Adornments of the Soul


Edmond Rostand’s colorful and romantic character, Cyrano de Bergerac, had just finished describing his own outsize nose to a man named Valvert. But Cyrano’s wit and eloquence were more than others were able to match. Valvert reacted to Cyrano’s description by calling him a clown and saying, “Look at him, not even gloves! No ribbons, no lace, no buckles on his shoes.”

To Valvert these were the important things. A man was measured and esteemed according to the way he appeared to others. Valvert was incapable of seeing anything beyond his visual experience.

“I carry my adornments on my soul,” responded Cyrano. “I do not dress up like a popinjay; but inwardly, I keep my daintiness. I do not bear with me, by any chance, an insult not yet washed away—a conscience yellow with unpurged bile—an honor frayed to rags, a set of scruples badly worn. I go caparisoned in gems unseen—no figure of a man, but a soul clothed in shining armor, hung with deeds for decorations.”

From time to time we see only what pleases us, without an awareness of our own myopic vision. We must be privy to the hearts of others to know if there are “gems unseen.” Is it not better to bear the scars of misfortune where others can see if the soul at the same time is purged of blemish? What of those who are adorned with outward daintiness yet harbor a canker that infects their soul and distorts their power to reason? It is they who are like popinjays.

As we look at ourselves so we should look at others, but with the intention of knowing what is in the heart. We should be quick to overlook moments of frustration and cease to judge the trivial perturbations of others as though they were significant.

As a child of God, every person grows spiritually as well as physically. Each part of our character, each portion of our nature is developed in its own way and season by being loved and helped, and by lifting, loving, and helping others. Like de Bergerac, every person should be able to look to the skies and, aware of his “deeds for decorations,” should be able to say, “I carry my adornments on my soul.”