I lay awake, my mind is on fire. My husband lies next to me, asleep, arm curled protectively around me. He is sleeping the sleep of peace and calm, and ohhh, how I wish I could join him there. I will, but not quite yet. There is too much to say, and these words tumble around wildly, begging to be let loose, on fire, consuming me. So I type them out, the light from my phone glowing softly in my dark bedroom, comforting me as I release my tangled thoughts.
It is time to let the words go. So here they go.
I am tired of all the ugly around me. I am angry at all the ugly that surrounds me. I am saddened by all the ugly that suffocates me, hurts me, enrages me. The ugly is everywhere. It is in all the mean people I have encountered, the gossip I hear, the judgements passed down on others, the cruel words spoken from painted and beautifully ugly lips. I can’t escape it, I can’t ignore it, I can’t undo it. Ugly is everywhere.
My heart hurts, my thoughts sizzle, I am tortured by my thoughts, my emotions. My thoughts of words spoken, words that are powerful, dipped in poison and dripping with venom, words used to hurt, to belittle, and to cause discomfort.
My mind’s eye pictures her, the girl I work with, back turned to me, whispering her venomous words about me to another co-worker, unaware that I am right behind her. I replay the conversation in my head, the words, how they echo in my mind, over and over and over. I hear her voice, saturated in slander, speaking about me, judging me.
The scene plays out, and I now have become painfully aware that someone who has been nice to me to my face obviously dislikes me enough to ridicule me behind my back, and I am instantly hurt. Instantly angered. Instantly ugly. Ugly.
Why am I ugly? Because my first instinct was to retaliate. To strike back. To hurt. To speak words that cause harm, that can’t be unsaid, to use the gift of language for something other than what it was meant for. Words were meant to speak life, and I was angered enough to speak words to injure.
This girl, this person behaving so rudely brought out the ugly in me. Before she even realized I was behind her, she had ignited a fire within me, one of burning retaliation and discord.
I almost let the fire out. I almost used my words to hurt. I almost let my ugly out.
I fought back the hot angry tears that burned my eyes, threatening to spill over. I refused to express myself that way. I fought the anger that caused my hands to tremble and I fought my thundering heart that was so loud I thought the whole room could hear it. I fought everything that my body was trying to do to betray my hurt and angry feelings, and I fought it with all I was worth.
This raging battle within took seconds. So brief, just a flash of time, but by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I stopped the ugly. Me. The girl who loves words, who can pull them out of a hat, the one who can find a phrase for everything, good or bad. Me, the one who almost let every ugly thought, every ugly word, every ugly syllable spill out from my mouth. I held ugly at bay, and it took every ounce of inner strength and the love of Jesus within me to do it.
Instead, as I gathered my composure, as the two girls noticed that I was right behind them, as realization that I heard everything dawned in their eyes, as an awkward silence hung in the air, I smiled.
I did not give myself permission to speak, I wasn’t sure if I had enough control over my ugly within yet. I simply plastered a smile on my face, my big happy smile I reserve for only my favorite people, the one that shows all of my slightly crooked teeth. I smiled and held my breath. I waited.
Awkward silence was followed by even more awkward chatter. The charade of pretending to be talking about somebody else ensued. My smile may have portrayed belief in this lie, but my eyes would not follow suit. The two girls knew I knew, and the discomfort that followed was painfully obvious. The discomfort they felt was way worse than anything I could have said or done to hurt them back. They were being ugly, and they had been caught. Their embarrassment and uneasiness at their own behavior was their own punishment, and it was more than enough.
I stomped out the ugly and chose to be pretty instead. I willed myself to be more than pretty, I chose in that moment to be beautiful. I chose love, forgiveness, and a smile, and that is what real beauty is. I chose to be different.
What happened after this little altercation surprised me. These two girls, the ones who had shown their inner ugly, were so uncomfortable. As we all went about the rest of our workday, I noticed their discomfort, their guilt. Suddenly they were overly nice, super friendly, so obvious in their desire to compensate. It was so pathetically pathetic that all of my pent up anger dissipated, and all the ugly words I initially wanted to speak turned to sympathy.
I was the victim of their ugly, yet I now found myself in the role of comforter. I let all of the anger, every single ugly ounce of it go. God filled me with a strength I didn’t know I had, a strength I do not possess on my own. It takes strength to let a hurt go, to not speak ugly, to not behave ugly, to not repay ugly with more ugly.
Now, at home, I ponder what it means to be ugly. Ugly in a person is not an appearance, but an action. Ugly is in our hearts, in our words, in our behavior. It rears it’s head in response to anger, to hurt, to jealousy. I lay here thinking about these girls and I wish that whatever caused them to feel ugly would leave them. I pray that whatever hurt, whatever insecurities they feel, would leave them. I hope that their feelings of guilt about being caught in the act of being ugly will prevent them from being ugly again.
I pray for myself. I pray that I always have the courage to speak up when someone is being ugly to someone else, and the faith to smile and forgive when I am the victim of ugly.
I pray to be beautiful. You see, beauty isn’t about your perfectly applied makeup, or your perfectly manicured nails. Beauty isn’t in your perfect hair, or perfect body. It doesn’t come from the clothes, or shoes, or purses you wear, or the car you drive, or the home you own.
Beauty is in your heart. Beauty is in your smile whether your teeth are crooked or perfectly straight, when it is a smile from within. Beauty is in your slightly messy hair or your amazingly styled hair, when it frames a face filled with love. Beauty is in your chipped nail polish or in that perfect french manicure, when your hands work hard to help others. Beauty is in whatever clothes you choose to wear to dress the body that God created to love others, that He created to help others. Beauty is in whatever shade of lipstick, or lack of lipstick that adorns the lips you use to speak life to others, and to pray with. Beauty is in all of us, the ones created in God’s own image. It is not defined by society’s standards, but by God’s standards, and God sees inside our hearts. I pray that He finds more beauty within me than ugly, and I pray for strength to always fight the ugly.
When we get to heaven, I promise that God isn’t going to care what brand your shoes are, what color your hair is, or how toned your abs are. He won’t care about make-up or lipstick or nail polish, and neither should we. None of these things beautify us, they only enhance us. All of us should choose to decorate or compliment our outward selves with whatever makes us feel good, or feel happy, but we need to remember that these things don’t define us. Our hearts define us, and that is what God is looking at. Don’t be caught ugly. Please do not let yourself be found with an ugly heart.
There is the potential for ugly inside all of us. It is up to us to decide to feed the ugly, or to instead water the beauty within and watch it bloom.
As always, God bless,
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Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”