Be-Youtiful

That’s the thing about inner beauty: Unlike physical beauty, which grabs the spotlight for itself, inner beauty shines on everyone, catching them, holding them in its embrace, making them more beautiful too. – Unknown

I saw a social media post some time back of a couple that had just become engaged. They of course posted their engagement photos, excited to share their wonderful news with the world. The young couple was beaming with obvious joy and love. She was petite and pretty. He was, well…not exactly GQ. He wasn’t tall or muscular or trim. But nonetheless, it was evident they were deeply in love with each other and thrilled at the prospect of spending their lives together.

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But what was astounding were some of the responses they received. Mean-spirited comments from total strangers questioning the audacity of this young woman for becoming engaged to a guy who was unattractive and frumpy by their assessment. Clearly she was capable of finding someone who was more her ‘style’. I couldn’t believe it. It was incredulous that some would attempt to ruin their happy moment with such criticism simply because this couple wasn’t physically matched. But just as astounding was the response from this sweet couple towards those naysayers. With utmost sincerity and kindness, they explained how their love for each other wasn’t skin deep; that they were in love with who each other was, not what they looked like. The young woman went so far as to say her beau treated her with the utmost respect and devotion; that he was kindhearted and sweet; that they were each other’s soul mates and God had clearly brought them together. It didn’t matter to them what they looked like physically. It only mattered what they looked like internally. How quixotic.

I came away thinking, good for them! Good for them for throwing caution to the wind and openly professing their love for each other. Good for them for having a strong relationship to stand on in the face of opposition. Good for them for loving each other’s inner beauty rather than their outer looks.

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Inner beauty. We talk about it like it’s some mythical unicorn or some such; near to impossible, if ever, to attain. We know it’s a ‘Martha Stewart thing’ (a good thing), yet we tend to struggle with it all the same. I think it’s because the ‘inner’ aspect makes us feel vulnerable. If people see our “innards” then they may not like what they see and will criticize us. It’s far easier to fake it with outer beauty because it keeps people at a distance; at arm’s length so to speak. We can dazzle them with our shiny side so they won’t look too closely at our inny side. It’s a defense mechanism against being a presumed failure; against the risk of being excluded and rejected.

It’s because we, as a society, place so much value on looks. We immediately assume if someone looks good then they must be good. We’re naturally drawn to a person who’s attractive or whose looks are acceptable to us. As a result, we presume they’re intelligent, competent, intriguing, and well spoken. We unwittingly think they’re, in a word – perfect – and we even develop a sense of respect for them without them having earned it. But perfect perception is dangerous. It keeps us from truly seeing or being seen.

Now to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder. Otherwise, why would God have made Earth look so beautiful? Why would He have bothered with making landscapes so breathtaking? Why would He have bothered with making trees, flowers, birds, animals and oceans have such eye appeal? Those things are meant to be appealing for our pleasure and enjoyment. But we were meant for so much more than just what we look like.

Our real attraction should not be what we are but who we are. Nor should we be imitators of others. Inner beauty is not a “born with it” trait, like a random luck of the draw. It’s a “develop it” trait. It has to be intentional. But just exactly what does inner beauty look like? How do we know if and when we have it? All good questions with equally good answers! Read on, my friend, read on…

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First, it’s important to note that inner beauty is not about being highbrow’d or morally superior. It’s about humility, quiet strength and hearttitude (yes, I made that up). It’s not self-serving; it’s heart-serving. Where your heart leads, your attitude will follow. It about having convictions without victimizing anyone. Make sense?

Probably one of the most critical characteristics of inner beauty is integrity; our integrity, not to put too fine a point on it. Adhering to moral principles and values; being trustworthy and ethical in the face of opposition, corruption or popular opinion. It’s about doing what’s right even when no one is looking, not just occasionally but consistently. It’s about seeking out what is right, not just when it’s convenient but when it’s burdensome. And it’s about preserving what is right not just when it’s easy but when it’s most challenging.

Next inner beauty is about being noble. No, not noble as from a royal bloodline. Royal bloodline does not a noble make when it comes to inner beauty. Being noble requires a particular kind of action. It requires being chivalrous (awesome word). It’s being courteous, honorable and respectful. Again, not when it’s convenient or will be seen publicly, but when it’s unseen, unnoticed, and not doled out to a select few either. Being noble means acting honorably towards all, but most particularly towards those we feel who are least “deserving” of such considerations. No pride, no prejudices.

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And then inner beauty requires being morally just, good, proper, and fair. Unadulterated, influenced or swayed by outside inducements, inner beauty is about always being steadfast and true.

Wisdom. You can’t have true inner beauty without developing wisdom. This speaks of having good judgement but only by actively gaining knowledge, listening to instruction and being willing to accept discipline (not to be confused with punishment). It means always being the student, rarely the teacher, seeking out that which is good, edifying, truthful and character-building.

And finally but hardly least, inner beauty is about being lovely and admirable, that which is delightful, pleasing and deserving of respect. This speaks to the essence of who we are.

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Simply put, inner beauty is about immeasurable treasure. We become a treasure trove of the finest qualities and priceless character when we possess inner beauty. Unlike physical beauty, which fades or can be altered, inner beauty can never be diminished so long as we hold to being virtuous, authentic and genuine. I like the sentiments of that unknown quotist (yes, I made that up) at the top of my post. I think it’s worth repeating: inner beauty shines on everyone, catching them, holding them in its embrace, making them more beautiful too. So shine on my friend, shine on and Be-Youtiful.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. – Psalm 10:30

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. – Proverbs 19:20

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. – John 7:24

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

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