How to be truly beautiful: from the inside out

Finding Mr Huggie-Wuggie:  Smiley!
You can just call me L’il Miss Megawatt!

This is the final “December” post that was chosen in the poll of December posts to write.

If anyone follows either of my blogs, then they will probably be able to guess what I would recommend for the sake of being truly beautiful. I’m sure I say it several times in each post on this particular blog: true internal beauty = Christlike character! However, in this post, I would like to focus on a particular aspect of Christlike character: joy.

I believe that having Christlike character in itself makes you an attractive person. However, it is my sincere belief, and it has been my own personal experience, that there is something about sincere joy, that bubbles up and out from the heart to light up someone’s face, that is utterly captivating.

To be honest, it has been my experience on both sides.

The Receiving End
I once saw a magazine spread of some athletes, and a particular man was beaming from the page, and I just could not stop staring! The man in question was so attractive! I went to the extent of finding out who he was. He was a footballer, so by virtue of his profession he was quite prominent. I eagerly looked out for further pictures. The next time I saw a picture of him, it did not have quite the same impact. In fact, it did not have any impact whatsoever. And I wondered what it was about that first picture…until I finally worked it out. He had been smiling! And not only smiling, but utterly radiant as if the joy on his face was a genuine reflection of the joy in his heart. That was the first time I fully appreciated how attractive a fully heartfelt smile can be. 
Check him out for yourself here:
The most handsome man I have ever seen?! (This is not the original pic – I couldn’t find it! I of course mean excluding my eventual husband!)
Oh, heartbreak!
But seriously, you should have seen that first picture!

The Giving End
I come from a family of smilers, and I’ve certainly given out my own fair share of radiant smiles. A huge grin has always been my personal trademark, and I’m naturally the kind of person that even when I’m crying I’m smiling! In fact, as a child some people just called me “Smiler” or “Always Smiling”. I used to completely take it for granted until a few years ago, when I lost my smile. Before then, joy always came so naturally to me, without my having to make any effort whatsoever. However, I let myself get caught up in anger and in bitterness, and as if by magic, my smile just disappeared.
I just did not know what to do. I tried to be happy, I tried to make myself smile – all to no avail. And it clearly had an impact on people around me as well, and even the easy, natural way I usually interacted with people.

Then I finally worked out what the matter was. Previously I was always happy because I was always thinking about happy things. I would meditate on joyful expectations. This would result in abundant joy in my heart which would then be reflected on my face and in my demeanour. However, when I let myself get caught up in anger, then my heart became full of anger instead, and this then was what was reflected on my face. And this is just not attractive. It is not attractive to me, and it is not attractive to anyone else!

By the grace of God I am now working on it. I feel as if I am getting back to my normal, innate levels of joy and even this thought itself fills me with joy!

Joy killers: 
Living a lie
I honestly think that trying to live a lie is the single biggest joykiller possible.  The biggest joykiller is not, as many people unsurprisingly assume, failing at some endeavour or another, or being absolutely broke or destitute in life, unless this causes hopelessness. (I think of all those photos I’ve seen of people living in the most abject poverty imaginable – and yet pure joy will still be shining from their faces.) I think that when you are trying to live a lie, you are trying to project a certain image to the world, of having it all together, but you cannot deceive your own heart.  I think that the difference between who you know you truly are and who you are pretending to be is what causes depression. I think depression is what arises from the endless mental effort of trying to reconcile these two irreconcilable things.  For a long time I have thought that depression is a consequence of lying to yourself but it is only in writing this that I am able to articulate why.  At least I know that lying to myself is what causes me to become depressed.

Never really needed forgiveness?
Have you ever met anyone like this?  They are Christians, but by their behaviour they seem to suggest that *they* never really needed forgiveness.  Yes, they acknowledge Christ.  However it is with the understanding that they never really needed His forgiveness, because *they* were never really bad – not like real sinners.  It is rather that they are not quite perfect.  Almost, but not quite. My confession: with my strong Christian upbringing, and the fervour of my own personal pursuit of Christ, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking like this, and I forget that I have a real sinful nature, until it rears up, gets the better of me – then I’m forced to remember again! It is bad that this happens at all, but it does only happen sometimes. People who I’ve met who seem to consistently think like this, year in, year out, also consistently rank as among the worst people I have ever met, in terms of their character. I have to restrain myself from actually spelling out the kinds of things that they have done. The point here is that even though they identify as Christians, they have never really brought their hearts before God for His total forgiveness*, because they don’t want to admit that they need that, so to a large extent they are still carrying around within themselves the burdens of their sins, sins which they pretend to everyone that they never committed, that they would be utterly incapable of committing. So unsurprisingly, their lives represent such lies that they are utterly devoid of joy. 

Wiping the smile off her face?!
Well in meeting such people in the past, I never understood why these people seemed to hate me with such irrational, almost visceral hatred. Now I believe that it was simply because I was happy!  Having no joy within their own selves, likely because of various life choices they had made, they were envious of the beauty and joy that flowed out of a heart that was utterly at peace with God and itself. And instead of making their own peace with God, so that they too might know joy, they actually mounted a campaign to wipe the smile off my face. I am so annoyed at myself that I let them succeed to the extent that I let anger at their actions consume my heart. But by the awesome grace of God, I have now been delivered from that anger.  Additionally I am so relieved that even at my angriest I never did anything which would cause me to lose my own joy on an ongoing basis.  All I did was write a few (dozen) angry blog posts, and complain incessantly to anyone who would listen.  Now by the grace of God I aspire to be more joyful than ever, largely because I now know what to do, it is not only a matter of it coming naturally any more; I now know just what actions to take!

So then the conclusion is this: if you want to be extremely attractive, then pursue joy. If your heart has been full of anger or negativity, as has mine, then please ask God for His grace in emptying your heart of all that ugliness, and receiving instead beautiful things. From experience, trying to make yourself smile sincerely does not work. Trying to wipe the smile off someone else’s face is simply ridiculous. However if your heart is genuinely full of positive, beautiful expectations, then the smile will come naturally!

*PS – Added Feb 03 2015
This is a postscript/amendment that occurred to me the very night after I published this post – I actually suspected that someone might have prayed for me regarding the viewpoints I expressed in this post!
It occurred to me that perhaps these people have indeed brought their hearts before God for forgiveness, possibly countless times, but at the time of their actions towards me they just did not feel forgiven, hence the weight of previous mistakes still a big burden in their hearts. If this is you, you have to just accept by faith that you are forgiven, and refuse to reflect on these previous mistakes, refuse to let them have any space in your mind or thoughts any longer!

Nehemiah 8v10:
…The joy of the LORD is your strength
Philippians 4v4:
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!
Photo of me taken by me!
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