“True, that he’s no Prince Charming, but there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.” ~Belle, Beauty and the Beast
“Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different, better.” ~Landon Carter, A Walk to Remember
Behind every little girl exists a fairytale heart. Girls exist in all sorts of extremes in this area, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a little girl whose eyes don’t light up at the thought of being a princess.
I am a self-proclaimed princess wannabe. I spent a large portion of my earlier childhood playing dress-up with sparkly clothes and went to church wearing a tiara until I was 7. Then, when those antics were no longer socially acceptable, I turned to reading books about English royal history, turning over in my head what it would be like to be a real live princess of England in the days of the Tudor monarchy. And then my junior year of high school, I was the only adult-ish female present not chaperoning a young girl at the Princess Party on a Disney cruise. I’m actually obsessed.
Anyways, princess confessions aside, although I find this princess desire common to most females generally a good thing, I have grown to realize its many dark angles.
My own life has exhibited one of these dark angles clearly– and I never even noticed it until just recently.
Why do we love the story of Beauty and the Beast so dearly? Of all the Disney Princess movies, this one will always stick out to the Western world as being timeless and just perfect.
I have a hypothesis about this: I believe we are so chronically enchanted by this story because we women want to change “him”– whoever that may be.
The Beast is so horrible and repulsive, and yet Belle is able to soften his angry and selfish heart. All she has to do is enter his life, and she pierces through his harsh exterior, eventually transforming him into a handsome prince– the man he was “always meant to be.”
“He’s an amazing man, deep down. I just need him to show it more.”
“I know he has his problems, but he’s actually a good guy.”
“I know I can change him.”
Women utter these statements so frequently. We all seem to think we can be a combination of Belle and Wonder Woman and extract that amazing man from his scuffed package. We watch more “real-life” movies like A Walk to Remember and see how just Jamie’s very existence makes Landon want to be a better person and believe that we, too, can motivate a man to be better just by being our lovely selves.
And then, because we are in real real-life, he doesn’t change.
He still drinks heavily or still has his addictions or still won’t focus on his faith. Perhaps, he exhibits a temporary life change that gives us a false sense of hope, and then he resorts back to his old self. It was all transitory in the end.
I think every woman has this instinctual urge to fix that which we see that is broken– and this is actually such a beautiful thing. We want to spread our beauty throughout the whole world and throw flower petals to everyone who will catch them. We believe enough in our ability to be the valiant warrior princess and get our hearts ripped out in the process.
We fail at changing him, and then we tell ourselves, “I wasn’t enough.”
And then this becomes a source of major shame.
But what if he was never yours to fix?
I’ve been quite introspective lately, and I have realized that I am the epitome of someone with a chronic “saving complex.” It took my pastor at school telling me this to actually realize that I am becoming the woman my mom always warned me not to be– the idealistic woman who will never give up on him. The woman with an absent or even abusive husband trying to raise three kids while he still sorts through his demons. Since my pastor pointed this out about me, I have realized that I have been this way with so many guys, whether they were friends or more to me. And then I walk away feeling dejected and with a scar of “you weren’t enough” carved into my brain matter.
Tonight, I read a bit of a book I read two summers ago, and I came across a portion of a sentence that I actually have memorized. It used to be written on a notecard and placed on my desk. Clearly, I stopped taking it to heart, as it reads:
“Just because something breaks, or comes to you broken already, doesn’t always mean you should script yourself an invitation to go on and fix it.” ~Hannah Brencher Sheats, If You Find This Letter (pg. 144) [emphasis added]
When Eve fell in the Garden, she encoded in our spiritual DNA the tendency to sin in the areas where we possess the most good. As women, we have so much to offer the world– and so much that is unique to being a woman. Our desire to fix him and spread our beauty throughout all of creation is such a magnificent desire– but what if we extend ourselves an invitation to fulfill this desire in areas in which God has purposefully not sent us one.
Ultimately, you nor I cannot save him– only GOD can. No matter how perfect and enchanting we are, we cannot be Belle. We cannot be Jamie. We cannot even forgo the sweet approach in favor of the Wonder Woman alpha-girl style of saving the day. We will fall flat on our faces in failure every time.
So maybe we need to end up staring straight at the concrete with scrapes on our elbows and knees a few times before we stop inviting ourselves to save the day.
After all, it’s God’s job to save him, not our’s.
I’ve committed to taking a step back every time I’m tempted to swoop in and save the day. If he’s a friend, he’s not mine to worry about. If he’s more than that, he shouldn’t be more than that. Even if he tells me he needs me by his side to change, how can I in good conscience allow myself to get in God’s way of saving him by trying to do it myself?
Like I said before, I’m a chronic saver, so this is going to take some major self-control and probably a lot of tears. I’m re-training my brain to believe the truth– that his choices are 100% his and I have not business trying to change them.
But, in the end, it’s not my fault. It’s not my responsibility.
We aren’t meant to be Belle. We are meant to be Cinderella– to find our Prince Charming who is already all he is meant to be.