Learning from BEauty
One of my all-time precious memories is watching Beauty and the Beast with my oldest daughter. Born in 1990, she is the quintessential fan. I can’t listen to the theme song without tearing up (especially the Angela Lansbury version). It takes me back to dancing in the living room (I always had to be Beast) and looking in the mirror with her to find Father.
A couple weeks ago I got to take both my girls to see the newly released version and sure enough, I got weepy. (This isn’t a movie review, but I’ll just say that even though the new version is very well done, the 1991 original will always be my sentimental favorite.)
Like all great stories, Beauty and the Beast is more than a fairy-tale. There is some real wisdom in there about building a life worth living. Here are four important lessons:
- In our desperate search for comfort and survival, we are vulnerable and can easily get in over our heads. When Belle’s father stumbled into the castle on that bitterly cold night, he was oblivious to the danger. Despite the creepy noises and the magically appearing dinner with no people around, Belle’s father was compelled by his misery to stay in a dangerous situation. Desperation makes us vulnerable – when we are miserable we are less likely to notice the warning signs of unhealthy relationships or dysfunctional dynamics. We may brush them aside or rationalize and justify our decision to stay because we feel we have no other options.
- Fear keeps us imprisoned. The Beast is a prisoner in his own home – a slave to his selfishness and lack of empathy for others. For all those years, the Beast makes no attempt to change his fate. He is resigned to living and dying in the castle – and taking everyone else down with him. However, beneath his beastly surface, the Beast is actually very small and afraid. Until he confronts his fears, he has no chance of being free. Change is scary and typically involves enormous risks. Staying put in the same old prison can be a lot less scary than risking it all to break free.
- If we want to break free, we must ignore the lies. Belle is told she is odd. Father is told he is crazy. Gaston tells Belle she has no choice but to marry him. Beast tells Belle she has to stay in the castle forever. If Belle had believed all these lies, this story would have never made it to the big screen. The Bible says that the Truth will set us free. For every Truth, there are dozens of lies being thrown our way every day. (And by the way, we believe the ones about which we are the most insecure.) Knowing the truth about ourselves and others, and acting on that truth is the only ticket to freedom.
- Beauty can transform us. “We don’t change until staying the same becomes unbearable.” I don’t know who said it, but there’s a lot of truth in those words. Before Belle, the Beast had no beauty in his world. Once he experienced true Beauty, his prison became unbearable. What he tolerated before was no longer acceptable. His love for her transformed him, and once he tasted of what life could be, he was no longer desperate to hold on to the past. Love caused him – and later, Belle – to risk everything. When we catch a glimpse of what life could be, we are compelled to take action. Staying the same is no longer an option.
Are you imprisoned by something? Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship (emotional abuse hurts too). Perhaps you are a slave to binge-eating or alcohol or anxiety and depression. You may feel you have no other options – you’ve been doing this so long, you have no idea what else you would do. What are you afraid of? (Change is scary!) What lies are you believing? Has someone told you that you are fat, or unworthy or that you will never make it?
Have you ever allowed yourself to experience real beauty? The smell of a newborn baby, the first glimpse of spring, the sound of a child’s laughter, the smell of lilacs wafting in the breeze, the gentle touch of warm raindrops on your skin? Hold on to that beauty. Let it transform you and give you a glimpse of what life could be.