I hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. The whole family came - representing four generations of people with a wide array of spiritual, political & cultural beliefs, all tied together by one blood line. It’s usually a loud and lively occasion, filled with love, laughter, and joking. This year was no different.
My father-in-law was entertaining a conversation with his great granddaughter who is a month away from turning 4. I was in the next room, but could see them. I was not following the whole conversation, but my attention was suddenly directed to them when I heard him ask “But what if she is ugly?”.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my daughter-in-law immediately take two steps forward to jump into the conversation and start to explain that her daughter does not know that word. I was intrigued. As the words were coming out of my daughter-in-laws mouth, my granddaughter turned and ran over to me. With the innocence of a child, she looked at me and asked “Grandma, what does ugly mean?” I was floored. She literally had not heard the word before.
Let that sink in. Imagine a world where children have never heard that word. A world completely free from the devastating judgment of a child for a situation they cannot control.
Better yet, imagine a world where that word is non-existant. If there was no such thing as ugly, how would it change our view of the world? Could we all accept the natural beauty in ourselves & each other? Could our world be a much better place?
I looked her in the eyes and said “It’s not a nice word. It’s a mean word that hurts people’s feelings, which is why we don’t say it." She stared at me for a minute, waiting for further explanation which I did not offer her.
As quickly as she showed up in front of me, she was off again looking for a cousin to play with or a dog to love on. As she ran off I could feel my heart bursting - inside I was screaming a prayer - 'Please Lord, keep her this innocent forever. Help her to always see the beauty in your creations. Help her to remain totally oblivious to our society's definition of beauty. Keep her blinded from seeing, feeling, & knowing ugly.'
But, unfortunately, I know that will not happen. As much as I tell her she is beautiful, there will come a day when she is not happy with some aspect of her body because it does not fit into our culture’s definition of beauty.
This is heartbreaking. It doesn’t have to be this way. Seeing, speaking & living ugliness does not have to be a cultural norm. Unfortunately, the only way to change this is for each one of us to change how we view ourselves and our world. We have to make a personal commitment to focus on the beautiful. We need to stop believing the lies we speak to ourselves. We must stop accepting society’s views of ourselves and others.
So, today, I ask you to believe this -
You are uniquely beautiful. You are fearfully & wonderfully made. You are also a work in progress - continuing to learn, grow & evolve. Focus on growing into someone who recognizes her strengths and abilities, and doesn’t dwell on weaknesses but works to improve them. Be someone who does the same for others - see the beauty in others and build them up.
Let’s make a world where ugly is no longer in our vocabulary. Let’s make our world Beautiful.