On feeling beautiful

After receiving the highest grade in her high-school class in English literature, a friend of mine was to represent her school in the state level competition on the same subject. Her teacher, however, suggested that she let the runner-up take her place because the other girl was more physically attractive and would make a better impression for the school.

My friend rejected the advice and represented the school anyway, but she was so worried about her appearance that she didn't do her best on the test. "I felt so ugly and inferior, so worthless, and there wasn't anything I could do about it," she said.

This incident occurred a number of years ago, and my friend is now happily married, and loved and appreciated by everyone who knows her. But her poignant story deeply moved me when I heard it. Later, when I thought further about it, I began to understand that, whether she knew it or not, the insensitive teacher had also been a victim of both blatant and subtle definitions of attractiveness. These tend to be narrow, and they often ignore the good qualities that an individual expresses.

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II Corinthians 5:8
January 6, 1997

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