While assembling Legos, my seven-year-old nephew has been known to break out singing, “You don’t know you’re beautiful,” the words to the popular song by One Direction. Of course, he doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the words. But, more importantly, do we comprehend that this simple statement, “You don’t know you’re beautiful,” applies to us, also? Do we recognize to the depths of our beings that we are truly beautiful?
If we are beautiful, what makes us so? Is it charm, attractive appearance, the latest fashions? One of the most beautiful people to have left her lasting imprint is Blessed Mother Teresa. Now to look at her, you might wonder, “How could this shriveled, bent over, unassuming, little woman be considered beautiful?” She certainly is not physically attractive. Yet if we look into her eyes, we see a luminous beauty that radiates outward.
What is that beauty she radiates? Is it something unique to her? Is it something we wish to possess? While we dimly reflect this beauty at times, it is a beauty we are all capable of possessing; a beauty that comes from our human nature that we are all created in the image and likeness of God (CCC 41, CCC 1700). And in a very particular way, we possess this beauty when we are baptized, having Christ live within us (CCC 1, CCC 1997).
Naturally, this has many ramifications. It is personified in the picture of Pope Francis kissing the severely disfigured man. It is how we treat one another. And how do we treat one another? Do others know we are Christians by our words and actions (John 13:35)?
When I would really like to repartee unkind word for unkind word, do I pause to reconsider? Sure that person gets under my skin, irritates me to no end, drives me bonkers, doesn’t know what he is talking about. . .! (Ahh, you can feel the temperature rising!) I should say, “I allow that person to get under my skin.” Do I want to engage in the same low base name calling that too often people engage in in the comment section on some websites and blogs? It makes someone pause to wonder if people understand civility. Unfortunately, it is too easy to hide under a pseudonym and not take responsibility for one’s words. Unable to intelligently discuss or argue the issues and facts, they attack one another’s dignity.
Choosing my words carefully when responding to another’s comments is just one of many opportunities for me to practice the art of charity to others. There is that person who cut me off while driving. Without question, I have a few choice words I would like to use. What about disciplining the child who refuses to cooperate and sasses back? When I am running behind and feeling the pressure of getting to an appointment on time, he brazenly announces, “I don’t want to get my shoes on?” I could get angry and read him the riot act or stay cool and let him suffer the consequences of his choices.
Beauty creams, tummy tucks, and sparkling diamonds promise women a dazzling beauty, but for a true beauty that radiates from the inside out, we can heed the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, “Do something beautiful for God.” This may translate into thinking about how our words reflect our minds, hearts, and souls.
In the children’s fairytale “Toads and Diamonds” by Charles Perrault, one sister is sweet-tempered and good and the other is disagreeable and proud. When the kind sister offers a cup of cool, refreshing water to a fairy disguised as a poor, old woman, she is rewarded with the gift of a diamond, pearl, or rose emerging from her mouth with every word. At her mother’s insistent demand, her sister decides to receive the same “gift.” Instead, because she is haughty and unkind, refusing to provide the fairy dressed as a fine lady a cup of water, the fairy gives her the “gift” of having snakes and toads issuing forth from her mouth with every word.
Obviously, this is a fairytale but sometimes reflecting on a concrete image forces us to consider our choices. If I want to emanate the magnificent beauty that Blessed Mother Teresa possessed, the beauty of Christ’s love, I need to ponder my words and actions. Are my words disagreeable “toads” or glittering “diamonds”?
Reflecting on whether my words are “toads” or “diamonds” is just one aspect of beauty. In many ways beauty can be compared to the facets of a diamond. What are some of the qualities of someone who is truly beautiful? Kindness, goodness, peace, joy, love. You fill in the blank. Do I reflect them? More importantly, if I recognize to the depths of my being that I am beautiful because I am a child of God, what does that mean? Do I develop that Father-child relationship? Do I rest securely in my Father’s arms at all times under all circumstances, trusting him implicitly, even when he asks something that seems incomprehensible—cancer, mental illness, the loss of a loved one,. . .?
Hanging in our living room is a picture of a little girl, her hands folded under her chin, nestled in her father’s lap in a sailing skiff as a storm rages about them. Towering waves buffet the tiny boat, rocking it precariously, as the roaring sea deafens her father’s voice and the mist shrouds their view of the shore. Yet his eyes are fixed on the penetrating light of the lighthouse and his hand is firmly on the tiller to guide them home. As the storm increases its intensity, she clings tighter to her father, completely confident in his sacrificial love. Can I say the words found in the prayer book, Heavenwards? “Though storm may rage and wind may howl and lightning strike again, I think as does the mariner’s child: My Father is at the helm.”