I used to think that in order to be beautiful, I had to be the happy type of person — the girl who always had a big smile on her face, the one who can always cheer other people and lighten everyone’s mood. Unfortunately, I’m a melancholic type of person. Somehow, I felt I’ve always carried some sort of sadness in me that could never be fully erased no matter how I tried to behave differently.
For a long time I felt as though unless I changed who I am, I could never be beautiful. People gravitate towards those who can make them laugh, people who can make them forget their troubles. I, on the other hand, am the boring one, the quiet one. Who’d ever want to know someone like me?
Through the years, however, I’ve realized how wrong I was. It isn’t only laughter that can bind people. It isn’t only the fun times that we can offer to those whom we love. People can also come to us because we are capable of listening to them. People can also come to us because we can understand their wounds. In a mysterious kind of way, even sorrow can be beautiful.
What Is Beauty?
“Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises. Sometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you.” ― Mark Oliver Everett, Things The Grandchildren Should Know
Beauty is something that touches us and captivates us. It is something we desire and crave for, like the body’s hunger for bread. It is something we have always wanted to possess but cannot, a certain bliss that comes to us only in between times of waiting when in brief moments we experience what it’s like to live in eternity.
To explain beauty is like trying to explain love. It is something that gives meaning to our lives even though we cannot fully understand it. It may make itself known through the senses, but its true essence could only be felt by that spiritual sense within.
Thus, we say we have found beauty in joy because we have felt something in joy that makes our hearts swell and our spirits rise. Yet the same could be said with sorrow, because within sorrow we feel something that enables us to transcend beyond the world we have always known. It is beauty that gives us a hint about the meaning of life, about what it means to be a human being.
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
What Is Sorrow?
“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.”― Sylvia Plath
Not everyone may be acquainted with happiness, but each one, to some extent, has been touched by some kind of pain or suffering. We have all traveled this valley of tears, and each one has his or her wound to tend to.
We may not know each other well, but we could all relate to the hurt each one felt for the loss of a loved one, for the injustice experienced, for the rejection and judgment one has received at one time or the other.
And because of this, we each have the capacity to reach out to another. We each have the chance to be compassionate, to show mercy, to love.
They who have experienced true sorrow are the ones who can best comfort those who mourn. They who have felt the most pain are the ones who can best assist those who struggle with anguish.
Beauty In Sorrow
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
People who have been through painful times are beautiful because they’re the ones who can touch our lives the most with their wisdom and compassion. Their scars remind us of our own wounds. Their tears are like fountains of benevolence that can refresh us with kindness and gentleness.
They who appear to be happy without experiencing sorrow may not have the kind of heart that can connect with those who are suffering. They are not acquainted with our miseries and our shame. They can show their concern for us, but they can never support us as deeply as those who have gone to the depths of true grief.
Are we not attracted to works of art that depict a kind of sadness that resemble the sorrow of our own hearts? Do we not find something beautiful in movie characters who are crying their hearts out, struggling to survive, sacrificing their very lives for the sake of those whom they love? Even music becomes so much more enchanting when it’s melancholic, haunting and ethereal.
“When I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wished to sing of sorrow, it was transformed for me into love.” — Franz Schubert
There is something beautiful in the eyes of those who know how to cry. There is something powerful in the stories of people who have gone through unimaginable suffering and pain. It’s as though they have reached the threshold of another world. It’s as though they have touched the very limits of our capacities as human beings. Who are they whom we consider as heroes and saints other than those who have tasted the most sorrow for the sake of love?
Beautiful people don’t just happen. They can’t just make themselves appear to be so. This is because beauty would always reveal itself from the inside out. It cannot be hidden long. You can see it in their eyes, in the way they talk, even in the way they move towards you.
“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” — Kahlil Gibran
Sorrow can soften one’s heart. Through sorrow, we become much more than people who need to survive. We become someone who can understand another person’s pain. In this way, sorrow builds compassion. Sorrow becomes a bridge towards love.
Sorrow can also lead to peace. We often fill our lives with activities in pursuit of something we could never attain. In doing so, we give way to anxiety and much worrying. We tremble at the thought of losing some goal or opportunity. We seem to be abundant in all things, but we are truly empty within.
When the things we feared most suddenly happens and we lose everything, sorrow finally comes. We taste the bitterness of defeat as we surrender to our loss. As we surrender, however, we realize how we have wasted so much time and effort in worrying. Now that our dreaded moment has arrived, we realize that we could still go on. We are still who we are and it is enough to start again.
Last but not the least, sorrow leads to a deeper joy. Once we have tasted the bitter cup of grief, we are now capable of tasting the sweetness of true happiness. Our eyes have finally been opened. We already know what things are trivial and what things are truly precious. We no longer concern ourselves with small irritations because we have fixed our eyes upon the eternal and lasting joys.
A Glimpse of Beauty
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” — Audrey Hepburn
Beauty starts within, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be seen in our eyes, in our smile or in our countenance.
When you look into the eyes of sorrow, you can sometimes see your own reflection. It’s as though you were hidden in someone else’s heart.
When you see brief moments of joy from someone who carries a deep sorrow in her heart, you see not only a face that’s smiling upon you. You also see the generosity of someone who longs to make you happy despite the suffering she is going through.
When you hear the voice of someone who has been acquainted with deep sorrow, you hear gentleness, compassion and mercy. You hear someone who respects you and does not judge you for your mistakes.
When you feel the touch of someone who knows how to be sad, you feel that sort of connection that touches your own heart. You know that someone is willing to support you and to listen to you even as you cry.
When people have light in themselves, it can’t help but shine. One famous song titled Anthem by Leonard Cohen goes like this, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” In a way, I think the light that comes in can also come out through the same crack. When sorrow creates a crack that lets the light in, somehow, that same light finds its way to shine for others, too. It’s that kind of light that makes sorrow beautiful inside and out.
“You came to me to learn the Pleasure of Life and the Pleasure of Art. Perhaps I am chosen to teach you something much more wonderful, the meaning of Sorrow and its beauty.”― Oscar Wilde