When I think of unadulterated beauty I think of a small child. Nothing compares to the innocence and generous spirit that comes from our tiniest humans. They are still filled with wonder and lacking in the prejudices and hatefulness that far too many people develop over time. They see the world through the most accepting and compassionate eyes. If life were perfect their purity of mind and heart would never be polluted with with evil. We would all live in a peaceful paradise as Adam and Eve once did before their fall from grace.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of life is the knowledge that many of our children endure abuse, want, cruelties that lead them to change from the innocents that they once were. To survive they become tough, sometimes even mean and vengeful. Their once pure minds grow dark and angry. Some even turn into monsters who hurt and others for their own pleasure or gain or to sate their hatefulness.
Another beautiful group are the courageous souls who stand up to the bullies of this world, those who are willing to put everything on the line for justice regardless of the consequences. The men and women who marched for the civil rights of all people in the United States were such magnificent souls. The stunning protestors of Tiananmen Square in China who braved almost certain imprisonment for the cause of freedom were stunning examples of the best of our human courage. More recently we witness the citizens of Ukraine fighting one of the most powerful armies in the world in a determined effort to save their democracy. At the same time groups of Russian citizens have demonstrated their solidarity with their neighbors by blatantly breaking the law in protests that will surely bring them big trouble.
It is often difficult under any circumstances to stand up to monsters and bullies whether they be individuals or governments. It is risky to push back on those determined to hurt others and yet history is replete with such magnificent heroes and each of us has no doubt witnessed some incredible soul who is unafraid to speak out against wrongs. In my writing I have many times extolled such individuals, my neighbor who saved frightened children from the murderous rage of their father, politicians who have taken a stance against their own parties to defend democracy like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, teachers who risked their jobs to protect their students. I am in awe of such amazing courage in the face of silence from those who are afraid to cross their peers.
As a very young child and early reader I often chose books from my Catholic school library that extolled the lives of saints. The stories that were most impactful to me were those about souls who became martyrs, individuals who died defending justice, truth, goodness. I read of their courage with a sense of wonder and admiration. It was later that I witnessed real people in my own country who died fighting for the equal rights of all people. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed I knew that he was both a martyr and a saint. Like the others that I had learned about when I was quite young, I realized that each of us is imperfect, but if we rise to the occasion of defending our fellow humans and then die doing so we have become the most beautiful versions of ourselves. We have followed the example of Jesus Himself by giving our very lives for what is most surely right.
Not every situation that we encounter is life or death, but standing up against evil is almost always wrought with uncertainty. We may indeed be punished for being good rather than being praised for our bravery. Nonetheless, it is important that we honor ourselves and those around us by never turning away when we witness wrongs. Joining a throng intent on bad intentions to save our own skins is not only detestable, but also soul crushing. We lose a bit of ourselves each time we ignore injustice. We don’t have to directly intervene in a dangerous situation, but we must surely make our refutations known.
Such resolute behavior often means speaking out against the very people who mean the most to us. There is perhaps nothing more difficult than letting someone know that their behavior and thinking is hurting others. Often people do not even realize the extent of their actions in bringing harm. Correcting an essentially good person is often more difficult than chastising an obvious villain. It takes finesse and love to discuss difficult topics and there is always a danger that doing so will rupture the relationship. Nonetheless if we really care about others there are situations that are so impactful that we must speak truths. Not doing so would lead to unnecessary hurt and suffering.
Moral example is beautiful. The person who lives a life of honesty and courage may not win over everyone and may even be shunned for the efforts. The persons who quietly and continuously lives in service to justice, compassion and truth are ultimately the most beautiful among us. Such individuals somehow find ways to maintain the incredible purity of soul with which they were born and whether we agree with them or not, we know that they are beautiful.