The Greatest Lesson We Can Learn from "Beauty and the Beast"

Friday, March 17, 2017

Photo credit: Jamie Street via Unsplash

“I am not a Beast.” It’s by far my favorite addition to the Beauty and the Beast live-action retelling – more than any of the lavish sets, sumptuous costumes, or hummable new songs – and, uttered when Gaston flings that word at our prince as an accusation, it’s slipped in so quickly there at the end that I might have missed it.

But I didn’t. And WHOA did it resonate with me.

What that line so powerfully implies – and what the film’s animated predecessor didn’t capture so readily – is that the Beast is not a Beast because of the curse. Not really.

Mostly, he has become a Beast because that’s how he has learned to see himself.

How often is it that we trap ourselves in castles of our own making, convinced we’re monstrous and “not good enough” because of x, y, or z?

Because we’ve made mistakes we can’t undo? Because we’re repulsed by regret? Because we’re waylaid time and again by the same vices – selfishness, pride, gluttony, envy, prejudice? How beastly does that make us feel?

Speaking for myself at least, I can say… pretty dang beastly. We spend so much time mired in feelings of worthlessness and insecurity, and sometimes we wonder if we really deserve love.

“Who could ever learn to love a Beast?”

Now, the lesson of Beauty and the Beast isn’t that we should look to someone else for validation any more than it is that “if you love someone enough, you’ll be able to change them.”

But we are so, so hard on ourselves. Sometimes it takes another person to remind us of the truth of who we are, to see deep into our souls and pull out the goodness present there. This is what the best of friends do. This is what God does.

That’s true love.

Love involves seeing the goodness inherent in another’s being, even (and especially) when that person can’t see it for themselves. Love encourages us to see ourselves as whole, complete, and worthy of kindness and belonging. In other words, it encourages us to see ourselves as those who love us do.

When the Beast declares, “I am not a Beast,” he reclaims his self-worth, daring to see himself as Belle does, as whole and complete and undefined by his flaws and mistakes. It is a profound moment.

Love is not about trying to “change” someone. But we are always changed by love.

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