Half of the world’s dilemma is that so few of us know the difference between what makes a beautiful person and what doesn’t.
There’s a teacher at our school who rarely goes a lecture hour without mentioning his wife. To hear him talk, she’s the most beautiful creature that ever walked the earth. Whenever he says her name, he says it with a kind of awed reverence. He never describes her outright, but always notes her kindness, her gentleness, her strength, and her wisdom. He tells us what a wonderful mother she is, and about her bravery in the face of multiple miscarriages. All of us eager listeners automatically conjure up an image of what we think she must be like. We assimilate an image based on the beauty we find in the women of advertisements and movies, filled in with scraps of his description. The result is a picture of a woman that is beautiful, but might look like any number of other beautiful women on the planet.
When we see her on one of the occasions she comes to the university campus, a few of us might be surprised that this paragon of a woman doesn’t look quite the way we had imagined her. She is a lovely woman, but is by no means the mixture of Galadriel and Mary Jane Watson we had in our heads. It is clear she’s had children; her eyes are tired-looking; her honey-blonde hair is disheveled; her clothes have the faded look of someone who has forgone shopping for clothes in favor of shopping for diapers. By the world’s (perverted) standards, she is not an exceptional beauty. Regardless, every student on this campus regards her with the same kind of awed reverence as her husband, our teacher. Because he adores his wife, we do, too. We cannot help but see her as being incredibly beautiful.
By contrast, there are thousands of women in the music, modeling, and acting industries who are lauded for their beauty, their sex appeal, their hair, nails, or choice of designer clothing—but can be lauded for nothing more than that. There is little virtue there, precious little depth of character, and, more often than not, negligible skill. They are often unkind, indulgent, bound to damaging addictions, and obsessed with themselves. Yet these are the women we see on magazine covers, billboards, widescreens, and runways. These are the women the world applauds.
If the world had on the right set of glasses, this would not be the case. Women like my professor’s wife would be the ones on the magazine covers. Not just because they are outwardly lovely, but because their inner loveliness shines out of every word they say, making the world around them beautiful. Their love for others makes them lovely, and that is the greatest beauty of all.