Carol Shields explores the notion of what it means to be “good” in her novel, Unless. What does it mean to be good? And what are the quantifying and/or qualifying actions of one’s goodness?
I was thinking about goodness but today, something happened that made me consider, as many, many of us do, what it means to be ‘beautiful’. We always talk about inner beauty. Always. We talk about how “real” beauty is on the inside, and we campaign for real beauty and we try to tell our parents and teachers to instill accolades like achievement and positive personality traits instead of saying “you’re beautiful”. Because we are shifting away from ideal body types and tapping into what matters.
What about inner ugliness? What does that look like? Does it manifest itself into outer ugliness? Do we forgive people for being inwardly ugly? Why? How?
I see two kinds of inwardly ugly people. I see those who’ve made grave, devastating mistakes. I see ugly people who have done something ugly and they had to suffer the cycle of consequence for their hideous actions. Conversely, I see ugly people who pretend to be ‘good’. They walk around with a shimmering facade, they walk around their nose in the air, they perhaps even walk around believing in their own goodness. And then in the darkest hour when they think nobody is watching, they do ugly things. They want to hurt people, in even the smallest ways. And they never face the consequences because nobody believes them.
The former are lost souls. And they have done awful things that are inexcusable. But… when do I, when does society, when do they themselves, forgive? Can they? Can we? The latter are scum of the earth. The latter are cockroaches that I would like to squash out. The latter are the real villains, the real ugly people. The ones who seek out opportunities. And much to the dismay of everyone, they succeed. And there’s no cure, rehabilitation, any punishment well-enough suited for that kind of ugliness.