What is beauty?

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Yesterday I held one of my Little Darlings on my lap and noticed the back of her pink T-shirt read, “Beauty.” The front advertised Beauty and the Beast, which is my favorite Disney animation for many reasons.

As we cuddled, I pondered what is beauty?

In the restroom of the coffee shop that inspired Cuppa Josie’s in my Lakeside novels, a framed photo of an elderly woman with more wrinkles than smooth skin, a toothless smile, and kind eyes hung on the wall. The caption under the photo read, “True Beauty.”

When I observe people, I notice their outward appearance first. And yes, sometimes I make snap judgments to that snarky voice inside my head. I’m human. But trying to change that…the snarky voice, not the human part…liking that.

My grandma was one of the most beautiful women I knew. She stood under 5′ tall with a round shape, gnarled arthritic hands, threads of gray streaking her thinning hair, but she had the kindest heart. Her love for Jesus shined in all she did. She was a farmer’s wife for over fifty years. Her house was never immaculate, but my best memories are cradled in that drafty farmhouse with the creaky floors, stainless steel countertops and cellar that fit in any Ted Dekker novel…okay, maybe not that last one, but her cellar was a little creepy.

Today’s society seems to believe true beauty is outwardly–flawless skin, perfect body, and flowing hair. But not every body fits within a Photoshopped image. That woman who battles her weight may not be an overeater, but suffers from a medical condition. The woman with thinning hair may have alopecia or other medical condition that prevents her hair from looking like a shampoo commercial. And those scars? And those stretch marks? Maybe that woman carried her babies to term only to lose them upon delivery.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Having self-confidence and a positive body image are important for overall self-esteem, but don’t let the outer body detract from inner beauty. After all, we’re all going to grow old and gain pounds. Our skin will become wrinkled as our eyesight and hearing fade. Our hair will thin, go gray or white, or even start to fall out. Outer beauty of our youth fades. Inner beauty–how you respect yourself, treat others, and love the Lord–continues to grow no matter how many birthday candles are on your cake.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeing; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:3 NIV

Your Turn: How would you define true beauty? Describe a beautiful person in your life. 

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  1. Donna Pyle

    I love how you call your children your "little darlings." So sweet! For me, true beauty looks like grace. When someone gets insulted and they turn the other cheek. When getting angry may be warranted, but kindness is offered. When life hits someone upside the head, and they look up to God for strength as they worship anyway. That to me is true beauty. When someone acts like Jesus, it's beauty from the soul out.

  2. Lindsay Harrel

    Ah, Lisa, you struck a chord today. We spend so much time trying to be beautiful on the outside that often our inside is neglected.

    My mom was beautiful. Even when she was bone-thin, suffering from cancer, her jaw jutting out from the rest of her, her hair thinned and straw-like, her skin veiny. Yep, she was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen because she loved the Lord and she loved me with all her heart.

  3. Jessica R. Patch

    Fabulous post, Lisa. And so true. I'm guilty of making snap judgments as well and hating my body image. Sigh.

    I thought my grandmother was beautiful. She said it was from Oil of Olay, but what I remember other than her slathering that on and her lipsticks and love for Avon rings (lol) was sitting in her chair reading her Bible and wondering, "What's she crying for?"

    Nothing speaks beauty like someone shedding tears as God speaks through His word. Nothing. 🙂

  4. Loree Huebner

    Wonderful post!

    Beauty comes from within. I have always looked deeper when I talk with or encounter people.

    Like your grandma, my mom was one of those beautiful people.

  5. Melissa Tagg

    Beautiful post, Lisa. (Pun intended.) Your post was beautiful, then I read Lindsay's comment and am teary-eyed. Beauty to me is:

    My mom.
    My grandma.
    My sister when she's taking care of Ollie (and always, but especially watching her care for Ollie)
    My other sister who I'm suddenly realizing is not just my kid sister, but a "woman."

  6. Sarah Forgrave

    So true, Lisa. Whatever is on the inside will shine through, regardless of the wrapping. 🙂

  7. Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley

    I used to play a game with my students. A boy and a girl got 6 small pieces of paper that they would have to read in order. The girl would start with hers: "I have beautiful eyes."
    The guy would reply with his: "I've lost my job and there's no money for diapers." And so on. At the end, I always asked which was more important: What's on the outside or what's on the inside?
    And every time, the kids answered: What's on the inside.
    Great post! Lisa

  8. Penny

    "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised."
    I borrowed the words obviously, but it was the first thought when I finished the post.
    Thanks Lisa

  9. Connie Keller

    Wonderful post! Thanks.