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Just The Way You Are
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
03/09/2011

Dynamic ImageThe Song: “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Main Point of Discussion: God loves us—completely, fully, perfectly—despite the way we are.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)

  • “Just the Way You Are” is an almost entirely sweet love song that garnered Mars a Grammy last month for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance; it also spent time atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as its Radio Songs, Digital Songs, Adult Contemporary, and Adult Pop Songs charts. It also topped the iTunes singles chart and finished 2010 as the site’s 18th best-selling single.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce teens to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most teens, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.

  • That said, be mindful regarding some marginally suggestive lyrics in this song that could lead to problems if you ignore them. Specifically, Mars declares that he’d kiss the lips of the subject of his song “all day” if she’d let him and that her laugh is “so sexy.” Acceptable for a love song from husband to wife—much milder than Song of Solomon, in fact. But if the song is indeed from the perspective of a single guy to his girlfriend, he’ll quickly discover that kissing all day usually leads to something else—as God intended—which is a problem if you’re an unmarried Christian couple.

  • Parent Tip: A set of questions will revolve around each of your family members substituting two of their best inner qualities for two of the outer qualities that Mars admires about the girl in “Just the Way You Are.” So prepare that ahead of time, along with the regular lyric sheet, and make sure there are enough pens/pencils available for everybody. (You can check out an example of the shortened, alternate song lyrics further down; revise and tweak as you see fit.)
  • Parent Tip 2: Have some candy on hand for prizes—see first few questions below.

  • Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

The Music Video:
The song’s video can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk



Lyrics: Just the Way You Are

Oh her eyes, her eyes
Make the stars look like they’re not shining
Her hair, her hair
Falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful
And I tell her every day

Yeah I know, I know
When I compliment her
She won’t believe me
And it’s so, it’s so
Sad to think she don’t see what I see
But every time she asks me, “Do I look okay?”
I say…

[chorus]
“When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for a while
Cause girl you’re amazing
Just the way you are”

Her lips, her lips
I could kiss them all day if she’d let me
Her laugh, her laugh
She hates but I think it’s so sexy
She’s so beautiful
And I tell her every day

Oh you know, you know, you know
I’d never ask you to change
If “perfect” is what you’re searching for
Then just stay the same
So don’t even bother asking
If you look okay
You know I say…

[chorus]

The way you are (2x)
Girl you’re amazing
Just the way you are

[chorus]


Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: What’s the message of this song?
    A: The singer really digs this girl.

    Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this song?
    A: We need to recognize that, although it’s a (mostly) clean song, it talks about imperfect love ultimately. In the end the tune opens up a lot of doors to discuss God’s love for us, which is an altogether different kind of love than what’s glorified in “Just the Way You Are.”

    Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this song to actually living out those opinions?
    A: We should recognize that God loves us—not because of we love God so well or because we do good or holy things or because we have well-developed inner qualities that greatly please God—just because God decides to love us, period. Then we can begin to put our egos in their proper places and appreciate how radical and otherworldly God’s love truly is.

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion:
(If your kids seem into diving in deeper and looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)


Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our "Parenting Help" page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today's Teens.

Transitional Statement:
“Just the Way You Are” is big-time catchy single that a whole lot of people love—but is that only because of Bruno Mars’ smooth singing and pretty melodies? Or could there be a deeper message in the lyrics? The Bible definitely has a few things to say about God’s love for us—and believe it or not, it’s not a “just the way you are” kind of love.


More Discussion Questions:
  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Okay, I have a prize here---and it’ll go to whoever can recite the first verse of another song titled “Just the Way You Are,” written in the previous millennium by a guy named Billy Joel…and there’s an extra prize if you sing it!

    Parent Tip: If you don’t know the answer, it’s “don’t go changin’, to try to please me, you never let me down before…” (And if any of your family members are brave enough to sing the lines, trust us, you’ve heard the song and will know if the melody is correct!)

  2. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: In the new “Just the Way You Are,” Bruno Mars sings the praises of the girl of his affections. What does he like about this girl? (Parent—answers you’re looking for: Her eyes, hair, lips, smile, face, and laugh.)

  3. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: Would you describe these as inner qualities or outer qualities? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: Outer qualities.)

  4. Read the following passage from the Bible:

      1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV 2011)
      “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

  5. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to 1 Samuel 16:7, what qualities does God care more about—inner or outer? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: Inner qualities.)

