What Not to Wear 3

Man Looketh on the Outward Appearance

Like the Andy Sachs character in The Devil Wears Prada, until recently I perceived clothing as mere “stuff.” I didn’t treat my clothing as a resource, and I didn’t consider what message I was sending to other people when I dressed and left my house. I didn’t want to be fake, idealized, persona-identified or in any way worldly, so my presentation of my self in terms of outward appearance began to degenerate. I could not return to my career-inspired self, or the self I was before my daughter died, for that person has been lost. What I’ve learned is unalterable.

And yet, I didn’t know what to present to the world. I’ve often thought that having a uniform, or a habit, or a priestly robe of some kind to wear day after day would be preferable to having to dress myself. I’ve become far too awake and I haven’t known what to do with this awareness in terms of everyday life. I was having a hard time believing what I saw of my self; it’s no wonder that I’ve found it hard to know what and how to present that self to others in ways that were intelligible.

The other morning, I woke up with a thought, which was that everything I offer that can be perceived by others is offered as an image. I am responsible for what I offer, for the only gift I can offer comes from my particular self.

The fact is that “man looketh on the outward appearance.” People see only what we show them. When we leave our homes and go out into public, people see our clothing, our faces, our hair, our makeup (or lack of it), our facial expressions. They hear our voices, our tone of voice, what we say about others, what we tell about ourselves. They listen to our offhand comments and to what we say we mean with all seriousness. They watch how we treat others and ourselves. If we write, they read what we write and they judge us by what we write, and by how we respond and react to others as we write. People do, indeed, look on outward appearances, for that’s all they can see.

I’d like to think that people, being spiritual, can also see with spiritual eyes. But experience indicates that few people see first, if at all, with their spiritual eyes. We have to help others see us as we are, if we are light. If we are light, then we have to shine our lights. If we are love, then we must love. If we are mercy, then we must be merciful. If we are anything less, we are bound to show that, too.

There is no way that others can see the bounty of my heart unless I show them, spilling out God’s fruit from the cornucopia of my spirit.

Lately, I ask myself all the time, “What am I offering to others?”

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