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The Lesson of Love: Chapter 2 - Things That are LOVELY

By J.R. Miller

      Nothing that is not beautiful, is fit for a place in a Christly life. Strength is essential--but strength need not be rough and unlovely; art has learned to give it graceful form. Truth and honesty, justice and right--are prime elements in a worthy life--but they need not be unbeautiful. Sometimes, it is true, we see men in whom these great qualities are strongly marked--yet in whom beauty is lacking. Some even boast of being blunt men, meaning that they say what they think, not caring how they may say it. But there is no reason why any sturdy quality of character, should be lacking in loveliness. We may clothe the plainest virtue in garments of grace. We may be honest--and yet gentle and kindly. We may be true--and live very sweetly.

      In a cluster of "whatevers" indicating the principal qualities in an ideal character, Paul includes "whatever things are lovely." Perhaps it has been too much the habit in Christian teachers, to overlook beauty as an essential feature of a complete life. Christ, who is always to be our model, was "altogether lovely." He was strong, and true, and just, and righteous--but there was no flaw in his character, no defect in his life. We should never tolerate in ourselves, anything that is not beautiful.

      Some things are not lovely. There are ways that are not winning. There are people whose personality is not attractive. They fail to draw others to them. They neither make close friends--nor keep friends. They may be good in the general fabric of their character--honest, truthful, upright, just. No one could condemn them or charge them with anything really wrong. Yet they are not lovable in their dispositions. There is something in them that hinders their popularity, that mars their influence, that interferes with their usefulness.

      Sincerity is one element in loveliness. Artificiality is never beautiful. There are many people who suffer greatly in their lives by reason of their affectations. They are unnatural in their manners. They seem always to be acting under the restraint of rules. It was said the other day of a good man, that he talks even in common conversation as if he were delivering an oration. There are some who use a great deal of exaggerated language in complimenting their friends, even in expressing the most commonplace feelings. There are those whose very walk shows a studied air, as if they were conscious of a certain importance, a burden of greatness, thinking that wherever they appear, everybody's eyes follow them with a sort of admiration and worship. All affectations in manner, in speech, in dress, in bearing, in disposition, are unlovely. They are classed with insincerities. Only the simple, unaffected, natural life--is truly beautiful.

      Selfishness is unlovely. It has many ways, too, of showing itself. Indeed, it cannot be hidden--it crops out continually, in act and word and disposition. There are those who are disobliging, never willing to put themselves out to do a favor, or to show a kindness to others. They may talk unselfishly, affirming their interest in people and their friendship for them--but when the test comes--SELF asserts itself. Selfishness is simply the absence of love--love is not self-seeking.

      Unselfishness is lovely. It does not count the cost of serving. It loves unto the uttermost, and never fails in helpfulness. It thinks of others, not only as of itself--but, like the Master, forgets itself altogether.

      Another lovely attribute in the Christian life, is peace. It never worries. It is never fretted. It is quiet, not noisy. It is the quality of a self-disciplined life. Hurry is always unbeautiful. The lovely life is never in haste--yet never loiters. It is self-poised. If women knew how much a quiet, self-controlled manner means in the making up of a winsome personality, they would seek for it more than for great riches. Nervous flurry, especially in a woman, is unlovely. It shows itself in flustered manners, in hasty and ofttimes rash speech, too often in ungoverned temper. The exhortation, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life," does not refer merely to speech--but especially to the inner spirit, to the manner, to the whole bearing of the life.

      Nothing is lovelier in life than the spirit of contentment. Fretting mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one's world. Out of whatever window he looks, the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing. If there is a contented mind--there is only good seen everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture--but those in which glad, happy hearts dwell. A mind at rest, glorifies the plainest surroundings and even the hardest conditions.

      Paul was in a prison when he wrote: "I have learned, in whatever state I am, therein to be content." The secret was in himself.

      Love is the great master-secret of all beautiful things in character; love deals also with the manner of life's expression, as well as with its acts. Many good deeds--are done in a very unbeautiful way. Some people do kindnesses in such an unfitting way--that those they help wish they had not tried to help them!

      There is a great deal of thoughtlessness, too, in many people. They love their friends and are ready to do for them anything the friends need, even at much cost or great sacrifice--but they fail utterly in the amenities and graces, which together are the charm and sweetener of all beautiful helpfulness. Love in the heart--should always inspire whatever things are lovely in behavior, in conduct, in disposition; and nothing that gives pain to others, either in act, word, tone, or manner, can be lovely.

