I’m excited to be on this journey with you to “explore the beauty that is to be revealed within the experience of disability and human limitation.” I suspect, in some ways, this task could be challenging because I don’t think it’s always easy to see the beauty that exists in another person or in you, especially when faced with adversity. It’s evident, I believe it is certainly there, but sometimes I feel like you have to dig for it! Why? When triumph of the human spirit, sheer determination, and even sweet surrender seem to shine radiantly at times through people who face unique challenges, why is it still hard sometimes to see beauty in these situations? I’ve thought of three reasons to start the conversation, but please, add more!
1. Even though facing disability and confronting limitation can produce character in an individual, sometimes the most immediate and strongest emotions a person experiences are negative. A person wrestling with the acceptance of their condition may travel through the grieving process, experiencing emotions like shame, sadness, and frustration over the way their body looks, moves, and feels. These emotions can be intense, and I think that in the moment it becomes challenging to focus on any redeeming aspects of the situation, like beauty.
2. We try to hide our flaws and our limitations, making them harder to see. I think we all do this—not just people with disabilities. I believe the game of masking our deficits is one that can be played on large and small scales. I’ve done both—working to be the “perfect” student to somehow compensate for my disability—hoping that attempting to do something flawlessly will somehow shadow my flaws. I hide in subtle ways too—wearing sandals that completely cover my toes so no one can see how my left foot is shaped differently from my right foot. It’s all in vain; eventually the school year ends; eventually I have to take off my shoes and reveal my feet.
3. I think our tendency to hide our flaws is rooted in ugly truth. We live in a society whose standard of beauty is flawless perfection. That standard is certainly “not right,” but what’s even truer is that it’s also “not human!” We’re constantly comparing ourselves to each other and to images that have been technologically advanced, putting ourselves down because somehow we don’t measure up. I wish we took more time to remember that biological diversity is absolutely essential to the survival of the human race—our very lives are dependent upon our differences.
The Dove Company stared a “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Take a look at the videos below. One shows a woman’s image being artificially altered and the other shows a man’s image being changed.
Questions to Discuss:
1. What is your definition of beauty?
2. What is your reaction to these videos?
3. Do you find it easy or hard to see beauty in situations where you may encounter another person with a disability or come face to face with your own limitations?
4. Do you have any more ideas why it is sometimes challenging to see beauty?