Sending the kids off to college has me remembering the things I’ve written to them over the years. I’m going to share a few of those posts this week–the advice seems as pertinent now as ever. I hope you don’t mind some Daddy musings…
My daughter and I were once in a production of the show Beauty and the Beast at a local community theater. The heroine of our version is named Rose, not Belle; otherwise the story tracks pretty well with the story you know.
An open letter to my daughter…
Daughter of My Heart,
Since we started this show together, I have noticed a lot of flak out in Cyberland against the Beauty and the Beast story. Most of it centers on the idea that Rose (Belle, Beauty, whatever you wanna call her) is a bad role model for young women, because she falls in love with the Beast (sort of the epitome of the “Bad Boy”) in the hopes of changing him. In the Christian world, we call that missionary dating; in the secular world, it’s just stupid and codependent. These conversations got me thinking about Rose’s character specifically, and in general about the kind of woman I want you to grow into. I want to tell you why I think that Rose is, in fact, an excellent role model for you.
First, Rose is content—in herself and the knowledge that she is loved—before she ever meets the Beast. See, the stereotype that people attack is that of a weak, insecure girl who is desperate for love. She spends her time and her energy looking for someone to complete her, to make her feel loved and special and worthy. My Daughter, there is so much danger in that. These women can end up in a relationship that is harmful to them because they believe that any relationship is better than no relationship at all. They are looking for someone else to validate them.
If Rose were like that, I too would point you away from her. But she is not. She does not go to the Beast’s castle looking for love—she goes because she already has love. Her father loves her completely, and she knows this. She goes to the castle to protect him. She goes as a sacrifice in his place. Granted, the fact that it is she who is giving herself for him, and not the other way around, offends my Dadly sensibilities. But the point is, she chooses to go out of love. She goes, not because she is empty, but because she is overflowing.
That’s what I want for you. If I do my job right, you will be so full of the knowledge of my love, so completely aware of how amazing you are in my sight, that you will not be needy, you will not need to look to anyone for your sense of worth and tremendous value. And when I fail—we need not chronicle my failures here, but they are numerous and legendary—you will know that you have a Heavenly Father whose perfect love will never fail. You do not need a prince to make you a princess. Your Heavenly King has already done that.
Second, Rose does not pretend to see what is not there. The weak girl sees men through the lens of her own desperation. She sees indifference and calls it independence. She sees cruelty and calls it strength. She sees possessiveness and jealousy and calls them love. Not Rose. She looks beyond mere outward appearances—that is one of the central themes of the story—but she does not fabricate goodness where none exists. She makes her judgments based upon what she sees in the Beast—his actions, not his words, not her fantasies. When she falls in love with him, she falls for the real man inside, not her own projected hopes.
Use your eyes, Sweet Princess of My Heart. Don’t judge men—or anyone, for that matter—based on what you want them to be. That is not charity; it is blind foolishness, and it will shackle you to a man who is not worthy of your love. Look beyond outward appearances, yes. But look at what is really there. Look at actions and attitudes, not mere words. Words are cheap—easily spoken, quickly forgotten. I could give you examples from my own life, to my own shame. Love is easy; I want you to have a man you can respect.
Third, Rose does not put up with ill treatment. The weak girl’s self-esteem tank is on fumes. She is empty, and she knows it. Since she gets her sense of value and worth from others, she is desperate for a relationship. So, she puts up with abuse—be it emotional or physical—rather than being alone. Because she is empty, there is a level on which she feels that she actually deserves the abuse that she gets. She puts up with it because she figures it’s the best she will find, and the alternative—loneliness—is unbearable.
Not Rose. Though she is gentle and kind, she takes no guff. She has the confidence and self-worth to stand up to the beast; to accept no disrespect. Though it’s not spoken in the story, we get the clear impression that Rose will never settle for anything less than a man who will love and cherish her. She has known her father’s love, and the Father’s love. That is enough until God provides more.
Oh, how I want that for you, my Beautiful Girl. Oh, how I hope and pray that you will know that you are complete and worthy in my sight, and in God’s sight. There are so many girls out there with “Dad issues”—fathers who were absent physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It does so much harm, so much damage. I see these lovely, broken girls and I am resolved that you will never have to wonder if you are loved and cherished and worthy. You will never feel that the only kind of man you deserve is one that demeans and hurts you.
But I will fall short. You see, my job is to reflect God’s love to you, to show you who you are in his sight. But I am only me. I fail every day. Thanks be to God, the burden does not rest upon my skinny shoulders. God himself picks up the abundant slack, and makes up for my considerable failings. I have had the joy to introduce you to a Father’s love. As you grow, you will lean less on this splintered reed and more on the Rock of your Salvation.
And I will have done my job.
So, then, there you have it. Like all great stories, Beauty and the Beast reflects themes of enduring value. Rose is worthy of admiration and emulation. She is content in who she is and her own value before God. She looks for the good in people, but does not fabricate it where it does not exist. She stands tall, willing to humble herself, but not to be humiliated by others. You, Daughter of My Heart, are called to the same attitude. I don’t know who God has in store for you, though I pray for him daily. But I know that he will love, respect, and cherish you as a woman of God, full of grace and goodness.
And, you know, I have my shotgun loaded…just in case.