      Self-love is the secret of many of the most unlovely things in disposition, in character, in conduct.

      A writer says: "All extreme sensitiveness, fastidiousness, suspicion, readiness to take offence, and tenacity of what we think our due--come from self-love; as does the unworthy secret gratification we sometimes feel when another is humbled or mortified; the cold indifference, the harshness of our criticism, the unfairness and hastiness of our judgments, our bitterness toward those we dislike; and many other faults which must more or less rise up before most men's conscience, when they sincerely question as to how far they do indeed love their neighbors as Christ has loved them."

      We are told that love "does not behave rudely." There are many things which cannot be said to be sinful, which are yet rude. They are not beautiful. They are unrefined. All displays of uncontrolled temper are rude. All harsh and unkind words are rude. Rudeness in every form, is out of harmony with the spirit of love.

      The matter of manners should never be regarded as unimportant. Expression is a true index of character. In reading and speaking, a great deal depends upon pronunciation, accent, emphasis, tone, and the fine shadings of the voice which help in interpreting thought, feeling, emotion. To a refined and cultivated ear, defects in expression, inelegances in utterance, are painful. The charm of good eloquence lies in its simplicity, its naturalness, its niceties of expression, and in its true interpretation of thought. Beautiful living, in like manner, is not only refined and cultivated--but also interprets truly--what is best and most beautiful in the heart.

      Anything rude, is a worse marring in a woman than in a man. Men are of a coarser grain than women, of more common material. Rude things do not appear so rude in a man as in a woman. It is expected that every woman shall be beautiful, not only in her character--but also in her behavior, not only in what she does--but in the way she does it. There are books which claim to tell people how to behave--but true refinement cannot be learned from even the best of these. There is many a woman who is thoroughly familiar with the rules and requirements of society, whose life is full of rude things.

      A young woman writes that on three successive Sundays she heard three different preachers, and that each of them spoke very earnestly on the importance of self-control. This persistent recurrence of the same lesson had set her to thinking of the subject, and she wrote with some alarm regarding her own lack of self-mastery. She saw that she had been allowing herself to fall into certain habits which are very rude, which are marring the sweetness of her disposition and making her disagreeable. She is living in a boarding-house, and she began to see that she had been behaving herself in a very selfish way toward her hostess. She had permitted herself to become exacting and critical, finding fault with everything. She had been acting like a peevish, fretful child, losing her temper and giving way to her feelings in a most rude fashion.

      This young woman's frank confession of the faults into which she sees that she has drifted, shows how unconscious we may be of rude things in our life and conduct. Other people see them, however, though we do not. It does not take long for one to get a reputation as a discontented person, as unreasonable, as hard to get along with, as disagreeable, or as a gossip, or a meddler in other people's matters. We need to keep it in our prayers continually, that we may have the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would be a good thing if we all were to read the thirteenth of First Corinthians at least once a week all through our life. It would be like looking into a mirror which would expose the rude things in our behavior, that we might cure them.

      The cure for rudeness is not found in books of etiquette, nor in any mere external culture--but in love in the heart. Rudeness of all kinds soon yields to refinement of spirit. Love makes the roughest man gentle. It inspires in us all beautiful things--gentleness, kindness, good temper, thoughtfulness, obligingness, every form of unselfishness, the spirit of serving, and the truest courtesy. Jesus was the truest gentleman that ever lived, and all who really follow him--will catch his spirit and learn the beauty of his refinement.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The LESSON of Love
   Chapter 2 - Things That are LOVELY
   Chapter 3 - To SUFFER and Love On
   Chapter 4 - The Hurt of FLATTERY
   Chapter 5 - "Nor Life"
   Chapter 6 - Having the Mind of Christ
   Chapter 7 - The Second Mile
   Chapter 8 - Losing SELF in Christ
   Chapter 9 - Growing By Abandonment
   Chapter 10 - Leaving Things Undone
   Chapter 11 - Living for the BEST Things
   Chapter 12 - Serving and Following Christ
   Chapter 13 - Citizenship in Heaven
   Chapter 14 - Gladdened to Gladden
   Chapter 15 - The Gentleness of Christ
   Chapter 16 - Would Our Way Be Better?
   Chapter 17 - In the Father's Hands
   Chapter 18 - One Day at a Time
   Chapter 19 - True Friendship's Wishes
   Chapter 20 - Christ in Our Everydays
   Chapter 21 - In Tune With God


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