Seeing our innate, eternal beauty

A Christian Science perspective.

There’s an age-old saying that many of us are familiar with: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In other words, there isn’t an objective standard of beauty; what one person finds beautiful, another might not. Still, we often feel pressure to conform to some specific physical ideal – what we think a particular person or group might find beautiful. I’ve certainly felt that influence myself.

The Bible and the teachings of Christian Science show us that true beauty is in fact eternal, not dependent on human personality, age, or circumstance. It isn’t found in material conceptions of allure. It comes from a deeper understanding of God and our relationship to Him.

The Psalmist writes of the “beauty of holiness” (see Psalms 96:9). This is beauty in its truest sense, sourced from immortal, divine Soul, which is God. Because God created man in His likeness, as we read in the first chapter of Genesis, this must mean that all of us—as God created and knows us—are holy, spiritual, and pure. So the beauty of holiness is an inextricable part of our spiritual nature as the children of God, as Soul’s reflection.

It’s only when our sense of self is materially instead of spiritually based that man can seem to be anything less than beautiful and perfect. Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Monitor, writes, “Beauty, as well as truth, is eternal; but the beauty of material things passes away, fading and fleeting as mortal belief” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 247). When we focus less on physical attributes and instead let Christ – God’s message to human consciousness, which conveys the truth of our spiritual nature – fill our thought, we find ourselves naturally expressing beautiful, God-derived qualities, such as joy, love, patience, and compassion, and seeing those qualities naturally expressed in others.

“The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony,” we read in “Science and Health” (pp. 247-248). I first caught a glimpse of just how true this is at an overnight camp I attended for a few years when I was growing up.

That particular summer, I’d gotten into a habit of making mental observations about other girls’ beauty, based on a rather superficial set of criteria. At the same time, I’d been giving inordinate thought to what I considered my own physical “faults.”

But as I studied Mrs. Eddy’s statement about the recipe for beauty, which my cabin counselor encouraged all her campers to memorize, I began to realize how off base my whole approach was. I knew that in reality everyone’s true identity is spiritual; but I realized that I had let the common conception that we are not created by God, but instead defined by matter, cloud my perception of myself and those around me. Physical appearance has nothing to do with our actual identity as God’s idea, and dwelling on it was actually hindering me from seeing others in their true spiritual light.

The more I contemplated the nature of God and man as His reflection, the better I understood that true beauty is inherent in all of us and is not defined by matter. Increasingly, I saw beautiful qualities of God – kindness, humility, honesty, purity, tenderness – being expressed by those around me. The ugly qualities of superficiality and judgment fell away from how I viewed others and myself. An added bonus was a heightened sense of confidence and genuineness in my interactions with peers.

Acknowledging the spirituality and eternality of true beauty helps us to look past limiting physical conceptions of attractiveness. We can all strive to live in accord with the truth of our native beauty. We can choose to act in a Christlike way; to express unselfishness, gracefulness, and purity; to see those around us as the holy reflection of God. Then, we are seeing and demonstrating the loveliness that is inherent in all of us.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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