How to Become Beautiful in One Simple Step

Becoming beautiful doesn’t require lots of hard work or store-bought perfection or tedious self-improvement. Our beauty emerges when we learn how to say one simple word: “Yes.”

beautiful

On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake leveled the island nation of Haiti. In Haiti, it broke buildings and bodies and everything in between. Around the world, it broke hearts. And in my neighborhood, one family made a decision that is changing the world.

They decided to tell their six-year-old children about the tragedy.

They made the gutsy decision to let their children in on the pain of the world.

They decided to trust the heart of a child.

And they simply resolved to say “Yes” to whatever beauty poured forth.

One evening, after bedtime prayers, the kids decided they wanted to rebuild one home for one family in Haiti. So, their parents said, “Yes.” They did research, and they found out the cost of building one home in Haiti is $2500. With fear and trepidation, they devised a fundraiser and set out to raise the money.

The money began to trickle in. Then it began to pour in. Then one family offered to match the funds that were raised. And then a second family offered to do the same.

In a few short months, two kindergarteners with hearts of compassion and two parents saying “Yes” raised $37,500 to build homes in Haiti.

In case you’re counting, that’s fifteen Haitian families with a brand new roof over their heads.

The Beautiful Thing About Heart Strings

But here’s the thing about heart strings and the beautiful music they play—the song of compassion likes to put itself on repeat.

When hearts break with compassion, they don’t break apart, they break open.

Next, the children had their hearts broken open by orphans. The parents simply said, “Yes,” and they spent a year raising money for orphans in our hometown. Tonight, orphans in my hometown will be lulled to sleep in rocking chairs purchased by two grade school kids and their parents saying “Yes.”

And then, in the last year, the children discovered that, for one American dollar, a person in Africa could drink clean water for one year. One year. This time, the family decided to partner with other people who are saying “Yes.” They teamed up with Blood:Water Mission and its campaign, Lemon:Aid Stand.

In May of 2013, they hosted a stand in their front yard.

It raised hundreds of dollars. Hundreds of African men, women, and children drinking clean water for a year.

When we start saying “Yes” to our beautiful hearts, we discover our stories have chapters we could never have fathomed. The family was then invited to team up with local businesses to host another stand in July 2013. Then, the very next month, they were asked by a local Starbucks to host a stand, and Starbucks offered to match whatever funds were raised. It was a joyful event, with crafts and baked goods and live music and a local radio station and, of course, lemonade.

The event raised $11,500. Almost twelve thousand people drinking clean water for a year.

I went to the event.

I have a reminder of it sitting in my living room.

A Sign of Our Beauty

At the Lemon:Aid fundraiser, there was a table full of hand-painted signs created by the family and their friends. Most of the signs were brightly colored, and each sign contained a word to match the vibrant hues—words like hope and joy and faith.

But sitting right in the middle of the table was a sign that looked completely out of place. It was small—thin and long—and instead of bright colors, it was covered in a single coat of white paint. And the letters were created by exposing the natural surface beneath the paint—the letters were formed out of the essence of the wood, rather than a bright layer of paint over the natural grain.

The letters looked rough and messy, burnt and scratched and worn.

The letters formed the word BEAUTIFUL.

I bought that sign.

I bought that sign because I need to be reminded our true beauty does not come from all the artificial layers of bright glitz and shiny glamour we slather on ourselves. Real beauty doesn’t come from aisles of makeup or designer jeans or six-pack abs or the latest iPhone or pristine lawns or Photoshopped Christmas cards. Real beauty doesn’t come from how brightly colored we appear and how loudly we proclaim the right words or ideas.

Our real beauty is what emerges through all the layers of paint and image we slather on.

Our real beauty is the shape of what emerges when we simply pay attention to who we are—when we behold our tender hearts and the compassion that resides there.

Our real beauty is what happens when we say “Yes” to the grace and the love and the humanity we find lying just beneath the surface of our carefully crafted personas.

Beautiful You

Now, when I sit on the couch and I look at that sign, I’m reminded of a family who is becoming more who they already are—five brilliant souls with a heart for creating beauty, order and abundance in this world.

They aren’t different than you or me.

They aren’t better than the rest of us.

They are scratched and worn and messy like everyone else. But they have found the shape of their beauty within that, and they are simply saying “Yes” to it.

So, should you start a lemonade stand?  No, not necessarily. Lemon:Aid has been the shape of their beauty.

But they are not you.

Only you are you.

Only you contain the shape of your beauty beneath all the bright, distracting paint.

Only you can allow the natural grain of who you are to emerge.

Only you can be beautiful you.

The question is: Are you ready to say “Yes” to your BEAUTIFUL?

Question: What do you want to say “yes” to in your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

NOTE: Any factual errors are entirely the responsibility of the author—even after all these years he’s still learning to listen well.

