“When you meet me, you’re going to notice that I walk with a limp.” I was talking to a match I had been paired with through eHarmony for a while and it was time to meet for a date. “The reason I walk the way I do is because I have very mild cerebral palsy. I don’t want you to be surprised; I think you should meet me before you make any judgments.” The phone was silent for a moment. I held my breath, waiting for his response.
“That’s okay Jenny. I’m not perfect either. I’ve had 13 facial reconstructive surgeries to repair the muscles in my face that never developed. I’m also missing an ear.” Now it was my turn to be silent.
Is there beauty to be revealed within physical deformity, or is it all gross anatomy? Our culture seems to be both fascinated and repulsed by this subject. The World Press Photo of the Year in 2010 was of an Afghan woman “whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband.” Meanwhile, Facebook banned the posting of pictures of a baby who was born with Anencephaly which was the cause of major birth defects.
If beauty is indeed found within in the eye of the beholder, what happens when beholders don’t like what they see? Does the beauty within the beholden cease to exist, or does it remain, shining through, independent of perception?
In a recent book I read, The Gift of Pain, Dr. Paul Brand tells of his many interactions working with patients who had leprosy, a disease which often results in severe facial deformity. One patient, John, suffered from facial paralysis making it virtually impossible to smile. One of his eyes was partially sewn shut in an effort protect his deteriorating sight. Dr. Brand encouraged him to go in public, to interact with other people. In response to this invitation, he yelled, “No one likes an ugly face!”
Some scientists would argue that this gentleman is right. Beauty, they say has to do with symmetry. Somehow, we’re “hardwired” to like eyes that are a certain width apart and heads that are of a certain length. Watch the video featuring Beyoncé Knowles here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7z25sN1rZ4
I won’t argue with Beyoncé Knowles isn’t beautiful. (If for nothing else, she has made it vogue to be a single lady!) But this video raises a bigger question, aren’t all people beautiful just because they’re human? Are there really times when it is appropriate to judge one person as beautiful and another as ugly?
When I look at People Magazine’s list of “Most Beautiful People,” or their annual judgment of who is the “Sexiest Man Alive,” I see two things: flawless perfection and hidden pain.
But, when I consider a person who lives with deformity, I think the reverse can be true. Their pain is very visible, and their beauty is hidden. I believe it is here, upon these lives, that a beautiful canvas of redemption can be woven, revealing beauty in the face of pain.
Consider the two men in this blog entry: John, the man with leprosy, was embraced by a man he met out in public, and was offered employment in the man’s factory. He went on to win a national award for the work he produced.
As for my date, his solo ear has given him the gift of perfect pitch!
Resources: Much of this content was based upon her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/05/facebook_grayson_walker_and_a_1.html#more
The book I mentioned is The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. (Zondervan, 1997). Photo Credit: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/the-phantom-of-the-opera/images/219796/title/poto-fanart