"When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure."
Last week, I watched a modern-day re-telling of the old Beauty and the Beast story with my children. They range in age from 8 to 14, so at the conclusion of the movie I thought it was more than appropriate to expect at least a couple of them to have picked up on the message. I was looking for something akin to “External beauty is only skin deep. Real substance is on the inside.” Yeah...was I in for a surprise! It looked promising when my 10 year old son took a moment to ponder. But when he concluded, “Don’t be mean to ugly ladies!” I was sure he had completely missed the point.
We had a good, hearty laugh followed by an excellent discussion as I took the opportunity to teach the message I expected them to learn. But during the discussion, my son kept reiterating what he had said and insisting it was a better lesson because had the prince been nice to the old witch, the whole affair could have been avoided. And he’s right; it could have been avoided. Had he missed the point, or had I?
Hmm. Thought provoking! Is it better to make excellent choices, or is it better to make mistakes and let Life sort out your faults?
I’ve thought about that a lot through the years. There are things in my past that I’m not proud of--choices I wish I hadn’t made--that led to negative consequences that caused a lot of heartache for myself and others. But now that they are in my past, I have to admit that on some level, I’m glad I experienced it all because, like the prince, the consequences of my mistakes (the Beast) made me a better person. If I hadn’t made the mistakes, would I be who I am today? No.
I think if you asked the prince after the Beast was behind him, he would tell you he was glad the whole thing happened to him, too. He’d probably tell you the same thing I’m about to tell you: Even if I had the option to go back and choose differently to avoid the Beast, I wouldn’t. I’d do it all over again because all that I gained was worth the price I paid.
I have also experienced other unpleasant trials in my life that were completely out of my control that caused heartache as well: death, illness, betrayal, poverty, loss, etc. But while I know many would disagree with me on this point, even these experiences have made me stronger and I wouldn’t change them.
On the other hand, I have always understood the importance of living by a set of noble, moral standards. At times, I know living up to my standards has saved me considerable grief and/or pain. It has certainly given me the peace of a clear conscience. This way of living is epitomized in the character of the Beauty. Her choices were noble and kind. She saw the value of the Beast and overlooked his incongruous outward appearance. She was everything the Beast was not--his antithesis in every way. But did her goodness prevent ALL adversity? No. She was enslaved and treated badly despite her goodness. But it was her determination to make the best of her circumstances and to continue choosing kindness in the face of her hardships that changed everything. It was only then that her goodness inspired the Beast’s change, and his inner nobility born from that change that inspired her love. They were connected and strengthened by the contrary winds of struggle.
Maybe just because their paths to improvement were divergent, it doesn’t have to mean one is “right” and one is “wrong”. The point is that there is no path that saves us from adversity, nor should we expect or desire a life free from it. Sometimes we’re the Beauty and sometimes we’re the Beast. Without the opposing forces, there would be no story. Without free will, struggle, and suffering there would be no value in nobility, no learning, no character development, no purpose…no Beauty in life.Being Wrong