Monday, March 21, 2011

Beauty Sees What Beauty Knows ~ Part One



We see beauty in others in direct proportion to the beauty we enjoy in ourselves.

I have a friend I think is gorgeous. Just absolutely beautiful. She radiates elegance and is strikingly lovely. When I am with her I always find new things about her to admire and enjoy. But I have to say I am actually using the word 'friend' loosely because as much as I love her, she can at times be incredibly painful to be around. She says some very hurtful things to me and others. It has been something that completely perplexed me until one day I was specifically mentioning how beautiful she looked in a photo to her. Her instantaneous reaction was to pull away from the image of herself.

And unexpectedly, I was flooded with compassion. No wonder, I realized, if she is so repulsed by her own self how can she possibly appreciate beauty in other people? How could she even see it, let along treat others with the self-respect she herself lacks? It gave me, sadly, grace for her treatment of me.

We think we see beauty around us to the extent that we appreciate it. But in actual fact we see beauty in others in direct proportion to the extent that we see it in ourselves.  Minimize it and so will we. Our lives, heart and vision will shrink. That makes it serious business. The verse instructing us to 'love your neighbours as you love yourself' is not meant to be theoretical. It's actual. Practical. Real.

As parents, as spouses, as friends we will not just live smaller lives, we will also replicate those blind spots of not seeing. Knowing beauty in ourselves is, yes, a very individual process - fraught with false starts and potentially deep hurts or derailments from those who were supposed to see it in us first, and teach us to see it, too. But catalyze it we will - wittingly or not.

I've always been drawn to people who are comfortable in their own skin. Magnetized by people - and particularly women - who see themselves as lovely (even while aware of their own quirks and genuine limitations.) Women who are in touch with their bodies. Women who know when they are hungry, who sleep when they are tired. Women who treat their own bodies kindly and not as something to plow over, ignore or control. Women who state their needs and find no shame in being their own unique version of beautiful are an endless fascination - and hope - to me.

9 comments:

Jennifer Jo said...

This is profound.

Andi Mae said...

This is so lovely + thought provoking, dear friend! And I have to also say, that you are one of those beautiful people in MY life that I am always drawn to + encouraged by. Love you so.
xo

corli said...

Oh yes a hundred times! And I have been so blessed in my life to have had a woman mentor like that for 9 years until we left South Africa. Not pretty in the magazine sense, but oh, what a beautiful lovely WOMAN! I think that woman are all about beauty, and that starts with being in our own skin, being loved divinely, ultimately. Loved this post. And I am drawn to your beauty as well - it radiates off your pages...

Jessica said...

"...fraught with false starts and potentially deep hurts or derailments from those who were supposed to see it in us first, and teach us to see it, too. But catalyze it we will - wittingly or not."

Wow. This is so profound, but I don't think I have ever heard it like this. I will be thinking on this post for a long time- your words are always so provoking (and kind!)

Shanna said...

This post is such a good reminder - of so much that we need to be reminded of ;)

Kamille @ Redeeming the Table said...

thank you for the kind reminder to be lovely to ourselves, in order to be lovely (& love) to others. It's very true. I'm glad that God gave you the ability to see the brokenness in your friend, in order for you to give her grace.

Nikki said...

Wow. Your first line--it sucks the breath out of me. How regularly, how frequently I minimize beauty in my life (and in myself) because it's "not necessary," "extra," etc. Definitely need to have a conversation with Jesus about this.
I love the way you look at things, Misha, and am so happy that you share your perspective--your beauty--with the world through your blog!

Misha Leigh. said...

Thank you guys - as I've been writing out this series on beauty (there are 3 or 4 more parts coming) I am finding it such a gift. I am seeing so many moments and years and heartaches with new eyes.

I have been thinking a lot about how sometimes it takes years to look back and see that God was with us all along, actually rescuing us when we felt most broken and least beautiful.

How He beautifies us is incredible!

I have been thinking about two "poems" and one blog post - well one poem and one song, actually. (The first poem I reread because of one of you!)

Here is the blog post (so worth reading!): http://tinyurl.com/4vahov7

...and I love what this poem says:

"Go to the Limits of Your Longing"
by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.
~ Book of Hours, I 59

...and this really spoke to me, too:

Timshel by Mumford and Sons

Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And I will tell the night
Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you

tonia said...

wow...so incredible. it strikes me that this is the character of grace as well...why gracious people are so drawn to other gracious people. Why the more we receive mercy the more we are willing to give it. Such good thoughts here, Misha.