This post is a revised excerpt from Tales as Old as Time: Lessons on God’s Love Inspired by Beauty and the Beast, a 10-day devotional ebook available at Amazon.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
The Maurice in Disney’s animated movie is goofy. He’s a caricature of the absentminded inventor, and Belle – though prone to losing herself, and her sense of time, in a book – seems more responsible than her father. In the new, live-action movie, Maurice is drawn less broadly and more relatable. He’s an artist, who – like many creatives – struggles with insecurity, but he’s also a protector, a storyteller, an adult with responsibilities and concerns.
In this rendition of Beauty and the Beast, Belle encourages her father – but he does the same for her. Their mutual love and respect is clear, and we see kindness and honesty in all of their conversations.
It’s unsurprising, then, when Belle begins to treat the Beast with kindness as well.
Though she doesn’t confess the depth of her affections until the very end of the movie, she doesn’t hide how much she cares for the Beast as they spend time together. She asks him questions, teases him, learns about his experiences while also sharing her own story with him. As quick as her temper was when they first met, she becomes just as open with kind words and encouragement.
When I was a kid I thought all moms talked to every cashier, waiter, nurse, and janitor they met. I didn’t realize that my mom’s habit of initiating small talk, offering gratitude and compliments, and smiling at strangers was unusual.
It’s just what she did, so I thought it’s just what everyone did.
I know now that’s not the case. Still, a lifetime of watching that kind of love in action ingrained it into my personality as well, and I find myself sounding a lot like my mom when I talk with the McDonald’s employee at the drive-thru, the librarian at the check-out desk, the receptionist at the dentist’s office, and the cashier at the gas station.
I’m not always happy to realize I’m turning into one of my parents, but in this way, I’m grateful for the example to show kindness and to encourage people whenever I can. And I’ve realized how closely my own girls are now watching me interact with people.
My youngest daughter is three years old and a charmer. She’s free with her smiles, good manners (usually), and compliments. She’s quick to tell someone she likes her Elsa braid (any braid is an Elsa braid) or she thinks the drawings (tattoos) on his arms are pretty. She’s also obsessed with people’s names. Everywhere we go, she asks, “What’s her name? What’s his name?” And when we read books or watch movies, she has an endless list of questions about each character, no matter how minor. “Where’s her mom?” “Why’s he wearing that hat?” “Where is she going?”
She wants to know all about all the people – and I love that. I love her curiosity and her interest in the people around her. As a busy, often distracted adult, it’s easy for me to be so caught up in my own to-do list, my own schedule, my own world that I don’t even notice the people walking, working, living around me.
It turns out that my daughter and I are teaching each other.
She teaches me to pay attention to the people around us, and I teach her to speak kindness into those people’s lives.
She encourages me just as much as I try to encourage her, too. Each night at bedtime I list all the people who love her (reminding her that God loves her most of all), and more frequently than I can count (or than I deserve) she says I’m the best mommy ever. And sure, I know that won’t last forever (my oldest daughter has a much more critical account of my parenting skills). But just like I’m sowing into my girls all the love and encouragement I can while they’re young, I’m soaking up every sweet word they utter, too.
The words we speak to each other have such power and kind words have so much value. And they don’t just affect the person we talk to; they encourage us as we look for the good in the world, and they set an example for those around us. And that is a beautiful thing.
Who can you encourage with your words today?