She’s four years old, and she’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. Everything about her looks soft. And her eyes are bright. And you want to touch her hair. And maybe just stare at her all day because she’s so beautiful.
Until she starts whining. And acting selfish. Suddenly she’s considerably
Last year in my preschool class, we teachers noticed some of our adorable little girls acting…well, not very adorable. They argued with each other. Tattled on each other. Acted bossy. We decided to teach them an important lesson. We sat all the students on the rug and pointed out how their teachers liked to look pretty. We liked to do our hair and wear jewelry and cute shoes, etc.…But then we said it’s even more important to act pretty. We began to yell at each other and snatch toys from each other and say, “IT’S MINE! GIVE IT TO ME!” We pouted. We whined. We stomped our feet. (The little students found this display fascinating!) Then we paused and asked, “Was that acting very pretty? Or did our actions look ugly?” They all agreed it was not pretty to act that way. Then we told them how pretty and handsome every single one of them was on the outside because God made each of them unique and precious. But we told them they had to choose to be pretty on the inside. Because that pleases God, and it also makes them feel proud and happy at the same time.
Later throughout the year, we would sometimes remind some of the little girls to “be pretty on the inside!” Or we would tell them we noticed they were being pretty on the inside. They would beam with pride.
I am well past the age of four years old, but I still desperately want to be pretty on the inside. God sees every corner of my heart, and I want Him to be pleased. Also, God wants us to bring Him glory. He wants us to reflect His character so that others will be drawn into relationship with Him. Reflecting God means we choose to live in a way that is beautiful.
“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
So what does pretty on the inside look like? I heard a sermon on the radio this morning by Pastor Dee Duke of Jefferson Baptist Church. It was titled “Beauty Contest,” and it listed the characteristics that make a person beautiful and attractive to others. He said people who don’t know Jesus will not believe in Him unless they see His beauty reflected in those of us who do know Him.
Pastor Dee listed these beautiful character traits:
1. Joyfulness is beautiful.
We cannot control our circumstances, but we do get to choose our attitude. Choose to be happy. In spite of rotten circumstances. What if things in your life seem to be falling apart? What if you just can’t catch a break? Be happy anyway. Do not just be a victim of circumstances that you have no control over. Choose joy no matter what. Is it phony to always be joyful? No, it’s not phony; it’s obedient.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
If you continually choose to act happy when you don’t feel happy, eventually you will feel it! Recently at preschool, a little girl was missing her parents and didn’t want to participate in class activities. We teachers decided to add some special activities and put on a big display about how much FUN we were having so that she would join in. It was all an intentional act, but when the day was over, I realized that because we were pretending to have so much fun, I started to believe we really were having the best day at preschool ever! We acted happy and then became happy.
2. Patience is beautiful.
It’s not pleasant to be around someone who is easily angered and irritated. It’s not pleasant to listen to someone continually complain. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Be someone who is patient and doesn’t always find fault with others.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
3. Selflessness is beautiful.
We think we have to look out for Number One. We feel we have rights. If we think our rights have been violated, we get angry. We want to stand up for ourselves! But God says to give our rights to Him and He will defend us. God says think of others first instead of always looking out for ourselves.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
4. Graciousness of speech is beautiful.
Often it isn’t what you say but how you say it. The tone someone uses when making a comment to you can offend. When someone points out a mistake I’ve made, if he/she does it with graciousness, I am not offended. I feel corrected but not criticized. But if the person were to say something like, “Did you realize you spelled my name wrong?” with an accusing tone, I would be offended.
I offended my son last night with a lack of graciousness. I was standing in the kitchen making dinner, a chore I do not enjoy, when my son said he was starving and wanted a snack. I told him to get himself a banana or yogurt. He asked, “Can I have a bagel?” (I toast his bagels in the broiler for him). I snapped at him, “No! I’m already standing here making your dinner! I’m not going to make you a snack!” He quietly said, “I was just asking. You don’t need to freak out on me like that. I didn’t know you were too busy.” I apologized. I knew I shouldn’t have spoken to him that way.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
5. Loyalty is beautiful.
Gossip and slander are ugly. I remember this quote from back in high school: “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” I also like this one: “What Susie says about Sally says more about Susie than it does about Sally.” Don’t put others down behind their back. It is so unattractive to hear people criticizing others. Also, be trustworthy. Don’t spread news that isn’t yours to share. Hold your tongue. I have had a friend tell me very personal (negative) information about a mutual friend, and the immediate reaction in my mind was, “Whoa, mental note not to tell this girl anything personal because she will go tell others!”
“He who covers an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4
6. Kindness is beautiful.
We have all experienced kindness. When someone actually sees our need, whether it be helping us with something, giving an encouraging word, bestowing a thoughtful gift, offering financial assistance, praying for us, or showing any other act of kindness, it is so powerful. And so humbling that someone went out of their way for us. Somehow it means the world that someone thought of you.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16
7. Forgiveness is beautiful.
Bitterness is ugly. Holding a grudge benefits no one. Seth and I watch a lot of 48 Hours Mystery, and sometimes the family members of a victim refuse to forgive the perpetrator. You can see the harsh bitterness seeping through their words. And I wish I could tell them to forgive so that they can free themselves and so they can stop being ugly within. Forgiving someone does not mean that what the person did to you is OK. But forgiveness is choosing to not let their betrayal/offense control you any more. You may have heard this quote: “Unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Bitterness is toxic. It rots the bones.
More importantly, Jesus Christ died on the cross so that every sin we will ever commit could be forgiven. He gave us the free gift of salvation. Not one of us deserves this incredible gift. So in return, God calls us to forgive others. Always. Again and again. If we say we love Jesus and yet display unforgiveness, we are not reflecting Christ at all. He came to BE our forgiveness. If you are struggling with this, I urge you to get on your knees and surrender your bitterness to the Lord. It is not about whether the other person deserves forgiveness. They don’t. None of us do. It is about Jesus commanding you to forgive. How can we possibly thank Him for His gift of forgiveness to us and then refuse forgiveness to another person?
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21-22
So, being beautiful means reflecting Jesus. Be joyful. Be patient. Be selfless. Have graciousness in speech. Be loyal. Be kind. Forgive.
It was only a few years ago that I started to believe I was pretty on the outside. And at the same time, I realized I’m aging. Outward beauty will not last. It is inevitably fleeting. A few years ago I stumbled upon a lovely book called A Well-Tended Soul: Staying Beautiful For the Rest of Your Life by Valerie Bell. It says that a beautiful soul can actually grow more beautiful over time. The physical body does not have that luxury. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the book: “Jesus spoke of spiritual life as abundant life…a life marked by deep joy, regardless of circumstances, of real contentment instead of driving restlessness, an all-is-well relationship with God that leads to profound inner peace, commitment and connection to other people on a soulish intimate level, beauty that transcends age, wealth that is more than material…We were created for that kind of beauty—the beauty of a life formed to God’s heart.” As I read that book, I determined that I would always draw from the Lord an inner beauty, which will not fade.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
A few years ago, a precious lady from my church passed away. She was in her 90s. She was wrinkled and gray-haired, but I tell you, she was beautiful. Tears come to my eyes as I think of her. She had a sparkle in her eyes. She displayed joy. She displayed loyalty to her family. And she loved her God. I want to be like her! At her memorial service someone stood up and said, “When you’re young, you’re beautiful because you’re young. When you’re old, you’re beautiful because of God.”
Oh, it is my heart’s desire! To reflect my Jesus more and more as the years pass. Please let it be so.
“I pray Thee, O God, that I may be beautiful within.” -Socrates