Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Loving the Unlovely

How often have you read something like this on facebook, or elsewhere: "Ignore the mean/rude/unkind people of the world. Your life is better without them. They're not worth wasting time on!" It might be expressed differently, but you're being admonished to choose happiness by dismissing those around you who don't contribute to that happiness. If a person doesn't make you "feel good," then you have the right -- nay, the duty -- to get away from them. Get them out of your life! It's a choice for emotional survival!
Meet Mrs. Fisher. (Don't you just love actress Joan Plowright?) Julia and I watched Enchanted April again the other night. (This must be my fourth viewing. It's just that kind of movie for me.) Mrs. Fisher is a grumpy old lady, demanding, rude, arrogant, isolated, living in a sad past to avoid a sadder present.
Mrs. Fisher is exactly the kind of person we're instructed to ignore. She doesn't add to our personal happiness. She's a constant downer. She makes you feel low and small. She's not evil, per se; she's just a pain.
Meet Lottie Wilkins (in the yellow dress). These four ladies end up renting a villa in Italy for a month, to escape the dreary wetness of London. Lottie is determined to accomplish a personal change -- a renewal of spirit, and an embracing of love.
And here's the clincher: she doesn't accomplish this new happiness by rejecting the grumpy pain-in-the-neck. She accomplishes it by loving her, accepting her, forgiving her (repeatedly) and assuming that eventually, love will win her over.
And it works! It takes a month, but Mrs. Fisher softens, becomes less critical, less rude, more giving. She becomes a friend. (Isn't Joan Plowright adorable?)
This is not an overtly Christian film, but it certainly conforms to a Biblical worldview. Jesus never told us to push away folks who make us feel bad about ourselves. I think he told us to stop thinking about ourselves at all, and think of others. Lottie saw through the rudeness, saw that Mrs. Fisher was needy and lonely. Lottie understood that the change she longed for in herself could only happen if she thought of others, not of herself.

Yeah, I know, it's only a movie. It's fiction. Changes like that don't really happen in a month, usually. And there are mean, grumpy people who never change. [And there are a few downright dangerous people out there that should certainly be avoided.] But most of us live in Lottie's world, with irritating people at work or home who make life constantly grayer. Love them anyway. Show them love. Hug them. Sometimes you'll find a sad, lonely person underneath all that prickliness. And when we stop thinking of what cocktail of friends will combine for our perfect happiness, we may just find ourselves happier than we thought we could be.


  1. This makes me think of my time working at a nursing home. There were a few residents that no one liked because they were so picky and crabby. One in particular terrified me when I first started working there because NOTHING I did for her was quite right. But by the time I left my job there, she was one of my favorite people. I still never quite managed to get everything right, but getting to know the person under that prickly exterior was well worth it.

  2. I had forgotten about that movie. It was a good one. The lesson was a good one too.

  3. Jody, it took me a while to realize that that was maybe the primary "lesson" in the movie. It is such a needed one. Lottie seems a little nutty, but in the end she sees the potential of beauty in people that the rest of us miss.


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