Art imitates life AND gives us friendship lessons. In “Inside Out” ~ the Disney-Pixar movie ~ we learn from Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong what to say to a grieving friend and what NOT to say.
Disney-Pixar’s recent blockbuster Inside Out joined the ranks of children’s cartoons layered with life lessons more adults resonate with than the tiny tots sitting beside them. This one definitely needs the rating warning: PMC. That is ~ Parents May Cry.
After its release, I saw many who were digging deep into the lessons illustrated so expertly.
The hands-down MOST poignant moment in my opinion, however, has received less fanfare than the more obvious moving moments or funny scenes. This scene wasn’t in the clips or pre-release trailers. It’s not on any of the quotable lists.
What to say to a grieving friend (Disney style)
As the animated emotions Joy and Sadness try to escape the maze of long-term memory to return to headquarters, they meet someone who can help them get back: Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. Along the way, Bing Bong experiences a significant loss — at least it’s major for an imaginary half-cotton candy, half-dolphin creature.
Bing Bong’s distraction with his grief curtails the mission. Joy dances around trying to get his mind off the problem so they can all get back on track. Bing Bong doesn’t budge.
Sadness walks over and sits down on the edge of the cliff beside him and says, “I’m sorry they took your rocket. They took something that you loved. It’s gone. Forever.” Joy stops her, telling her not to make him feel worse.
But then something unexpected and puzzling happens. Bing Bong begins to open up to Sadness, talking about Riley. Sadness listens and responds, “I bet you and Riley had great adventures.” The conversation continues this way and eventually he lets out a big ‘ole candy cry and hugs Sadness. And then he’s better. And he’s ready to resume the mission.
Turns out Sadness knew what to say to a grieving friend after all.
Cut to Joy, who is completely perplexed by the whole scene. She timidly approaches Sadness and whispers, “How did you do that?”
“I dunno know. He was sad. So I listened to what …”
The conversation is cut short, but everyone watching can fill in those blanks.
For many, it might have just been a touching moment. For me, it was a masterpiece. Art imitates life.
Sadness is not the enemy of joy
Look around on this site and you’ll see evidence of how foundational a concept I believe the following is in ministry, parenting, friendships, etc.:
People can’t hear
the hope you offer
for their hurt
until they know
how much it hurts.
There is certainly a time for trying to cheer up a loved one or even a new one God has placed in our paths. Those who are down need help to look up beyond their own small world and catch a bigger vision. They need an infusion of truth and prompts to remember all they DO have to be grateful for. Scripture is full of admonitions about joy and embracing an attitude of rejoicing always.
As someone who has been there, I humbly submit this hypothesis:
Believers who are down and discouraged are the ones MOST aware of what Scripture teaches about joy. In fact, the enemy and their own faulty flesh use those godly, biblical standards as a weapon to further crush their spirit. They serve as reminders of their failure to obey, their inadequacy to bring glory to God, and their apparent lack of spiritual discipline.
The problem is not the biblical standard well-meaning saints try to uphold. The problem is the path they often choose to guide the limping on the journey to that place of hope and repair.
At times, the hurting need to be cheered up and pointed toward truth. But there are also times when they just need someone to listen, to cry with them, and to hurt for them.
Here’s the bottom line:
Sadness is not the enemy of joy.
It is the friend of empathy.
And often, we need to be the shoulder of empathy before we can be the voice of truth.
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