Some folks suffer in sorrow
Thinking they're just no good
They don't match the magazine model
As close as they think they should

—David Wilcox

If I could shape the English language I would leave in the word beautiful but excise the word ugly. I would remove from the language the words to paint any person as less lacking in visual worth. I would so order things that we had only words to build each other up. Then, if I could, I would make it my goal to so shape ALL world languages so that there would be no unkind word but only those that are “helpful for building others up according to their needs ...” (Ephesians 4:29). It is that world in which I want to live.

But we live in a world where words build AND destroy souls. We live in a world and participate in a relational economy in which physical appearance is a valued commodity. We live in a world where singles judge one another on their marketability, a world in which “ugliness,” real or perceived, can feel like punishment.

God has no ugly children. God plays no favorites. We don’t need to impress him. As Rich Mullins said, “He’s already knocked out about you. He already loves you more than you could imagine.” And yet, there are many poor souls convinced that ugliness is the reason for their singleness. I cannot deny it. I also cannot confirm it. The whole issue of singleness is both simpler and vastly more complex than that.

There will ALWAYS be someone prettier, someone more handsome, or someone with more charm. There will always be someone with a smaller waist, firmer breasts, less body fat, or some other agreed upon trait of “beauty.”

If what we pursue is some arbitrary standard, there is no end to the search. There is no person who lives up to the title of perfect man or perfect woman. We are more than the sum of our parts. I am valued beyond my looks and so are you—or we should be.

I avoid saying just plainly “those who ARE beautiful” and “those who ARE ugly” because I just don’t believe in the full reality of those categories. Something in me accepts the “beautiful,” but cannot stomach “ugly.” To declare someone ugly is to speak of more than their looks. To call someone ugly is to make a pronouncement of their relational worth.

Let’s face it, we rarely bother to comment on a person’s ugliness outside the realm of their “dateability.” In most cases we do not even notice a person’s looks unless we are considering dating them. For the most part they are people until they stumble across our relational radar. Then we feel compelled to decide whether what they have to offer is enough—whether they are attractive or not.

If they please US—they are beautiful.

If they do not please US—they are ugly.

This is ruthlessness. We are here for more than marriage and thus here for more than dating. We possess value beyond our relational appeal. Thank God! If the feet of those who bring Good News are beautiful, then we who are the temple of the Holy Spirit are beautiful—EVERY ONE OF US. If the ground near the burning bush was sacred, then we should remove our shoes in approaching a daughter or son of Heaven’s King. Who of us would DARE speak the world ugly in addressing the King’s daughter—the princess? Who would dare call a heaven’s prince ugly?

And yet I have thought and at times said that someone was ugly. I spoke in ignorance. I spoke from my own limited perspective and for my own benefit—not theirs. I repent of that judgment. “Ugly,” for what it’s worth, is ethereal—ghostlike—it is neither real nor tangible. But then again, so is beauty. The “Maker of Noses” made them all to HIS specs, and I dishonor the maker if I call ANYONE ugly.