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 or not to dye greying hair. It’s not a bad test-case for issues of beauty and personal adornment.

flickr: foxtongue

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 teaching 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 in 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 14:1-23). 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, that by all 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 in our local school 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 2:1-14). 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 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 one another in love (for example, husband, church community, and 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?

6 thoughts on “To dye or not to dye?

  1. Can’t think of any more Bible verses, off the top of my bald head, but the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1 does spring to mind:

    What is your only comfort
    in life and in death?

    A. That I am not my own,
    but belong—

    body and soul,
    in life and in death—

    to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ.

    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
    and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

    **He also watches over me in such a way
    that not a hair can fall from my head
    without the will of my Father in heaven;**
    in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

    Because I belong to him,
    Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
    assures me of eternal life
    and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
    from now on to live for him.

  2. Love it! The thought process is great…how you weave back and forth with your thinking, like a sound track into your mind. Best of all, you use God’s word as your guide…all of it in a reflective way. There are things God does NOT dictate (good?!?!?!) so we do have choices!!!! I too like to make decissions that please my Lord first, then my husband, then myself…when I do it right!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Lynnea! I’d make one change in your list: I’d put love for others before “myself”. Because it’s not about freedom as an end it itself – it’s about the freedom to love. So I’m free to go against my own preferred choices for the sake of others. Perhaps I could have made this clearer in my post! This is a wonderful freedom: the freedom to love others because God has loved me.

      • Beautifully put! As a teenager, I remember someone talking about women’s liberation and how CHRISTIAN women do have freedom. That obviously impressed me…in my early 50’s now!
        By the way, I have mousy hair, not gray, but it looks better with a little “sunshine” added in! I often thank God for my little bag of make-up…don’t wear much, but it sure can perk me up some days and help me face the world with a little more confidence and grace. I think God is fine with that.

        • A little blessing I, too, thank God for. As long as we remember to adorn ourselves with godliness first, then we’ll be beautiful, makeup or no makeup. My friend comments that people call her “beautiful” more often as she gets older and, physically, less beautiful – no doubt because inner beauty grows and shines out. Something us women in our 40s and 50s need to remember! :)

Comments are closed.