02/19/2014 01:59 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2014

Ugly Baby, Ugly Love and the Ugly Beauty of Life

We were eating lunch. He said "Don't look." I asked "Why". He said "Sonya, do not look." You know I did. Turned my head and there they were -- a mother, child and store patron cooing over what can only be described as... an ugly baby. To be fair, the baby could have been making a face. If so, it was the face of sheer terror, not the face of colic. His face was stuck. The absurdity was that the woman and man just kept smiling like the kid wasn't making this hideous face. My friend started laughing. I started laughing. I laughed until I hurled. That's right. I threw up looking at that ugly baby.


This awkward moment was brought to you by my inability to be polite or politically correct. We know that one woman's ugly baby is another one woman's pride and joy. That is obvious. My fascination with the ugly beauties of life is not so obvious.

Ugly baby is a term I enjoy using. It acts as a totem tethering me to reality. My ideas and dreams are like brainchildren in need of constructive criticism, less I fall madly in love with them and loose objectivity. I need honest people in my life who can answer the question, "Is my baby ugly?" I presented one of my ugly babies via email to the select few asking them to consider this question.

The phrase "ugly baby" solicits honesty. It provokes you to take a second look, hoping the irony isn't true and daring you to admit if it is. I have used the term to encourage authentic feedback. I have learned that ego is expensive and it will cost you more than you are willing to pay. So ask the hard questions. That presentation proved to be the most responded to email I have sent to date, helping me to see the imperfect, perfectly.

This is a good practice in relationships, too. Consider Ugly Love.

It's a life changing perspective I took up years ago when a friend challenged a bunch of us to pursue "ugly love." He reminded us that the Bible illustrates God's love toward man without any merit on man's part (Romans 5:8) encouraging us to give our best even when people act their worse - especially significant others.

That's an awesome kind of love. And it's the kind of love that we're called to give to one another. It's easy to love them at their best. That's why we gush and tell all our friends and get excited at the very thought of love. But all that is the 'better' -- what about the worse? For your one true love, The One, your soul mate, your partner, your inspiration and your hope, are you willing to give your best when s/he is not at his/her best? Can you still love them when they have an attitude? Start tripping? Forget your birthday? Can you love them after the fight? During the fight? Can you love them when they ugly? MJQ

This is not drunk or abusive love. It's sober love. It cuts through the superficial lists we create for dating and mating. It goes beyond flowers, candy and flattery, because it's easy to hide behind those gestures. Ugly love asks "Who you are in the dark when no one is watching?" "Who are you when you are not trying to be impressive?" And it welcomes saying, "Nice to meet the 'real' you." Ugly love is a vulnerable invitation to which only the mature heart can respond.

It works in friendships too through transparency. I have had the privilege of having what can only be called "truth telling" sessions with dear friends, male and female. We hold each other accountable and share true perspectives offering each person growth; laying the groundwork for lifelong friendships. I count and hold these friendships in one hand.

Both ugly babies and ugly love are intentionally awkward raising uncomfortable questions; asking us to consider the difference between what is true and what is truth. We are far too easily distracted, amused and deluded. Delusion is mental masturbation. What we are imagining offers an euphoric sensation, but in truth there is no substance. It can be too easy to treat feelings as facts or to empower our ideals as reality. This can be especially true in matters of the heart and in the pursuit of our dreams.

Go ahead. Ask for some ugly baby feedback on a precious project you are working on. Or take an ugly love perspective when dealing with a loved one. It can change your world. These power tools help us manage the ugly beauty of life -- embracing fault while beholding beauty in the same courageous moment.