The often unspoken definition of a woman’s beauty appears on the cover of every magazine in the grocery store checkout aisle. Gracing the pages is a photo-shopped image of an already nearly perfect looking human being. The flawless skin, sparkling eyes, not a hair out of place, and unrealistic body type makes me want to just turn every magazine backwards so we don’t have to endure.
But having lived long enough with a whole lot of women in my life, I can honestly say that’s not the beauty I am drawn to. That is not to diminish the value of the physically beautiful women in our lives. Trust me, they really do have their own challenges, often insecure like every one of us and are capable of possessing the same traits that display the truest form of beauty.
The definition of beauty in Merriam-Webster Dictionary is this: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. The assumption in our culture is that the definition is speaking of a quality that is physical, but that’s not what it says. The definition reads “qualities … that gives pleasure to the senses or exalts the mind or spirit.”
What brings me pleasure or inspires me in both mind and spirit is watching a woman of strength in action.
A woman who is steeled to confront the challenges she is facing or standing with those she loves.
Strength is defined as this: the quality or state of being strong; capacity for exertion or endurance; power to resist force; a legal, logical, or moral force. It sounds impressive, doesn’t it? And many days, unachievable.
But strength is not living in the state of perpetual endurance, power, and moral force. Strength is discovered in the desperation of hopelessness, it resides in the seasons of grief; it lives in the land of disappointment. Never are we to allow ourselves to believe the only show of strength is when we dismiss the pain of life. It is walking through the pain of life that our strength is created.
It is foolishness to believe the blows of life that hit will have no impact. They will hurt, need time to heal, and will leave scars. But we must remember that strength will be found in the process and scars are there as a reminder of the strength you gained.
When betrayal has come from someone you love, you will learn strength. When you lose your job or your financial challenges create an undertow, you will learn strength. When your child has run headlong into dangerous places with people who you know will bring harm, you will learn strength. When you think you have no more to give, on the horizon there will be found strength.
It does not come easily; it is almost never instantaneous.
Real strength requires time. Real strength requires real life. Real strength is gained through life’s experience and is perfected when you reach the other side. In those days where it feels impossible, I can assure you that in time you will reach the other side.
There is nothing more beautiful than a woman of strength who has already traversed a difficult life road then reaches out to one who is just beginning. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman with life scars who cradles another who is receiving the blows that create them.
There is nothing more beautiful than a woman of strength who offers hope because she has found it, to one who is caught in the undertow of finances or job loss. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman of strength who will love their child unconditionally even through their questionable life choices.
The understanding and compassion in the eyes of a strong woman will create in others hope. It makes others believe there is life after. Strength is the truest quality of our real beauty and the one that should grace every cover of every magazine. It would come in all shapes and sizes, with perfect skin and without. Unlike the physical qualities of the ladies who pose for these covers, it is one that we all can possess. It is also beauty that will forever “give pleasure to the senses, exalting both the mind and the spirit.” It is a beauty that will never fade.
Image courtesy of Hernan Sanchez.
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