In Mozambique, the word “bonito” is used to describe anything that’s pretty, cute, handsome, or generally nice-looking. Therefore, when the guys at work want to compliment something in English, they say it is “beautiful”. One day, one of my colleagues, completely unexpectedly and completely innocently said, “Jen. You are beaut-ful?” I was taken aback, and he said again, more confidently but still just as innocently, “Yes, you are beaut-ful.” What he meant was, “You look nice today,” since I was wearing a skirt and had my hair down. But to hear that I was beautiful meant more than to hear I looked nice.
Years ago when a close guy friend of mine started dating his now-wife, he sent me a picture of them together. Jealousy meant I didn’t really want to see what this new girl looked like, but I was completely shocked when I opened the picture. He had always dated skinny, sexy, usually blond chicks (yes, chicks), and this girl wasn’t that at all. She looked so normal! Later we were talking about her and this picture and my surprise. I told him about my reaction and started saying, “She’s not…” He finished: “Hot? I know, she’s not. She’s beautiful.” Right then I knew he was in love. I knew this girl was different. She was beautiful.
I once had a boyfriend who regularly told me I was pretty. He’d look me right in the eyes and state, as a truth, “You’re so pretty.” He’d say this even when, especially when, I didn’t feel pretty – after a run, at the end of a long workday, when I was PMS-y. I never doubted my beauty in his eyes. He also felt it was important, should he ever have a daughter, to let her know how beautiful she was. He wanted her self-esteem to be built up from her father who loved her and not have to seek affirmation later in life from other sources.
When I was in college, I was meeting for a short time, but regularly, with a girl in my dorm for Bible study. I had recently become committed to my faith, and she was informally discipling me. One day, months after we had started meeting, she said out of the blue, “You have really beautified.” She had seen a change in me as I grew in my faith. Beautification.
Last night, when my housemate went to bed, she said to me and a friend who’s staying with us, “Good night, beautiful girls.” It’s unlike her to say something like this, but it was simple and meaningful. Yes, we are beautiful!
We all want to feel beautiful. It goes hand-in-hand with love, and is often just as difficult to say. To feel pretty instead of sexy, to feel beautiful instead of looking nice – these compliments run deeper. Beauty runs deeper than the outfit or accessories I’m wearing, the state of my hair or my skin. To hear it makes me feel a little more loved. To notice it in another person makes me a little more attentive to who they are. To say it makes me feel a little more loving. Who is beautiful to you?