Disney is a collection of classic movies. But within their many works, every child has their own canon that contains special meaning. For me, there are three in particular that I can remember watching over and over as my mother probably wept silently for her sanity in the background. Or she just enjoyed the peace that was me not talking for a few minutes. (No lie. When I was little she tried to pay me a quarter for every five minutes I could be quiet. Never made one. Not a single quarter.)
My own personal ode to Disney would include recognition of the following: Bambi (because obviously), Jungle Book (who didn’t want an ursine best friend after watching that), and as a girl born in 1987 – The Little Mermaid. The last one in particular was a particularly inspiring movie to a growing girl. The theme that you can do or be whoever you want. The encouragement to follow your dreams. The call to bravery. Also, it might have contributed to my deep-seated longing to be a ginger.
And as I got older and Disney made more movies, there was a common theme with some of my favorite heroines. Ariel. Mulan. Jasmine. All brave and courageous and did whatever they wanted to do. I loved them. I still love them.
But this last weekend while my husband was on his annual man camping trip, I watched the new Cinderella movie with a friend. And was left in awe. Because in an era of bold and brash girl power, this was a throwback to something. A reminder of an even bolder type of strength.
“Have courage and be kind.”
This was the message repeated throughout the film. Courage and kindness. More than that. Courage through kindness. What a novel idea. What a beautiful concept. One that we forget about so often. One that has proven to be controversial as some critics have called out the movie for its anti-feminist and regressive messages. One that serves as a reminder that your strength and courage and dignity can come not when you fight for yourself, but when you elevate others above yourself. A courage that is scoffed at for its simplicity but a courage that few of us have the strength to carry out in our own lives.
And while the movie was by no means a religious one, that theme is at the very root of God’s call for how to live our lives. Not to compromise or give into every twist, turn, and teaching that life throws at you. Not to fight for Christianity so harshly that it seems cruel and unloving. But to live a committed life to the God who loves you and put others before you no matter what happens. It’s a message that permeates the pages of Scripture.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
It’s a scary message. One that relies on trust. Cinderella was courageous and kind and because of that her fairy godmother swooped in to save her day. Instead we have the God with a capital G who promises to save our eternity. But you have to trust that He will be your ultimate defender, and that’s hard.
I’m among a group of women who sometimes feel frustration with the Proverb 31 woman. Partially because she’s the topic of 68% of women-focused studies, but partially because it seems so unattainable to aspire to be her. All that she does. All that she takes care of. When does she sleep? She doesn’t sleep in, we know that much.
But really, I’d like to be like her. I’d like to be as accomplished as her. As successful. As motivated. As hard-working. As recognizable. In all truthfulness, she’s not the woman I’ve always struggled to want to emulate.
That would be Ruth. Quiet Ruth. Soft-spoken Ruth. Selfless Ruth. Sweet Ruth. Pitted against Daniel in the VBS song, Daniel is a MIGHTY MAN, while Ruth is…good and kind? How ordinary. Unexciting. Simple. That’s all very well and good for Ruth, but I always thought I was capable of more.
Really, I’m not capable of that. To be good and kind. It’s easy to find a moment of courage when you know there are accolades and glory waiting on the other end. That’s exciting. It’s desirable. It’s a boost to our ego. But to be good and kind when it’s embarrassing and you’re overlooked and feel like you don’t matter? That’s hard. That’s true courage. That’s real strength. That’s what God calls us to be.
And not just the fairer sex. All of us. Because that’s what He did. And if the Creator of the universe’s greatest act was one of love and humility, how could I possibly consider those traits too simplistic for my own life? How could I think that I’m capable of better? When I’m not even capable of carrying out those successfully.
What is true strength? True greatness? To have courage and be kind. To put others before yourself. In bold, dramatic, world-altering ways or in quiet, unseen, everyday ways. Have courage. Be kind.
So thanks for that Disney. Thanks for the reminder to the little girl and the grown woman in me that courage comes in all shapes and sizes and to love and be kind is the greatest way of all.