‘A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.’ ~Eleanor Roosevelt.
Our society is very superficial. We place a lot of value on appearances. We try to live up to fabricated concepts of beauty, and idolize athletes and celebrities. Our value system is upside down. These same athletes and actors are paid untold amounts of money to entertain us, while those we entrust with the education and care of our most precious asset, our children, are paid very little. How did this happen? How did we become such a materialistic people? Why do we have to be reminded of the things that really matter in life like relationships, family, kindness, generosity, compassion; these are some of the things that should be valued.
In our guts we know where true beauty lies. Have you ever noticed that there are people who don’t meet society’s criteria for beauty, and yet when you see them you smile. They are beautiful souls, with a beauty that shines from within. Their actions are sincere, they are caring and considerate. If you need a friend or a shoulder they are there for you. They have inner beauty, the type that never fades.
On the other hand there are those whose actions blind you to any beauty they could have. Rather than being generous they are mean and unkind, selfish in thought and action. Buddhist teaching says we should have compassion for such people, for there must be some sadness or bitterness they are unwilling to acknowledge. But in reality it is hard to practice that compassion. In reality you find yourself reacting; fighting fire with fire. Which only leads to conflagration. There are times we need to breathe before we speak, and try to let our inner beauty shine.
I was thinking the other day of that other unseen quality – inner strength. Sometimes you have no idea how strong you are until you are tested. We have all heard the quote originally by Nietzsche: ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger’. When we look back at our lives we can see the times when we made it through situations which seem impossible. Often it is only when we retell the stories and see the look on the face of our listener that we realize how much strength it took! I have never liked the saying that ‘God never gives you more than you can bear’. Somehow that makes me feel that people who are strong are being punished, and that if you feel overwhelmed then you must be questioning God. But we all know someone who seems to be hit by tragedy too often. Even though they manage to find that inner strength to get through it they still need our support and a shoulder to lean on.
The thing about these inner qualities is that we often don’t even know we have them. We are used to looking in the mirror to try to see how we look. We step on the scale to see if we are keeping in shape, see how our clothes fit. It is not as easy to see if we are doing those things that keep our inner assets shining. The reactions of others will tell you how you are doing. The response of those around you will help you to know that you are on the right track. It may be the comment of an acquaintance or the gratitude of a close friend. But you won’t know unless you pay attention to others. And the act of paying attention to others is what makes your inner beauty shine even stronger. One of the nurse theorists that I have studied speaks about the nurse who is authentically present for her patients. I must not only listen to my patients, I must be there with them, feeling what they are feeling, understanding what they are going through if I am to truly demonstrate caring.
There are times in my life when it has taken other people for me to see what I am capable of. They have seen qualities in me that I could not see myself. In living up to their expectations of me I grew into a better, more capable person. We should keep those kind of people in our life, the kind that help us to be better, stronger, more beautiful. If there is someone in your life that does the opposite, that makes you feel weaker, meaner, less of a person, then you need to remove yourself from that person, whether physically or mentally. Our goal in life should be to continue growing every day, relentlessly, until take our last breath.
So this Friday morning I hope you are able to recognize your own inner beauty, your own inner strength, and let them shine. Avoid those people who dim your light, or make you feel guilty about your assets, and forgive them. Use your authentic self to reach out and help others find their own bright shining light, and celebrate it. Let us all try to help each other grow instead of putting down, putting out and squashing another person’s spirit.
May you have a wonderful Friday, family, and a great weekend.