Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now. If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify. Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.
The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts. It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.
A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake. Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.
Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again. She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”
It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie. She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)
There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange. Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:
Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim. A victim mentality will always hurt you. Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.
Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.
For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly. For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly. We do not compare circumstances, ever. We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint. The most important thing to do is serve them. That’s what Mrs. Potts does. That’s what her child does. And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.
Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong. She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)
That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast. What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.
Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world. Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always. What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.
In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it. Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.
What a great perspective to have.
– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.
– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.
– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.
That’s as true as it can be.