Beautiful Vs Good

Andrew Wake Newsletter, Parenting

Hi to all

 

When I have a new idea, I tend to play with it for a while. The families I work with don’t know it, but often they are the guinea pigs for these new ideas, and their feedback within the following sessions lets me know if it is going to be a useful idea or not. The post last week about VO5 is one such recent idea, and so far it seems to be going well. One dad this week told me it helped him (more than anything else we’d done) to not lose his cool when his kids are provoking him.

 

Recently I’ve been listening to a philosophy podcast while walking my dog in the morning. Now some of what they talk about escapes me, and I often need a dictionary and a few listens to understand a few of the ideas they use, but something that was said last week piqued my interest: the difference between being motivated by whether an action was good, or whether it was beautiful.

 

As parents, it is so easy to focus on whether we, our partner, or our kids are right or wrong, good or bad, correct or mistaken. We find ourselves judging, criticizing, correcting. Though we may be “right”, we can come across as sterile, serious and no fun. How often do we notice instead beauty in our self, our partner or our children, and delight in admiration for them and their actions.

 

This can be quite a challenge: instead of viewing actions and their outcome as good or bad (and the judgment that follows), rather to notice what is beautiful or admirable and no judgment being necessary. And in our own actions, instead of trying to be good or right, to be motivated to do beautiful things. Some examples may help highlight the difference.

 

  • Blowing bubbles is not good or bad…bubbles are simply beautiful.
  • Children running around laughing is not right or wrong, but it is beautiful and a delight to hear and see.
  • You could see washing up as a right action (something that should be done), or as a beautiful action that was lovely.
  • Creation, music, art, play, fun…none of this is good or bad, but it is beautiful.
  • Altruism is beautiful. Kindness is beautiful. Helping with no strings attached is beautiful. Though they may be also right or wrong, the emotion we feel comes from seeing a beautiful action performed and admiration for their developing skill.

 

Beauty is intangible and can’t be measured, but you know it when you see it. I have many patients who are churned up by worries about being good or bad, and obsessive about getting things right in their thoughts, their bodies, or their actions with friends. I wonder what would happen if they were to instead focus on what is beautiful or admirable? If when they get up to sing in front of a crowd they were motivated to produce a gift of beauty for everyone, rather than motivated by judgment of being good enough.

 

I at times challenge parents, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” I may start to play around with a new idea: “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be beautiful?” Do you want well-behaved good kids, or do you want beautiful kids?   Do you want a correct family, or a beautiful family? As parents, we model and lead the way for our children. If we want beauty for them, we need to be beautiful in our actions and what we notice in ourselves and others.

 

Now of course there is judgment and it is often appropriate. It is a very human action to compare and criticise, and a very powerful motivator. And I do think the confidence of feeling good enough is important. I am simply wondering if we somewhat increased our focus on beauty rather than goodness within our family (self, partners, children) whether there would be a decrease in judgment that may free everyone up from judgmental worries and disappointments that can so poison closeness. And we may start feeling differently about those we love, and ourselves.

 

Think about the last action you saw that you noticed was beautiful, and remember how it made you feel. In the last week I have been trying to be more aware and appreciative of the beauty around me, and I have noticed some decrease in my judgment of others and myself at those times.

 

It’s too early to tell if such an idea is useful in myself or my patients, and in sharing this idea with you I hope will help me to decide whether to run with it further or not. But I have a hunch that if it helps us and our children to move away from judgment, it will be helpful.

 

I’ve attached a link to the podcast for those who are interested. You can find it here and it goes for 25 minutes. It is called “Rescuing the beautiful: would you do something simply because it was the beautiful thing to do?” and was published on 21st February 2016 on “The Philosopher’s Zone”.