God Don’t Like Ugly…
(ThyBlackMan.com) There is a wonderful Scripture in the African American religious canon that reads “God don’t like ugly.” My first ethics instructor who undoubtedly heard it from her first ethics instructor – my grandmother, introduced me to this passage. It was during one of our many lectures in the classroom of life where I spent close to 19 years, under her tutelage, and even now am fortunate to be engaged in frequent conversations about right and wrong, the changing face of American politics, LeBron and Kobe, the recently deceased, and “young folks today.”
I don’t recall the first time I heard a sermon on a “God don’t like ugly” from my mother or what actions on my part or (more than likely) the part of one of my siblings prompted it but it probably had to do with an incident that was counter to her teaching and/or that of my Baptist church upbringing. I was supposed to follow the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12) It was a difficult proposition trying to do that which I knew to be right and still be cool and maintain my popularity. You can’t please God and man. More times than not, I would “fall short of the glory of God” and find myself the recipient of my mom’s punishment on earth because as she would put it, “you know better.”
This week I will make my way to a movie theatre to see “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” I actually read the book several years ago and was moved by Clareece “Precious” Jones journey from tragedy to triumph. The picture of Precious in my mind was based not upon her physical characteristics as depicted in the short novel, but conjured from the lingering image of those who I have come across at various points in my life that have had to take the same lonesome journey. After seeing the trailer for the film I could not help but think about how many young people will be teased and ridiculed as looking like Precious.
Young people (and adults can be mean)! I know I’ve been one and now I am the other. I can recall in my endless effort to be a comedian once looking at someone who I thought to be “ugly” because they did not fit my unimportant and narrow standard of beauty and saying in contradistinction to what I had been taught (I know better) and remarking “God don’t like ugly.” There are many cold and callous remarks that I have uttered that exist as painful memories and still haunt me from my childhood. I’m thankful that over time I have been able to fix that character leak before all of my humanity drained out and that I cannot dedicate myself to helping others to see what true beauty is. Long gone are those ugly days of my youth. I fear that other young works in progress will hurl insult after insult at those members in our community who are struggling to put the broken pieces of their lives together character as others continue to chip away at their self-esteem and physical reality. Look y’all there goes Precious!
The words of William Sloane Coffin eat at my soul, “There is no smaller package than that of a person all wrapped up in himself.” His words augment that which we must teach a new generation, what we must continue to teach other. There is none as ugly as those who think themselves to be so beautiful and others to be so unattractive as not to rate or deserve our love and respect. Many individuals hide how they really feel about themselves behind that which they say and do towards others. In fact, beauty is that which says you are without you saying I am.
The color of one’s skin figured prominently in the treatment of people of African descent during slavery (House Negro vs. Field Negro). It made its way into the discussion of who should be admitted to black colleges and social organizations during the first part of the 20th Century (brown paper bag test) and it still permeates our minds in the workplace and in families (favoritism). Decisions based upon the physical appearance of others cause the bright lights of our current progress to grow dim. Everyone deserves the opportunity to flourish and to be measured by the “content of their character” and not the shade of their skin or the size of their waist.
I believe that we all can be beautiful. I know that we all can be ugly. In so-called Christian (religious) America let’s us covenant to be more beautiful toward each other. God don’t like ugly!
*Editor’s note: Several friends have shared with me that the updated version of the verse reads, “God don’t like ugly and he’s not too fond of pretty.”
Written By Thomas Bowen
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