What Beauty Does for Our Souls

beauty will save the world

What comes to mind when you think of beauty? Is it a piece of artwork? A glorious landscape? Or is it something more akin to modern society’s standards of beauty found on social media or in fashion magazines?

The Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Out of truth, beauty, and goodness, beauty has often been considered the most influential transcendental. Throughout history, humans have sought what is beautiful, believing that what is beautiful must ultimately lead to what is good (and therefore true).

Consider the Greeks: they believed that beauty and goodness were irrevocably connected. The Greeks coined the term “kalokagathía” which means beauty-goodness. Plato believed that it was through beauty that goodness was found. According to this understanding, truth and goodness are revealed through the beauty existent in the world.

Pope St. John Paul writes on this topic in his 1999 “Letter to Artists.” He writes that “the link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty.”

True beauty opens one’s mind toward considerations of higher forms of beauty. Beauty calls us out of ourselves. The experience of true beauty harkens us to something higher. This something is what John Paul II refers to as the “hidden nostalgia for God.”

Sometimes, when experiencing something profoundly beautiful, we find ourselves with tears in our eyes. True experiences of beauty can be overwhelming. True beauty harkens us to God. The experience of beauty satisfies our soul’s desire while at the same time leaves us wanting more. We are pushed beyond ourselves and our longing for the ultimate experience of beauty is strengthened.

Ultimately, we will only experience beauty fully when we come into full unity with God in Heaven. Through experiencing what is beautiful, ultimately one is experiencing God who is the embodiment of truth, beauty, and goodness.

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What is Authentic Beauty?

Our world is obsessed with beauty. However, the beauty in modern culture is often found to be a twisted form of beauty.

Women especially feel pressured to change their bodies and make themselves into what society deems beautiful.

As a whole, society feels pressured to make their lives pictures perfect and Pinterest-worthy. If our lives don’t fit this definition of beauty and success, we feel we have failed.

This imitative beauty will not satisfy our hearts. Buying new outfits in an attempt to make ourselves beautiful or changing our appearances to satisfy the latest trends cannot bring us lasting joy.

In our modern lives, we often look to social media and judge our lives by it. The appearance of social media draws us in. But it cannot satisfy our hearts. The beauty found on social media is often an imitative beauty, which causes us to remain focused on ourselves and our own desires. When you look at social media, or watch particular movies or TV shows, they force you to look at your own life. You see this beauty and want more for yourself.

True beauty brings you outside yourself. It transforms you. Instead of left looking inward, you are moved by something greater. True beauty causes us to reach outside ourselves. True beauty inspires goodness and acts of love. An experience of beauty should strengthen our hearts and push us to give of ourselves instead of giving to ourselves.

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Christ, the Beauty of Our Souls

How can we determine what is truly beautiful? The world is so deceptive. There is much evil in the world masked by beauty. We must seek what inspires us, what pushes us towards a deeper purpose, and what brings us closer to God.

Beauty in its truest form is Christianity. The beauty of the Person of Jesus drew others in and captivated them. Christ looked upon the Apostles and helped them come into a fuller understanding of themselves. Scripture illustrates how Jesus offered the answer to all the questions that the disciples didn’t even know to ask.

In the first chapter of John, Jesus invites John and Andrew to “come and see.” After spending time with Jesus, they are convinced that He is the Messiah. They were transformed by this encounter with Christ.

The form of Christ and of the Christian message when lived in the Church is beauty. This beauty is not only in art and music, but the beauty of a devout and simple life lived in devotion to Christ.

Embrace this Beauty

We must embrace what is beautiful. The beauty of lovely artwork, of gorgeous sunsets, and of simple joys.

We must also accept that the beauty in our own lives is imperfect. We are human. Our lives are not perfect. However, if we look to this beauty in our lives and allow ourselves to be pushed by it, we will find ourselves growing closer to God.

In the words of St. Augustine, “Beauty grows in you to the extent that love grows, because charity itself is the soul’s beauty.”

What is beautiful in your life at this very moment? Let’s share beauty with one another in the comments below!

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Mary Grace Dostalik is from Plano, Texas and is a junior at Benedictine College where she is majoring in Evangelization and Catechesis and minoring in both Journalism and Dance. She spends her time drinking tea, writing, dancing, and reading (sometimes all at once). She is an aspiring writer and hopes to use her talents to glorify God.

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1 Comment

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    March 30, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Thank you so much for this! I see beauty in the children I work with. They’re eager to learn, play and have fun. Their sense of wonder and exploring their world is beautiful and uplifting!

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