Is love beautiful? Encounter beauty this Valentine’s Day

Is love beautiful? Encounter beauty this Valentine’s Day February 3, 2024

Have you ever encountered something so beautiful that it left you in a state of awe? Maybe you even felt inspired to be a better person or give more to others? If so, what was it that struck you as beautiful? Maybe it was the rising sun upon the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean, colorful flowers standing tall amidst a Spring rain, or the majesty of one of Claude Monet’s masterpieces.

But have you ever been moved by acts of love? Have you ever noticed someone doing good, performing acts of kindness, or engaging in heroic actions, and felt inwardly inspired, even moved? Or, has someone ever treated you with selfless love such that you felt you had encountered the beauty of love?

My experiences with the beauty of love

Loving parents

One of my earliest experiences of the beauty of love was that of my parents. My mom cared for me through times of asthma, eczema, and food allergies; and my dad worked hard day in and day out, generously channeling every penny he made to the family. All of this love struck me as beautiful and inspired within me a longing to love others.

A gift of jelly

I can think back to when I lived and served as a Salesian Lay Missionary at an orphanage in Bolivia. There were over 100 girls living in the orphanage—most of whom had experienced intense poverty and trauma before coming to the orphanage. One day, I was too sick to come to breakfast; the girls who sat at my table knocked on the door to my bedroom, bringing me a bit of jelly they had saved. Jelly. I didn’t really want the jelly. And surely, few would understand why this was such a salient experience. Jelly was rarely served with the daily bread and was considered an extraordinary treat. The girls usually strived for every last bit of the jelly. But here they were, several of them bringing me a plate containing a good portion of jelly they had saved for me. There was something about the sacrifice and thoughtfulness that left me with an experience of the beauty of love. This was a turning point in my life, as I finally realized that it’s not about what we do or don’t do, but about how we love. With this, I desired to be a better person. I wanted to give more and become a better person.

A humble listener

Another experience of the beauty of love was with the CFRs—a Franciscan order of religious who took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. My spiritual director, Father Agustino, walked in Paterson with his gray habit, listening to one person after another, blessing them while he remained silent, praying. This was yet another experience of the beauty of love. He humbly engaged in compassionate, kind, and virtuous acts; experiencing this beauty, I was inspired to do the same.

Psychological research on the beauty of love

If you’ve also experienced the beauty of love, you are not alone. Research shows that acts of kindness, compassion, courage, charity, etc are perceived as beautiful (Haidt, 2003). These acts, referred to as moral beauty, also elicit a sense of elevation—an emotion which gives rise to the desire to become more virtuous (Haidt, 2003). Countless studies have confirmed that we experience virtuous or moral acts as beautiful.

Scholar Rhett Diessner and colleagues even created a measure of the degree to which one engages with moral beauty, as well as natural and artistic beauty (Diessner et al., 2008). You can take the assessment and find out more about your own engagement with beauty by scrolling to the last page of Diessner et al. (2008).

Remember, there are always ways to increase your engagement with beauty. But first, let’s look at other perspectives on the moral beauty.

Theological perspectives on the beauty of love

Psychologists aren’t the only ones who’ve explored the beauty of love. Theologians would agree that love is beautiful. For example, Hans von Balthasar seems to describe this experience of awe and elevation in response to love. He writes: “For it is precisely here, in this deed, that genuine divine love begins and ends, a love that overwhelms us and exceeds all capacity to think” (von Balthasar, 2004).

In a document written by the Pontifical Council for Culture, Via Pulchritudinis (translated into the “Way of Beauty”), God’s love is referred to as the “source of all beauty” (Pontifical Council for Culture, 2006).

Overall, theologians have long proposed that love is indeed, beautiful.


Biblical perspectives on the beauty of love

Such theological teachings align with ancient Biblical texts.

Moreover, we often read about “glory” in the Bible. We read: “Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).  The word used here in the Bible seems to come from the Hebrew word “kabode,” which means splendor. And, the 4th definition of the word “glory” in the Merriam Webster dictionary is “great beauty and splendor.”

Likewise, in Via Pulchritudinis, we read that Jesus is the “perfect representation of the Glory of the Father. He is the most beautiful of the children of man” (Ponitifical Council for Culture, 2006).

Finally, in the Gospel of John, we read the Latin words: “Neque vocem ejus umquam audistis, neque speciem ejus visistis” (John 5:37). This translates into “Neither have you heard His voice, nor seen his beauty/splendour” (John 5:37). Christ’s splendor? Indeed, Jesus Christ who is Love, is glorious, splendorous, and beautiful.


Finding beautiful love this Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, and beyond, you may want to look for acts of goodness, kindness, and compassion. Notice them and when you do, you may find that you experience beauty—possibly, true beauty. You may encounter the beauty of sacrificial love, like the love of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself entirely for our sakes.

When you notice moral beauty, you may experience that emotion that psychologists have termed elevation—and feel moved inside to become a better person. In doing so, you might want to engage in more charitable and virtuous acts.

Beautiful love, beautiful world

With this, you share love with others so that they, too, might encounter the beauty of love. In all of this, you make the world a more truly beautiful place.



Diessner, R., Solom, R. D., Frost, N. K., Parsons, L., & Davidson, J. (2008). Engagement with beauty: Appreciating natural, artistic, and moral beauty. The Journal of psychology, 142(3), 303-332.

Haidt, J. (2003). Elevation and the positive psychology of morality.

Pontifical Council for Culture (March 27-28, 2006) – Via Pulchritudinis. (2006).

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