I have stolen this phrase from a film I went to see last week. It is the title of the film, and meant nothing to me until I had watched it – if you haven’t seen it, do look for it – it is just lovely!

We all know what collateral damage means now, since they started using it in a war context: the unintended or unavoidable negative side effects of something. Collateral beauty simply describes the unexpected positive side effects of something which seems awful in itself.

At the macro level, it is the kindness and courage of people when there is a major tragedy. At a micro level, it is noticing the sparkle of the raindrops or the return of the birdsong after a heavy downpour. It is appreciating your ability to taste things after a bad cold and becoming conscious of the way nature creates beauty with blossom and flowers, when we are forced to stop our busyness because we are seriously ill.

For me, there are two useful reminders in the phrase.

  1. There is always some form of collateral beauty no matter what is going on. Nothing is wholly awful. We grow, we learn, we come to recognise our own strengths, when awful things happen. And even in the midst of that awfulness, there are always touches of sweetness to remind us that this is not the whole story.
  2. Much of that collateral beauty is always in our lives, should we choose to notice it. There is more kindness than cruelty shown by people in our world, even if it is less reported. Nature is always offering us treats for our senses, should we stop and pay attention for a moment. We can learn and grow and recognise our own strengths through good times as well as the bad ones.

So whatever your present circumstances, keep an eye out for the collateral beauty. It is the universe’s gift to us and we can only gain from it.

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