“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius.
When my mother was young, she told me, she once had made some comment to her own mother about her looks. I suppose like most teenage girls she felt insecure. Her mother gave her some practical advice. ‘Be grateful that you are neither so good-looking nor so ugly that people stop and stare at you in the street!’ I don’t know whether she found the advice helpful, but I suppose it put things in perspective, for the insecurity of teenage years is a very subjective, self-centered kind of obsession, always concerned with what others think of you.
Perhaps that period of self-doubt is necessary in the development of humility, for over-confidence is often perceived as arrogance. We are not sure how to react to self-confidence in the young. I can think of at least two of my female friends who felt that my mother could not stand them when they were teenagers. They both happened to be strong, self-confident and unafraid, ready to say outrageous things if they were firm in their convictions. My interpretation was that perhaps my mother, remembering her own teenage years, envied their outspokenness (she herself as an adult was well-known for speaking her mind). But when teenage girls are bold and unafraid, they are often criticized for being bossy, instead of praised for their assertiveness.
This is June, the month when the Royal Poinciana tree comes into full glory. The blooms vary from a rich orange to a fiery crimson, and streets around my neighborhood are decorated with the flowers. It is a very boasty kind of blossom, (another word we used in Jamaica when I was growing up was ‘extra’), a little too much. Another name for the tree is Flamboyant – a word which means ‘tending to attract attention because of exuberance, confidence and stylishness’. What a show-off! How dare the tree shake its flaming colors in such an arrogant display of beauty!
As I pondered on the beauty of the tree the other day, I wondered whether other, more sedate trees were jealous of the lovely poinciana tree? Yesterday I saw a photo of some outrageously colorful Australian parrots, greens and reds and blues on full display. Do brown sparrows envy their splashy cousins? I have to be honest, I have found some of those brown sparrows to be quite beautiful in their own understated way. And there are some pigeons that roost on my roof (they love nesting beneath the solar panels) that have some iridescent shades of purples and greys when the sun shines on them!
We humans tend to be quite judgmental of others who dress in a splashy way, accentuating their positives, drawing attention to their attributes. But why not shine on! I remember reading an article in a woman’s magazine years ago entitled: ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it!’
I suppose the truth is that not all beauty is external, there is so much beauty to be found in a person’s spirit. Just as the poinciana sheds its blossoms and calms down, outer beauty may fade, and it is the kind, generous soul that continues to give joy. Or the spark of humor that brings laughter to all around. Or the willing ear that listens without judging, that accepts and encourages instead of criticizing and condemning.
Facebook has provided many of us an outlet to share images we find beautiful, whether of our grandkids or a summer sunset. We can travel with friends as they take a road trip or go overseas (and hopefully those opportunities are increasing as the days go by) and see the beauty of diversity. It is restorative to sit and appreciate all that the world has to offer.
This Friday morning I hope you are feeling beautiful, and ready to be as flamboyant as you want to! Show off and shine on! And remember, all beauty is not external, when you let your inner light glow, you show your own unique splendor, your own magnificence.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!