All posts by Erin Bower

Beauty is Not Always Goodness

“What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.”~Leo Tolstoy

As humans, we judge people by their appearance first and their behavior and virtue second.  It’s easy for us to want to size up a person based on their looks.  Our culture (at least in the U.S…let me know about other countries) has engrained into us that attractiveness is very important in becoming successful in love and life.  If a person is beautiful or handsome, we might assume that they are a good person.  This isn’t logical, because the face and body are merely a mask and vehicle that we inhabit and has nothing to do with the condition of our heart and soul.

Why do we do this in the first place?  As children, we are introduced to fairy tales and Disney movies.  The heroes and heroines are always good-looking.  Perhaps it is in childhood that we attribute beauty as a simultaneous feature with righteousness.  Rarely are we given a glimpse that an average-looking person can be the one to save the day or even just to be the one to perform small acts of kindness.

We are reminded of what’s really important in 1 Samuel 16:7b:  “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  When we look at someone, we focus on facial features, the body, and the clothes, when we should be thinking about getting to know the person on the inside.  Dismissing a person based on their unpleasant appearance is one of the worst things we could do.  How can we judge someone when we don’t even know their heart yet?  Also, all that time and money spent on looking better:  makeup, clothes, toiletries, haircuts, etc. should be less important than the time we spend on our inner self.  What God sees inside of us is infinitely more meaningful.

All of us have to retrain our brain to isolate a person’s level of attractiveness from their level of virtue.  We shouldn’t choose to befriend someone based on their appearance but rather based on their heart.  It’s easy for us to want to surround ourselves with good-looking people, but surrounding ourselves with uplifting, righteous people is more prudent.  We want to be encouraged and challenged by the people around us not belittled or led down a path of immorality.

The next time you look at another person, challenge yourself to look through God’s eyes.  Get to know their story before making snap judgments about their appearance.  I think if everyone began to change how they view each other, the world would be a more loving, welcoming place.

Judging Makes Us Blind

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”  These words, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, helped me better understand what it means to judge.

We pass judgments on people every day.  We notice the color of their skin, the symmetry of their face, their clothing, their personality, and their behavior.  We automatically categorize people based on what we observe within minutes of knowing them.  This person is a goody-two shoes, a rebel, a freak, a geek, shallow or deep, smart or dumb, shy or outgoing, ugly or attractive.  This person is a gossip, a cheat, an adulterer, a liar, a non-church goer, a druggie, or a glutton.

Later, we look at ourselves in the mirror.  “I’m unique and special,” we think.  “I don’t fit into any of these categories; I’m whole.  Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes, but I think I’m a pretty good person.”  When we take a glimpse at our flaws, we rationalize them or simply ignore them.  It’s as if we take off our glasses and see our own sin with blurry eyes.  As soon as we turn to look at another person, we put on our glasses, and then look through a microscope to notice every fault of his or hers.  We criticize a person’s behavior and become blind to our own.

Judging other people distracts us from working on our own shortcomings.  In Luke 6:41, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  We don’t have any authority to point out another person’s wrongdoings when we’re not even working on remedying our own.  We can’t see clearly to determine what is right or wrong when we are blinded by our own rationalization that we are a decent person.  We forget that we’re all in need of God’s grace.

When we focus on how God has been merciful to us in the past; how He’s forgiven us of everything we’ve done wrong, we realize that everyone needs grace.  No one’s perfect and everyone has made mistakes whether they are considered tiny or huge, willful or misguided.  If we look at others with love and grace, being mindful of what God has done for us, we’ll open ourselves to others more quickly.  It will be easier for us to avoid writing someone off.  We’ll take the time to get to know all kinds of people and hopefully learn to love them just as God loves us:  unconditionally.

To Love is to be Vulnerable

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.”  C.S. Lewis said it well.  To love someone and to allow them to love you means displaying your true self to them without any facade. It means putting yourself on the chopping block.  It means giving your heart to someone and hoping they don’t smash it into a million pieces.  But what is life without love?  It is a lonely, hollow existence.

In the beginning, God created not only man, but a helper, woman; thus, the institution of marriage began.  From the early stages of our existence, we were meant to live together in a community.  The family was formed as Adam and Eve had children.  Then the population grew over time and with friendship, beyond the confines of the ‘forced’ love of family, a unique bond was formed.

All of these are versions of love.  Boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, family, and friends all know us better than mere acquaintances do.  They see us on our good days and bad days when we are happy, loving and kind or when we are grumpy, selfish and cruel.  They see it all whether we like it or not.  When we start hanging out with a new person, we may think, “What if they see too many flaws in me?  Will they reject me if they find out I’m messy?  What will they do if they discover I’m clumsy or have bad hair days?  What will they think of me if I say something stupid or make them angry?  Will they still love me then or will they no longer accept me and move on to someone more worthy?”

Sometimes it seems easier for me to keep to myself (I am an introvert after all), but I know that no one is meant to walk alone in this life. At times, I’d just rather not say anything than end up saying something stupid and appearing foolish to others.  I’d rather be alone than form new friendships, because they might discover something about me that they’re displeased with.  Frequently, I believe it’s easier to be single, because I don’t have to worry about sharing my life with someone and I don’t have to dread a possible heartbreak at the end of a relationship.

For awhile, I didn’t even want to start this blog, because I knew I would be writing on more personal topics than merely composing poetry and articles.  I’m making aspects of my life more accessible to readers that might not like what I have to say.  I’ve since realized that I have words to share that could possibly encourage others.  I have to share my story in the hopes of blessing someone even if it means some people may dislike what they read.

Being vulnerable means you are opening yourself up to possibly getting hurt in the future, but without the risk, there is no reward.  If I hadn’t opened myself up to people in college, I wouldn’t have the life-long friends that I have right now.  If I don’t continue to make friends where I live, I won’t have people nearby to lean on and I won’t hear the encouraging words that I need hear.  If I don’t take a chance on love, I probably won’t find a man who I want to spend the rest of my life with.  If you don’t share your life with others, you won’t get hurt, but you won’t reap any of the benefits either.  Love is hard, but it’s always worth the risk.