of their faces. Commercials are filled with beautiful people with perfectly smooth skin telling us how to get great skin like them, but I don’t see commercials like that for Mass times.

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I don’t see role models talking about how great it is to be sin free.

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I know that it is simply a dream, but I know that we could do this in a small way.

First we start with ourselves. We could say a prayer every time that we wash our face. We can block out time to go to Mass every weekend and confession as often as possible, making it a priority. Then we can truly be the role models that the world needs. We can speak about the joy that comes in the mercy of the Lord. We can explain to our children about the importance of acknowledging our sins.

We can take kids or friends to go to confession together, make a date out of it sort of like how girls have girl’s nights where they wear masks to cleanse their faces. What if we had girl’s nights where we went to confession or got together to say a rosary? What a beautiful thing that could be.

It may seem like a dream, but it can start right now with you and me. Our sins may never be visible to the outside world, but that doesn’t mean we should treat them like they don’t exist. To our God they are as visible as the giant red zit on your face. And His view of us is the only one that matters. Step one, let us end this blog with a prayer to start a new chapter.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your eternal love and mercy. You are truly good and all-powerful. Look with kindness upon us sinners. We come to You broken and blemished, but we are looking to be redeemed in Your glory. We thank You for all of the blessings You have given us, especially our priests who You have gifted to us so that we may participate in Your glorious sacraments and become new in Your love. Look now upon our petitions and grant us the strength to take this new step. Help us to turn to You when we fall. Help us to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your name, Amen.