Eugene Cho

which message are you listening to?

Have you seen the two videos below produced by Dove?

I showed one of them yesterday before my sermon and the second was a bit too risque to show with some younger folks in our midst. My sermon yesterday was part of a series of sermons on Relationships (through April 2010) and the focus for this talk was on Self Identity.

My point is simple:

Beware of the dangers of Self-Deification and Self-Hatred. Embrace the Truth that God created us, knows us, and loves us. The world often sees human beings as commodities and consumers. The good news is that God sees us as His creations. Good news indeed…

Rather than allowing truths of God to inform and transform our lives (Psalm 139), we can fall prey to the messages of the world around us that often convey to us that we simply not _________ enough.

What is your struggle?

I think for me, I wrestle with, “Am I successful enough?” – as a man and ironically, as a christian and especially as a pastor.”  It’s not that achievement, pursuits, and “success” are inherently negative or bad…but it’s the occasion when I allow these things to supersede the primacy of my identity coming from my identity as a child of God.

Which message are you listening to?

Take a look at these videos.

What do you think?

These “commercials” are powerful…even despite the appropriate criticisms of Dove that are part of the same company (Unilever) that produces the AXE commercials.

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30 Responses

  1. Andy M says:

    I love these videos. They get right to the point and show exactly what the “beauty” industry is about. I would agree with the criticism of hypocrisy, but for any business to create videos that critique or criticize their own industry, that is a very bold step. You have to start somewhere.

    It is fairly common for me to think about how I am not as good of a husband as I should be, or father, or son, brother, employee, and most definately not as good of a follower of Christ as I should. In the spectrum of how we have the Image of God in us, and how we have fallen, and I know that we are both, but I have to admit I feel more fallen most of the time rather that in the Image of God.

  2. Wayne Hipley says:

    As a youthworker I’ve been following Dove’s campaign for some time now and applaud their efforts. I also question the underlying motivation when considering that the Axe campaign is also a part of the same corporate entity. I think a healthy skepticism is important – after all, these are companies trying to make money. It’s laudable that Dove has chosen the high road, but how long will these high ideals continue to be maintained if profits slip significantly?

    My personal struggle is always going to be with sin… “Am I holy enough?”

  3. Martha Heassler says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing…

  4. neu says:

    I don’t worry if I’m beautiful enough. I already know that I’m not beautiful enough. It’s not just the media – family and classmates have told me that for a large part of my life, including my own dad.

    Does God love me? At this point in time, I honestly don’t know… No amount of “You’re fearfully and wonderfully made” can change the way most people look at me. No amount of prayer, or Bible verses, or mantras can change the way I look.

    I used to be in a college ministry that acted a lot like high school. Even in the Church, guys still focused mainly on looks, and I got pushed to the side while my acquaintances got married.

    I give up altogether. Looks are paramount, no matter how people try to dress it down with “inner beauty” and “God’s love”. Just my experience, though.

    • Amy says:

      Um, no, it’s not just your experience. It’s mine too. I don’t have any answers. I don’t know why I look the way I do. It’s my experience that it is no different in a church setting. Sometimes it makes me angry at God. You wouldn’t believe some of the conversations (if they are one sided can they still be called conversation? As I’ve yet to hear a response) I’ve had with God. Like you, I find myself giving up. But somehow, I think there must be a reason. That’s on a good day.

      • M.E. says:

        A few nights ago, I was sitting in a prayer group with a woman who did not fit typical beauty standards at all. When I prayed for her, I suddenly felt tremendous beauty in my heart. I told her, “God wants you to know that you’re beautiful, and that you bring beauty with you wherever you go.” And God meant that she was physically beautiful. I could actually see the beauty in her face being born. I would bet that in the past, people had told her she was unattractive, and she’d claimed that for herself when it wasn’t true.

        As believers in Christ, you two are beautiful. Beautiful on the inside, beautiful on the outside. Most definitely. I’m sorry to say this, but if other people have told you otherwise, they are looking through the lens of their own appearance issues.

