Lessons on Life and Love from Beauty and the Beast

I spent yesterday morning chaperoning a field trip with both munchkins to watch “Beauty and the Beast” at our local community college. As expected for a Disney-related play, it was equal parts scary and sweet. Poor C ended up sitting on my lap for most of the show because the Beast had some anger management issues after the enchanted castle spirits cast a spell on him. Thankfully, Beauty entered the picture soon after and came to care for him, despite his hardened heart. She agreed to marry him, and he turned back into a prince (and secretly stuffed his beastly mask into a bag as C informed me). 😉

I came away from this play with two thoughts: one, Disney stories are not exactly kid-friendly, and two, what are kids supposed to learn from watching this?

There were some good lessons in the play, such as commitment to your family and keeping your word. But of course the moral of the story was: Don’t judge a guy by his looks or wealth or status. In a culture that values all of the above, however, that’s a hard lesson to swallow.

That was the belief I grew up with. Both my parents went to college, I went to college and grad school, and multiple people in my extended family have Ph.D.’s. The majority of my friends at school and church existed in similar bubbles. As an Asian, you’re expected to work hard in school and get straight A’s so you can go to a good college and graduate with a degree (or two). So imagine my surprise when I met and fell for a Chinese guy who (at the time) had done none of the above.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Good thing hubby was cute. (I kid!) But it wasn’t just his infectious smile that caught my attention. I was also drawn to his enthusiasm for life (he reminded me of a chinchilla bouncing off the walls) and the kind way he treated people. When I found out he hadn’t followed the typical path of every other Asian I knew, I was shocked. But not shocked enough that his education (or lack thereof) became a deal breaker (thankfully, it wasn’t for my parents either).

Because there’s more to a person than the abbreviations following their last name, the size of their house or the car they drive. Neither is one’s worth measured by their dress size or by how many friends they have on Facebook. The true value of a person can only be found in their heart.

That’s what Beauty believed when she fell in love with the Beast. And what I believed when I fell for hubby.

Nevertheless, this is a lesson I’m still learning. For instance, when E told me he doesn’t want to go to college, I was a liiitle upset. 😛 Sure, he’s years away from seriously thinking about it, but in my mind, the decision to go to college is a no brainer. Good thing hubby is more open-minded. Maybe given some time, I will be, too. 😉

For now I will do my best to rest in this truth from 1 Samuel 16:7: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Here’s the song, “Something There” from the Beauty and the Beast, which describes the moment Belle saw the Beast’s heart for the first time. 🙂

What outward things about a person do you value? What inward things would you like to value instead?

How to Get Over Blaming Your Parents

If the title of this post got you a little steamed up, then you’ve come to the right place. 😛

Please note: Before all the parents out there (myself included) start feeling defensive, let’s just put it out there that this post was written in the spirit of healing and restoration, not blame.

So, who here has ever blamed their parents for something? Maybe you were that awkward preteen who had to change schools during the middle of the year because your parents wanted to move? Or you were the kid who never attended birthday parties because your parents were overprotective? Or you’re the adult who has spent years in therapy trying to move past the emotional and/or physical wounds you received from a broken family?

Let’s face it, there is a lot of hurt in the world, and too often those hurts originate in the place that hits closest to home – our families. I’ve seen it from both sides of the counseling chair, so I know the reality of it. Even in the most loving and healthy of homes, people get hurt. In families which have gone through abuse, divorce, neglect and addiction, the pain is magnified even more – much like your reflection is multiplied in the presence of numerous mirrors.

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And who do children end up blaming for their hurt?

Their parents.

It would be easy to sit and dwell on all the ways your mother and father failed, neglected, hurt, disappointed and wronged you. It would be even easier to sweep those painful memories under the rug and not think about them. But choosing either of those ways will only leave you broken and battered and bruised inside.

The only way you can heal is to move on from blaming your parents.

How in the world do you do that?

First, by grieving your losses. The attention you wish your parents had given you. The acceptance and support you needed when you made mistakes. A childhood without fear. Whatever areas there were that your parents fell short in, acknowledge them. Mourn the could-have-beens and what-ifs – the ways in which your life might have been different had your parents raised you differently. Place those lost parts of your life in a casket lined with your anger, resentment and tears and bury them.

The step after grieving is acceptance. Accept your parents for who they are: imperfect human beings. Despite their “job title”, they are not experts at life, much less parenting. They don’t have it all figured out. They are likely products of faulty parenting themselves and have parented you the way they were parented. They have struggled and may still be struggling with depression, low self-worth, anxiety, guilt, resentment or perfectionism. Despite their best intentions, parents are sometimes not sensitive enough, patient enough, understanding enough or loving enough. They do not always meet our needs or even have the capacity to do so – that is the unfortunate truth. But when we can accept our parents as the imperfect people that they are, we will stop keeping an account of all the ways they have hurt us and perhaps be able to forgive them – not for their sake, but for ours.

It is quite possible that your life could have turned out very differently had your parents made better choices. It is also possible that they did make the best choices they were able to make given the circumstances at the time. But the fact of the matter is that those choices have been made, but you have a choice now to make: Will you continue to blame your parents or will you choose to move on from the blame?

I spent many years as an adult trying to untangle the emotional cobwebs of my childhood. In my quest, I have placed blame, kept my list of wrongs, studied counseling and been to therapy … but I still remained stuck in the past. Ironically, it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I felt free.

Because I now understand how hard parenting is. And I know that despite my best efforts at being a good parent, I will never be a perfect one.

And in seeing my imperfections, I see my parents, and all parents, in a different light. A light in which I can bask in the freedom to extend grace and forgiveness. To adjust my expectations. To hope for change. And ultimately, to see that God can take even the stickiest, most entangled webs in our life and redeem them for good.

The song for this post is Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted”. The lyrics are a good reminder to not waste time on the past.

What hurts are you holding onto from your family of origin? What steps can you take to let them go?