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Dear Reader,

This is the second time I’ve shared an adapted excerpt from the book manuscript I’m writing. (Click here to read the first.) The book is in its early stages and, in the same way that you shape every post with your thoughtful comments and feedback, I’d love for you to be a part of shaping the book. To that end, we’ve begun a series of Google+ Video Hangouts, which will serve as focus groups for various ideas related to the book.

The first Hangout took place on September 13. I’ll be honest, I was really nervous about meeting new people in this way. But it turned out to be a lot of fun to meet readers in person, to absorb your wisdom, and to share some of my thoughts on the topic of the day. To read one participant’s testimony about the experience, you can click here. That link will take you to a page with more information about the next Hangout and how to join. I hope to literally see you there!

Warmly,

Kelly

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Free eBook: My eBook, The Marriage Manifesto: Turning Your World Upside Down, is available free to new blog subscribers. If you are not yet a subscriber, you can click here to subscribe and your confirmation e-mail will include a link to download the eBook. Or, the book is also now available for Kindle and Nook

Preview: Next Wednesday’s post is tentatively entitled, “The Only Two Things You’ll Ever Need to Know About People.”

Disclaimer: This post is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • SMT

    I loved this post!
    I have always been doing humanitarian work for my parents always did it, so, for me the normal is to do it always! But this year, I reached out to help financially a friend. She has a disease who has no cure and she lives in a country where she has to pay for all the treatment and it is extremely expensive. As the disease doesn’t allow her to work, she has been in this pervert cycle of not making enough money and having to spend a lot just to live with the disease. She had a high debt in her credit card (with those hideous credit card high taxes) and I was very concerned. So, I took all my courage and wrote a heartfelt message to all my friends in that country, all my ex-co-workers, ex-bosses, ex-college friends, the high school friends that I am still in touch, my family’s friends, my parents’ friends. I wrote about our friendship (over 22 years of friendship) and talked about my amazing friend (and how she has been brave and full of grace all through this process) and for the first time I asked for financial help so we could pay at least this debt. The response was very nice and after a month, with total strangers giving huge donations; we reached the objective! Besides that, some people offer to pay for her consultations, and help with other things!
    When I transferred the money to her account and called her to tell her, she couldn’t stop crying of relief and surprise! Then she wrote a message to everyone to thank for their help and it was awesome too.

    I must admit I was quite afraid at the beginning that people would get it wrong! Specially because as I didn’t know if it would work and as I wanted it to be a surprise, people were sending money to my account (as I live abroad, I don’t use it, except when I go visit my family). But people were trustworthy and I obviously sent the proof of the transfer to them when it was all over! The transfer was made one day before my wedding and for me it was a wonderful gift the universe gave us – to help someone else and make someone else a little happier!

    The best part was the joy and the hope that moved everyone around! Such a beautiful experience!!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      This is an absolutely beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it! Your friend is blessed to have a friend like you, with so much love and courage. I had been debating about which post to publish next week, but I think this decides it. The unexpected outpouring of support from the people in your network is something we all need to pay more attention to. People DO want to help. Often, they are just waiting for us to ask. Thanks again for sharing this!

  • Kari Swenson

    I’ve been a part of a volunteer organization for a number of years. I love the chance to be able to raise money to be able to give back to all kinds of different organizations and people in need. One of the things I love about some of the volunteering I’ve done is its helped me build a ton of skills that are helpful outside of just volunteering. So in a way, not just in being able to be compassionate and see a need I can help, but growing professional skills, has volunteering helped in my life.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Kari, It’s amazing how compassion becomes its own gift to the giver. This happens in so many ways, but it’s neat to hear about your very pragmatic one–the experiences and skills we build when we venture into new territory.

  • Catharine Phillips

    Yes! I love this post. Compassion grows with every yes. True beauty grows with every yes. I watch my daughter, now a senior in high school, emerge and evolve and determine her way into full yeses and the resulting compassion and beauty. Hers is a way that involves one person at a time. Hers is a way of addressing systems that need change, a way that is unique to her. I would say more but I wish to be respectful of her particulars. Her ways are hers, and hers to name.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Catharine, your daughter sounds absolutely lovely, which comes as no surprise. Tell her she has a captive audience if she wants to share some of her story here at UnTangled!

      • Catharine Phillips

        Thanks, Kelly. She is one who entered the world at birth with her eyes wide open. We knew we were in for “something.” I suspect she will be a writer at some point as well.

  • Jennifer Koski

    I LOVE the visual of beauty found in taking layers off, not adding anything on. Exactly!

  • Lisa Bartelt

    My favorite line: When we start saying “Yes” to our beautiful hearts, we discover our stories have chapters we could never have fathomed. Amazing words.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Lisa!

  • Felicia Killian

    Thank you again for a great read. You’re a strong writer, among your other professional/spiritual talents.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Felicia, thank you for that.

  • Lama Tassabihji

    Yet again, an amazing read! Love the sign!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Lama!