  6. Parent say: Okay, we’ve figured out that God isn’t concerned with outward appearances—just our hearts, our inner qualities. So…let’s try an experiment. (Along with pens/pencils for those who need them, pass out lyric sheets for the shortened version of the song with blank lines in place of the girl’s outer qualities Mars sings about. See example just below…)

      Shortened, Alternate Song Lyrics:
      Yeah I know, I know
      When I compliment her/him
      She/He won’t believe me
      And it’s so, it’s so
      Sad to think she/he don’t see what I see
      But every time she/he asks me, “Am I okay?”
      I say…

      [chorus]
      “When I see your ______
      There’s not a thing that I would change
      Cause you’re amazing
      Just the way you are
      And when you _______
      The whole world stops and stares for a while
      Cause girl/boy you’re amazing
      Just the way you are”

      Oh you know, you know, you know
      I’d never ask you to change
      If “perfect” is what you’re searching for
      Then just stay the same
      So don’t even bother asking
      If you’re okay
      You know I say…

      [chorus]

    Parent continue: I want each of you to read these shortened, alternate lyrics as if God were singing them to you—all you have to do is fill in the two blank lines with your two best inner qualities. I’ll give you a minute or two, and then we’ll continue with the questions. (Wait for a minute or two, resume study…)

  7. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Okay, now that the song is “fixed,” and God is singing about our best inner qualities, let me ask you a question: Do you believe our best inner qualities are the REASONS why God loves us? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: No. God loves us because God decided to love us—not for anything we do or have done.)

  8. Read the following passage from the Bible:

      1 John 4:9-10 (NIV 2011)
      9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

  9. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to verse 9, how does God show his love among us? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: God sent Jesus to us so that we might live through him.)

  10. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to verse 10, does God love us because we love him? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: No. God loves us because God chooses to—not because we loved him.)

  11. Parent say: The Bible’s “lyrics” dismantle our self-righteous attitudes as well as how we view our good inner qualities—even things about us that please God! We see, first of all, that while God delights in our good choices and attitudes, they don’t have anything to do with why God loves us. But that’s not all—God’s love for us goes even deeper and more radical than that. All our goodness, even our great inner qualities that God delights in, are tainted by sin…which keeps us countless universes short of what God expects…and without any chance of entering into a relationship with God on our own.

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 3:23 (NIV 2011)
      “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

  12. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to this verse, what is the sticking point that keeps all of us from reaching that ultimate level—God’s glory? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: Sin.)

  13. Leader say: So not only does God choose to love us, and not only do our inner qualities fail to cause God to love us—but…

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 5:8 (NIV 2011)
      “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  14. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to this verse, God loves us despite…what? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Despite us being sinners.)

  15. Parent say: That’s the gospel right there: God loves us—period. And God shows his love for us through Christ’s death on the cross—period. According to the Bible, Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb paid the price for our sins in God’s eyes, paving the way for us to be able to join Jesus in Heaven through his gift of eternal life. And how does that happen? Check out yet another important passage from Romans…

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 10:9-10 (NIV 2011)
      “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

  16. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: What are some things you can do this week to express your gratitude to God for how much he loves you?

Wrap Up:
Still liking that Bruno Mars song? I only kid Bruno—“Just the Way You Are” is (mostly) a sweet love song, and there’s nothing wrong with song like that. This discussion isn’t meant to disparage Bruno or his song; we gathered here to use “Just the Way You Are” as a springboard to look at love on a different level—God’s level. First, we discovered that God cares a whole lot more about our inner qualities than about the qualities Bruno’s song puts on a pedestal. Second, we learned that even when we focus on and develop our inner qualities—and even when God is pleased with our progress—God doesn’t love us because of those things! On the contrary, God loves us…just because God loves us. God decided to love us. Third, how can we be sure God’s emotions aren’t driving his love for us? Because of our HUGE sin problem. Because of sin, “all…fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God isn’t thrilled with our sin—that kinda kills any potential for God having warm fuzzies when it comes to us. The good news, however, is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and all we have to do is declare with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead—and we’ll be saved (Romans 10:9-10). That’s how God shows he loves us.

Let’s pray.


Parent Tip: Depending on how you want approach “the sinner’s prayer” or becoming a Christian theologically, you may or may not want to close the meeting with a prayer that opens the door for your family members to ask Christ into their hearts—it’s your call…)

Close in Prayer

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