Beauty and Holiness Work Together
Dignity and Virtue Are Always Attractive
If being beautiful on the inside is more important than on the outside, then why do Americans spend $62 billion a year on cosmetics?
For the serious Catholic, desiring physical beauty can present a rub between heaven and earth. Vanity and pride are opposed to holiness, so does that demand we downplay our appearance?
Three Catholic women who are passionate about their faith shared their thoughts on how beauty and holiness work together.
“There’s no need to feel as if we must choose between interior and exterior beauty,” stated Crystalina Evert, wife to Jason, mother of six, speaker, author and founder of Women Made New Ministries, which helps women to discover their true inner beauty and value.
“We desire to be beautiful, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that,” she said. However, Evert warned that the devil can use that desire to tempt us to either idolize our bodies or despise them by fearing we aren’t good enough. “When we place our desire for external beauty above the quest to beautify our souls, we’re losing sight of the meaning of lasting beauty,” Evert said.
The key, according to her, is to overcome insecurity and find a healthy balance. Evert referred to Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s quote: “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face.” She said that, ultimately, true beauty comes in doing the will of God and glorifying him in our daily lives.
In her own life, she credited Eucharistic adoration with transforming her insecurity into assurance of God’s love for her. “As a result, I found my value and worth through the eyes of God and not the eyes of the world.”
As a speaker for young people, Sarah Swafford said she understands that some people equate holiness with dowdiness — and through her work she hopes to end that mistaken notion. Swafford, the mother of four young children ages 9 and under, founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries and author of Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama-Free Relationships, said: “I dress professionally and stylishly and wear heels when I go to speak in order to be heard by this generation.” Her message is: “Being beautiful slices a million different ways, but being virtuous is simply irresistible.” The reason, according to her, is that modesty in dress and behavior makes a person approachable.
Modesty defies a culture that promotes using physical assets for personal gain, Swafford said. “There is something deeply mystifying about modesty,” she said. “Guys tell me it’s easy to approach girls who are modest.”
She said faith, virtue and confidence will win every time: “As a daughter of God, instead of thinking what my body can do for me, I should want to use my body in a way that honors God; it is the window to my soul.”
Coming to faith changed how Brenda Sharman, the former director of Pure Fashion and mother of three boys, viewed her work as a professional model and speaker. Her husband, who was also a model at the time they were dating, “was kindhearted and had a joy and peace about him,” Sharman said of his Catholic upbringing and principles. When she became pregnant with their first son, her search for God began. “Okay, if you are out there,” she prayed, “help me to know you and serve you.” She was soon drawn to the Catholic Church and was baptized in 1999.
After Sharman’s conversion, she continued to model, but her perspective changed. “God nudged my heart to greater modesty,” she explained. She stopped doing fashion shows and modeling lingerie.
“Go ahead and be pretty,” Sharman said, “but you don’t need to show cleavage or use your body parts to sell your story. Use your mind and your heart to tell your story.” A thought that she keeps in mind is that beauty is fleeting (so says Proverbs 31:30), so it is not where we should put our worth.
One woman she knows reminds her of this truth: “She’s beautiful from her soul.” You cannot have holiness without humility, she stated, and the beauty of holiness is what attracts people: “There’s nothing more attractive than holiness.”
Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.
Image: Pierre Puvin de Chavannes (1824-1898), L'Espérance