        • Rebecca says:

          I know those feelings, of thinking that you could never be beautiful. And I also know what it means to have people call out the beauty in us, as M.E. did for that woman. It has taken years of prayer, times with God’s Spirit spekaing to me, either directly or through His people, for me to even begin to believe that I might be beautiful. I still struggle with accepting compliments. I’m grateful that my husband is diligent in calling out my beauty that I can’t always see or believe.

          It’s a reminder to be sincere and diligent in our building up of each other in the church. I’ll tell you though, for all the guys reading this, to have good Christian brothers and friends affirm a woman for both her physical and spiritual beauty goes a long way towards healing the wounds.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Oh how I want to love the Dove videos.

    But I don’t think I do.

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but it’s all still marketing. Consider this: Dove is owned by the same company that owns the men’s brand Axe. Their commercials give the message to guys that nothing matters more than getting the perfect woman (and their product will help.)

    You cant say “true beauty is not found in apperance” on the one hand, and then turn around and sell another product by saying, “obtaining a physically good looking woman will make you an acceptable man.”

    What happens when the Dove woman and the Axe man get together?

    I’d be MUCH MUCH more impressed if the same message in the Dove ads was given to men – that a woman’s beauty is not just about looks (and your worth is not based on her beauty.) But as it is, they’re just trying to sell products by giving whatever message they have to.

    • Wayne Hipley says:

      Great points, Jennifer – what will it matter to young ladies what Dove says if what guys are telling them is something completely different?

      • elderj says:

        Most guys (other than the occasional neanderthal) are too polite to overtly malign a girl for her looks; they tend to do so in much more subtle ways. In my experience women are much more vicious with each other (see sorority hazing as an example).

    • Eugene Cho says:


      right, they are both owned by Unilever and i mentioned that on my blogpost. i’m glad that Dove has gotten some good solid pushback on the AXE ads. they are pretty over the top.

      • Jennifer says:


        There is something in the Dove ads that feels even more over the top though. I feel like they co-opt a really good message. They aren’t primarily concerned with the good of girls/women – if they were the Axe ads woudlnt exist. They’re manipulating women into buying their product through some very sophisticated measures and that feels worse than Axe doing it through common place measures.

        • Jennifer, your comments are really incisive. Thanks for making me think harder about the ads. Sadly, I think you’re also right. The divergence of products and their correlating messages strongly suggests that it’s not some fundamental commitment on the part of unilever to redefine beauty, but each division’s best effort to maximize their products. great and unfortunate example of the right hand and left hand being out of sync. way out of sync.

    • Terri says:

      I have the same struggle. We have to keep in mind that Unilever is huge and without knowing the intricacies of their organizations, it is quite possible that the Axe people don’t know the Dove people at all. Not to say that given the different market segments of the two products, that they would’ve coordinated their messages. As well, most of the self esteem marketing targeted UK and Canada, not so much the US. Other Dove campaigns also started in Europe and eventually find their way to the US. So I guess while you don’t have to fully love the videos, don’t be so quick to dismiss them. While over the top, they remind us that the beauty industry (and even fitness magazines out there…remember Kelly Clarkson’s image on Self over the summer?) will alter images to make their products sell better.

  6. PL says:

    There is no knowledge of the self without the knowledge of God. … Making choices that eternally matter is how one can become truly a self. … for the self is not “a thing” but a way of being. … being created by God, being a derived relation, means that if I am to live as a true self, male or female, I must do so in relation to God. … it is how we choose to be self before God that is crucial. – James Houston

  7. Eugene, I think you phrased the question really well: “Which message are you listening to?” A parallel question is “Who are the people who created the messages you listen to”

    As @neu mentioned, our parents and other leadership figures are huge influences in how we see ourselves. And how we imagine God is connected to the images of other people who’ve been in roles of authority or influence in our lives. I know that I started living much more healthily once I paired the self-deprecating thoughts in my head with the names of the people who first told expressed those opinions to me. And then decided I disagreed with them🙂

  8. Esther says:

    The other night my 2 1/2 year old daughter spent the night at her grandparents. Just five minutes after putting her to bed, in her pajamas and diaper, she appeared in their living room completely naked and declared “I want to be naked.” My daughter makes me laugh! But that got me thinking about how as we grow up we so quickly become insecure in our own skin that we find ways to change it or cover it up. I am definitely guilty of those insecurities. I’m sure marketing does not help those insecurities but I dont believe it is the root cause.

