What the Beast teaches us about our wounds

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Even if you haven’t seen the newest rendition of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, you’re most likely familiar with the fairy tale that has been around for quite a while.

Fairy tales are powerful, not necessarily because of the beautiful protagonists, singing animals or happy endings but also because of the truths they relate. When a story tells us something about human nature, we know it shouldn’t be discredited (despite other, more unrealistic aspects like fairy godmothers and dancing teapots).

An example that I can think of starts with this quote I came across this week on Instagram via Made in His Image:

The broken will always be able to love harder than most. Once you have been in the dark, you learn to appreciate everything that shines.

– Zachary K. Douglas

These words really struck a chord with me; I’m not sure if it’s completely true (how can you really know something like that) but I think there is a lot of wisdom in it.

I always see traumas, past hurt and lasting wounds as disadvantages. They get in the way of peace, joy and most importantly, love.

For example, the Beast is cursed years before Belle meets him and is still affected by the consequences of the curse. Obviously there are the physical effects – mainly his Beastly-ness – but there is also a deeper hurt caused by a fear that he won’t be loved again. His ability to relate to and become intimate with others is inhibited by his physical disfigurements that resulted from the curse.

Similarly, when we are hurt by a person or situation in a deep way, we become something unnatural…we’re wounded.

The Beast struggles to become close to Belle and has occasional outbursts of anger because his fear of being unloved and unwanted rears it’s ugly head. This then pushes Belle away…causing a vicious cycle.

Going back to the quote, the important takeaway to me from that is the idea that our hurt can be used to make the world a better place. Once in the dark we have a fuller understanding of how good and how important the light is. We can try harder to be in and experience the light which we know is so good and so essential.

We see the Beast use his strength and beastliness to protect Belle; we see him overcome his fear and move closer to her and we see Belle respond lovingly. I wonder if part of the Beast’s ability and choice to cherish Belle comes from intimate experience with crippling loneliness?

I think when bad things happen there are two responses: despondence/apathy or passion.

It’s easier to not care and to withdraw…but it is also unnatural, it goes against the heart of man.

Injustice also has the power to instill great hope and aspiration for how things should be. We know how disordered it can be and we know how important it is so we strive so much more for the ideal. Once we’ve seen the bad we love the good more.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that people who have been hurt deeply are more capable of loving…but it is possible that we try harder. Part of that is out of necessity because of anxiety that has been created which affects our ability to love and be loved…our relationality. But part of it too is out of sheer appreciation of the light. It’s also possible that we don’t try at all, because we don’t think there’s a way out of the darkness.

The Beast could have locked himself away forever and sent Belle home because of fear of rejection…fear that the underlying belief that he was unlovable was true. But he didn’t; and I think (even though it is a fairy tale…I do know that) we should learn from this. Most people won’t leave life unscathed, and while painful, we can use this to build an even stronger world by striving for and being the light. In a way, we have a responsibility to others to avoid putting them through whatever we have been through. If we don’t use our hurt for good then it’s just hurt. If we use it to help ourselves and others it becomes redemption.

I’m probably reading too much into it but…who knew so much could be found in a children’s story, right?