Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul. – St. Augustine of Hippo
What does that mean?
To me, this quote is the explanation why pregnant women are said to glow with beauty. The same goes for brides on their wedding day. While men may also glow, I don’t think most would take such a comment as well as do the ladies.
This quote is about another kind of beauty. Have you ever met someone who was easy on the eyes, but not beautiful? As if something in them was just a little sour or otherwise rotten? The lack of love often is hard to hide, even by people who carefully craft and manage their physical beauty.
But that’s not what this quote is about. It’s about the old man or lady who smiles at you and melts your heart. It’s about the child with a runny nose, and a streak of beauty that is clearly evident, despite their disheveled appearance. This goes back to the old quote “it’s what’s inside that counts,” and I believe it. Do you?
Why is love important?
Here, we’re not talking about romantic love. This quote is about our inner light, the love we hold for ourselves and then for all others. But why is it important to love ourselves first? It’s hard to have a true love for others when you don’t love yourself. Our self-love tends to be a limiting factor.
As an example, how easy is it to show love to others or even love any portion of humanity when you are hurting, desperate, or hateful? It’s a poor proof, but I believe most of you will understand this example at some level or another. Conversely, the more you love yourself, the more love you have to share, and the more easily you share it.
To me, the love of all humanity in general, and specifically all the people you meet, is our highest calling. Again, it’s not about romance, but about showing them that you appreciate, respect, and honor them. Not for something great they have done, but because it is their due as fellow human beings.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Let’s start with your inner love, your love for your self. If that term is hard to accept or if it causes you difficulty, try using the words appreciate, respect, or honor instead. If you don’t appreciate yourself, do you think it would be easy or difficult to appreciate someone else?
Would you better understand how to appreciate someone else if first you appreciated yourself? What about respect? Would it be easier or harder to respect someone else if you respected yourself? What about honor? Could you honor someone else better if you honored yourself as well?
Now I understand, none of us are perfect. If we look for flaws, we will surely find them. Some of them might lead us to think we are unlovable or unworthy of love. However, in my experience, that’s not the case. We all are lovable at some level, for all the things we have done right, however few that may seem to be.
The same can be said of appreciation. We could find things in our past, or even in our present, which we might think would make us unable to be appreciated or for which we find to be repulsive within ourselves. If we focus on that, yes, we will feel repulsed. But most of us have a broader base than that, and can draw on many other things for which we can have self-appreciation, and for which we could believe that others would appreciate us.
Take a moment, and think of one or two things for which you feel you should deny yourself love, appreciation, respect, or honor. Write them down, and leave some space after each topic (love, appreciation, respect, & honor) but be sure to stop at two. The exercise is not to prove how bad we are, but to simply acknowledge we are human and have flaws.
Now take a few moments and find three to five examples of things we have done or thought of, for which we can show ourselves love, appreciate ourselves, respect ourselves, or honor ourselves. For this part, feel free to add extras if you can come up with them easily.
Take a moment and look at the good things, and draw a single line through each of the not-so-good things. Now read the good things again. Do you feel a little better about yourself than when you began the exercise? I hope so. You might even want to re-write the list with just the good points, and put it somewhere where you will see it from time to time, as a reminder of all that is lovable within you. Remember to be kind to yourself.
As you work on growing the love within yourself, you will probably find it harder and harder to keep it all to yourself. At least that is what I have found over the years when I completed exercises like this one. Your smile becomes more natural, and even a little infectious.
Your grace and dignity when dealing with others as honored and respected equals will be hard to miss. And that, by the definition of this quote is beauty of the soul. If you wish to use a different word than soul, feel free, but be sure to remember this beauty comes from within.
And remember, you are beautiful first inside, then it will overflow and radiate outward.