“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”* (Proverbs 31:30)
Sometimes, much to my amusement, I read in the magazines those comical letters that girls write to the beauty specialists. If these letters could all be put together into one it would read something like this: “How am I to make myself pretty so that I shall be admired for my good looks? I want to be rid of all my blemishes, my freckles and pug nose and pimples and stringy hair. I would have my hands and arms very shapely, and I would be neither too stout nor too thin. Tell me, Miss Specialist, how to make myself beautiful.” The wise man of old has answered this question in words that are most appropriate: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” Every girl is a lover of beauty. Beautiful homes, beautiful furnishings, beautiful flowers, beautiful fruits, beautiful faces—anything wherein beauty is found, there will be found girls to admire it. From the time her little hands can reach up and her baby lips can lisp the words, she is admiring “pretty things.” And when a little of that beauty is her own her pleasure is unbounded. Every girl longs to be beautiful. There is in woman a nature, as deep as humanity, that compels her to strive for good looks. There is no more forlorn sorrow for a young girl than for her to be convinced that she is hopelessly ugly and undesirable. Oh, the bitter tears that have been shed over freckles or a rough and pimply skin, and the energy that has been expended in painting and powdering and waving and curling herself into beauty!
A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. A woman who is not beautiful cannot properly fill her place. But, mark you, true beauty is not of the face, but of the soul. There is a beauty so deep and lasting that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it comely. This is the beauty to be first sought and admired. It is a quality of the mind and heart and is manifested in word and deed. A happy heart, a smiling face, loving words and deeds, and a desire to be of service, will make any girl beautiful.
A desire to be comely and good to look at is not to be utterly condemned. Beauty of face and form are not given to everyone; but when they are present they may be a blessing, if they are used rightly. But a girl need not feel that her life is blighted if she lack these things. The proper care of her person and dress will make an otherwise homely girl good-looking. What is more disgusting than a slovenly, untidy woman! Her hair disheveled, her face and neck in need of soap and water, her dress in need of repair, her shoes run down, she presents a picture that indeed repels. Though she might have a kind heart and many other desirable qualities, yet her unkept appearance hides them from view. But she who always keeps herself tastefully and tidily dressed and her person clean and neat is attractive and pleasing. Her personal care only increases the charm of her personality. It is to be regretted if any girl lacks a feeling of concern and shame should she be caught in careless and untidy dress. She should take pleasure in keeping herself presentable and attractive, not only when she goes out or receives guests, but for the pleasure of the home folks as well. But when a girl paints and powders till she looks like an advertisement for cosmetics, she shows a foolish heart, which is not beautiful.
In the cloakroom of a certain school a question arose among some girls as to who had the most beautiful hands. The teacher listened to her girls thoughtfully. They compared hands and explained secrets of keeping them pretty. Nettie said that a girl could not keep perfect hands and wash dishes or sweep. Maude spoke of the evil effects of cold and wind and too much sunshine. Stella told of her favorite cold cream. Ethel spoke of proper manicuring. At last the teacher spoke.
“To my mind Jennie Higgins has the most beautiful hands of any girl in school,” she said quietly.
“Jennie Higgins!” exclaimed Nettie in amazement; “why, her hands are rough and red and look as if she took no care of them. I never thought of them as beautiful.”
“I have seen those hands carrying dainty food to the sick, and soothing the brow of the aged. She is her widowed mother’s main help, and she it is who does the milking and carries the wood and water, yes, and washes dishes night and morning, that her mother may be saved the hard work. I have never known her to be too tired to speak kindly to her little sister and help her in her play. I have found those busy hands helping her brother with his kite. I tell you I think they are the most beautiful hands I have ever seen, for they are always busy helping somewhere.”
This is the beauty for which every girl should strive—the beauty that comes from unselfishness and usefulness. Beauty of face and form is secondary in importance, though not to be despised. If used properly, personal beauty is a good gift; but if it turns a girl’s head it becomes a curse to her.
Think of such women as are much spoken of through the public press, or who have achieved noble deeds, as Frances Willard, Florence Nightingale, or Edith Cavel, and consider whether you ever heard if they were pretty or not. No one ever thinks of such trifles when speaking of those who are great of soul. The girl who depends on her pretty face or form for attraction is to be pitied. Those articles in magazines that so exalt the idea of personal beauty are pandering to the lower part of nature. One may be perfectly beautiful so far as that kind of beauty goes, and lack to as great an extent that true beauty which is like a royal diadem upon the head. Those who give much time to increasing their personal charms are living on a lower level than is altogether becoming to womanhood. A beautiful soul shining out of a homely face is far more attractive than a beautiful face out of which looks a soul full of selfishness and coldness.
My little friend, be not careless of the good looks that nature has given to you, take care in dressing yourself and attending to personal neatness, that you may ever appear at your best; untidiness and carelessness hide the beauty of kind deeds—but greatness of soul and nobility of heart hide homeliness of face. You cannot see the one for the other. Seek goodness and purity first, then strive to keep the body in harmony with the beauty of the heart. Take time to make yourself presentable, but do not use the time before your glass that should be given to loving service. Let your chief charm be of heart and spirit, not of face and form. Seek the true beauty which lasts even into old age.
Solomon, in one of his wise sayings, expressed plainly the evil that comes to a woman who is beautiful of face but lacks the true beauty of soul. “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22) As the swine would plunge the golden jewel into the filth and the mire as he dug in the dirt, so will a pretty woman who is not good drag her beauty down to the very lowest. There are many peculiar temptations to those who are only fair of face. Without true beauty of soul a pretty face is a dangerous gift.
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