Eye of the Beholder

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see.” —Confucius

I have a tendency to focus on my deficiencies.   I am well aware of all the roadblocks that have lain in my path as I have sought to love and be loved.  I know I have quirks, holes, and dark and badly broken places that cause me to be less than desirable.  Because I am aware, I do not ask to be loved.  I do not expect to be accepted.  I do not believe I can be cherished.  I have settled for emptiness and isolation, believing this was all I could hope for.

And yet…

I have seen other badly broken people find love.  Their mates found them to be beautiful in spite of their flaws, failings, and  blemishes.  Their lack of wholeness didn’t diminish their worth.  In fact, if anything, their vulnerability caused greater tenderness and connectedness.

They were perceived as being a richer, more desirable treasure because of their imperfections.  Those imperfections were what makes them so unique.  And beautiful.  And worth loving.

I have seen these loved and wanted people everywhere.  They come from all career paths.  They are both rich and poor, thin and fat, belligerent and kind.  Some are intelligent; some have marginal intelligence, at best.  Some are ugly, or simply plain, while some are outwardly beautiful.  Some are educated; others aren’t.  Economic status, beauty, background, intellect, success, achievement…none of this appears to matter. 

What matters is that they have been seen.  And in being seen, truly, deeply seen, they have been found to have beauty and worth. 

This explains why the obese, rather ugly, unbathed, and uneducated woman screaming at her children at Wal-Mart is flanked by a nice-looking, kind, adoring man who reaches out to hold her hand and who places a kiss upon her cheek to calm her.

It explains why the veteran with no legs is cherished by the gorgeous supermodel wife he married 13 years ago, only a few years after returning from war.  Why she looks at him with love dripping from her eyes and a small sappy smile on her face, the connection between them palpable.

It explains why the brain-damaged husband is still treasured by his young wife who could rightly mourn what was lost, but instead rejoices in what remains, tenderly caring for the man to whom she gave her heart, thankful for each day they share together.

It explains why the badly abused woman who is now an inspirational speaker met a man who saw her; not just her imperfections, but her soul.  And in seeing, he decided she was worth protecting and tenderly nurturing, in spite of her anger, wretchedness, and inability to trust.  Why he tried a little harder than anyone could ever expect to show her how beautiful she really was.  And in doing so, healed her.  As she now brings healing to others.

It explains why the angry young man from the wrong part of town falls for the straight A student with a bright future.  Why she falls for him in return.  Why she becomes his wife; a wife who believes in him, in spite of his drinking and irresponsible behavior.  In believing in him, he learns to believe in himself.  He learns to value himself…and her.  He changes because of her.  Because he wants to be the person she sees.  And he is redeemed by her trust and love.

I don’t know if I have not been seen because I have done such a good job of hiding or if no one has bothered to look – really look – in my direction. 

The people I have loved have been rejecting.  They have taken a quick glance at my raw edges and have asked me to wear a mask to hide anything that was uncomfortable for them.  Anything that wasn’t perfect.  Little, if anything, is perfect, so almost everything inside of me remained concealed.  I came to believe my imperfections were so grievous, it was my duty to keep them there, hidden away.  I felt it was my duty to stuff them deeply into a place where they could do no damage to others; only to me. 

But now, I wonder.  Perhaps it was their deficiency, not mine.  Not seeing.  Perhaps I should have turned and walked away from them rather than to tuck myself so far inside myself I lost track of who I truly was.  Perhaps, had they looked, they would have seen, though my garden was filled with dirt and manure, there were also flowers and lovely bushes growing.  Flowers that needed only a little love and nurture to flourish.  Bushes that would have provided them with shelter from the winds and storms. 

Perhaps my tender heart and loyal and trustworthy soul is beautiful even if I am scarred and maimed.  All they had to do was look.  But they could not see.  They could only see my glaring flaws.  They mirrored those flaws to me for so long, they became all I could see as well.  I let them tell me who I was and what I was worth.  I let them tell me I was ugly and without value.   I let them blind me.

I forgot that everything has beauty.   Even me.

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