Thursday, 30 March 2017

What 'Beauty and the Beast' can teach us about Love

By Megan James

Few people were as excited as me when I found out Disney were releasing a live action Beauty and the Beast. I mean, I was hyped. Growing up, books were my biggest source of joy and comfort, so when my nan first popped that wonderful VHS of Beauty and the Beast in the video player, I knew I had found my Disney Princess idol. Belle was everything I wanted to be; she had a million books that she was always reading, she had great hair, a dreamy princess dress, and she ended up marrying a hunk of a prince (#LifeGoals). Oh, and she also gave me the strange aspiration of befriending a talking tea-cup because, let’s face it, Chip was the absolute cutest. 

However, as I have grown up, not only have I realised that talking tea-cups aren’t really a thing (sorry to break it to any Chip fans out there), but I also realised that Beauty and the Beast is so much more than your run-of-the-mill ‘prince and princess live happily ever after’ fairy tale.It is very much a lesson to all of us in how to love, even when the object of that love isn’t particularly easy to love. In short, it’s a lesson in real Christian love.

“There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast’,
 that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.

G. K Chesterton.

In the story, the Beast is cursed to live a life as a monstrous creature until he not only learns to love, but also has that love returned to him by someone else. Yet, as G. K Chesterton points out, the truth of the film is that it is through Belle, and especially in the recent live action, through those characters such as Mrs Potts, Lumiere and the rest of the gang all loving the Beast, that he himself learns how to love others.

This is our relationship with Christ; we ourselves are able to love others because He, who is Love, loved us first.

In the same way that Belle loves the Beast, Jesus did not choose to love us because we were loveable, in fact, he loved us despite the fact we are often quite the opposite. He loved us, not because we deserved to be loved, not because he had anything to gain from us, but simply because His very nature is love.

‘God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them… God causes us to be that we may exploit and take advantage of Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.’

C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

In this same way, Belle did not love the Beast because he was a charming prince who wooed and flattered her. The Beast, at the start, is exactly that; a Beast. He imprisons her, separating her from her father. And yet, Belle shows him compassion. Belle reaches out and heals his wounds when he is hurt. Belle loves him, even when he gives her little reason to. This is Christ-like love, it is not self-seeking or self-serving, it is selfless.

The interesting part of the new adaptation (if you haven’t seen it yet, go and see it now so I don’t spoil it for you!) was the background as to why the servants were cursed too. Mrs Potts tells Belle that when the Beast was a young boy, his mother died, and the years following her death, she and the rest of the staff watched as the Beast’s father ‘twisted’ him into someone unloving, long before he became the Beast. It was an enlightening scene, and Mrs Potts tells Belle that they too, along with his father, are to blame for how the Beast turned out because they did nothing. They acknowledge that to sit back and do nothing, to not extend that love and that care to a person, is just as bad as to actively harm, because doing nothing in itself, is harmful.

Everyone, no matter how cold or hard they may appear, needs love. It may not appear or feel as though they deserve love, but love is not something that we should feel someone has to earn or that we have the right to withhold when it suits us. No; love is charity, and charity does not come with terms and conditions. Charity is unconditional

“We are all receiving Charity.
There is something in each of us that cannot be
naturally loved.”

C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Jesus does not call us just to only love those people who we, you know, like; that’s far too easy, and Jesus doesn’t do easy, Jesus does nailed-to-a-cross, died-to-save-us, hard.

We all at some point have encountered someone who has not always exactly pulled on our heartstrings. It may have been that difficult colleague, that annoying kid in class, that sibling who knows how to push your buttons, or that parent who doesn’t always seem to get you or is a little tougher on you than you’d like; but all of these people, no matter what the circumstances, need to be responded to with love. There is a vicious circle in which hurt people hurt others, in which bitterness and coldness just creates more bitterness and coldness, and you may not realise it, but when you reply to their negative attitudes or actions with anger, or even with apathy, you are adding to this cycle. Only warmth will cancel out the cold, and Jesus teaches us through his sacrifice on the cross, that the only way in which we can break the cycle of darkness is through love.

 “It is not enough to love.
People must feel that they are loved.”

St John Bosco.

By showing these difficult people love, we, like Belle and the gang, are showing them how to love. It might not be an instant transformation like in the fairy-tales where one kiss changes the Beast to a prince, but when you show that person love, a transformation will eventually take place (even if sometimes it’s more inside of you than in them).

So, the next time someone challenges your patience and your ability to love, remember Beauty and the Beast. In that moment, when confronted with a Beast, you have a chance to be Belle, you have a chance to love without cause, without reason, and without gain. Why? Because, once upon a time, not too long ago, you too were that Beast, but Love Himself loved you and transformed you; so why not offer them that same kindness?


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