  9. Terri says:

    PE, I had a really hard week last week that had a lot to do with how I view myself and how others view me. Between the women’s worship on Saturday and your sermon yesterday, God is really trying to get through to me.

  10. Diane says:

    If you’re interested in critically examining media messages about women’s body image, check out About-Face:
    It’s secular but soo crucial to helping us find our identity as children of God and not of society.

    I’d also recommend these books:
    “The Body Project” by Joan Jacob Brumberg (secular but with huge implications for churches that minister with teen girls)

    “Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice” by Stephanie Paulsell
    (website that accompanies it is here: — click on “related documents” and download the excellent study guide!)

    [I am not affiliated with any of these books/sites, but I have found them VERY useful in working with Christian teens & adults about body image. I hope they can be a blessing to some of the readers here, too!]

  11. your friend says:

    I was called a Beauty (with capital B) when I was young, but I never believed it.

    Now, as I will be 50 in a few weeks, despite wrinkles, I feel really beautiful, why? God healed me and my beauty comes from inside out.

  12. Bob says:

    Amazing that the neck and eyes can be changed using the computer. Pictures don’t always tell the truth.

  13. When one of my daughters was about 6, I overheard her ask a friend why she had gotten her hair cut. “My mom said it was ugly, so she made me get it cut,” her friend replied. I got a lump in my throat when my daughter indignantly cried out, “But a mom always thinks you look beautiful, no matter what!”

    That same daughter became very self-conscious as a teen and physically folded in on herself, as if she were trying to hide her figure and her face. I didn’t think she looked any less beautiful than she did at 6, but suddenly she needed more than my unconditional approval. She needed to feel accepted by the larger world as well, and it was all too clear that she didn’t match the fashionable images that she saw all around her. As a young adult she is now beginning to come back out of her shell and reclaim a little of her spunky confidence, but she still seems vaguely uncomfortable in her own skin.

    My own struggle, ironically, is with the message that good parenting will produce perfectly well-adjusted and successful kids. I know that God gives me the freedom to wrestle with life and make my own mistakes, but nevertheless I worry that my kids’ wrestling is somehow the result of my inadequate parenting.

  14. steven says:

    This would be a great place to introduce concepts of beauty from different cultural perspectives…

    I actually remember watching a ‘discovery channel’ type documentary on that very theme once…

    Beauty is not universally agreed upon…

  15. Jennifer says:

    I learned today that they also have a brand called “Fair and Lovely” – a skin lightening cream marketed to darker skinned woman outside of the US.

    I just cant get on the Dove “film” (aka advertisement) bandwagon.

  16. I’m not sure I love the ads, but I’m not so sure I can be critical of them. There’s one thing I’ve learned about marketing: their job is a to judge what direction society is headed (yes, and they also influence it). I find good marketers to be highly adept cultural critics. They see what others don’t and decide how to influence it. I may not approve of their reasons or goals, but I do think we could learn a few things from them.

    So, for me, I have to give the marketers credit for seeing what direction we’re headed and supporting it instead of suppressing it. Frankly, I’d rather they were making money off this message than another.

  17. […] aims to paint a picture of what Beauty is and them seeks to show how we all fall short of that Beauty. Agree with me or not, it is the subtle […]

  18. […] 2009 December 20 in Uncategorized My pastor preached on self-perception a few weeks ago, and posted this video on his blog. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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First day of our daughter's college years at this great school. We love you. We're so proud of you.We believe in you. Go Huskies. Go Dawgs. And also, beat Stanford this Friday. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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