Understanding the kind of man you want to be makes all the difference.
I couldn’t stop the tears flowing. I was annoyed. I didn’t understand why an old black and white sappy movie had this effect on me. My wife eyed me curiously. George Bailey had an effect on me.
It was Christmas, a festive time for my family. Our traditions included watching Christmas shows together. The classics, like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and for movies, my favorite, It’s A Wonderful Life.
I saw it for the first time when I was in my mid-twenties. I was a father of two, husband, and had a corporate job. Being the main provider for my family and a Dad/Husband was a full-time gig. It was a day-to-day heads-down experience.
I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I was the primary provider for a growing family. We had a mortgage and an understanding that we were going to need more money than I was currently making for the long-term. We had university and college, sports and music lessons to account for. The ever-growing to-do list and the feeling of a life-long commitment occasionally overwhelmed me. What had I gotten myself into?
The tears reappeared the following Christmas, and the Christmas after that. I had the feeling that George Bailey was speaking to me. The movie stirred up thoughts that I couldn’t shake. They spoke to me, “Hey, you. Listen up!”
I identified with George’s life. Early in the movie, he believed himself to be a victim, and I shared that feeling. We were unable to do the things we really wanted to do. We were both financially responsible for others.
Our identities were based on what we did for the benefit of others. We both shared the traditional roles of father, husband and career man.
We both felt trapped, cornered, and stuck.
As the movie moved on, and George’s life was erased, other perspectives appeared:
- Every action has a ripple effect out into the world. With that awareness will I think about my actions before I take them?
- How often do I think about what I don’t rather than what I do have?
- I was worth more than the money I brought home to those that loved me.
- Nothing can replace the smile on the faces of my children as they run to meet me yelling ‘Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!’
- People who care about me will be there when I need them—I don’t have to face life’s challenges on my own.
I reflected on my life. I had a great family. I had a career job that provided stability and opportunity for my personal and professional growth. I had a comfortable home, a few good friends, and a large extended family.
Maybe my life wasn’t so bad off after all. Maybe, it was pretty good.
The character of George Bailey gave me strength, courage, and gratitude to continue on in my life as it was, providing for my family, and being the best version of me possible—at work and at home.
It was time for me as a father, husband, employee, and a man, to stop thinking about all the things I didn’t have, and instead recognize and have gratitude for all the wonderful things I did have in my life.
It all sounded great. However, there was a problem.
At twenty-five years old I already had dependencies to alcohol and pornography. No matter what I showed outwardly to the world, some part of me was unhappy.
Twenty-five years later I reflect on the meaning of It’s A Wonderful Life and how it has made me a better man today.
I am grateful for my life and the opportunity to be a father to my amazing children. I am grateful to my ex-wife for our time together and the raising of our children. I am grateful for my health and my alcohol and porn-free lifestyle choice, and to my wife who is my strongest supporter.
George Bailey needed a crisis to understand what was important to him. It took a crisis in my life for me to re-evaluate my life. It gave me the opportunity to ask, was I being the man I wanted to be?
Don’t wait for a crisis to realize what’s important. Recognize the signs of unhappiness in yourself and take steps to improve your well-being.
We don’t have to accept societal, media, and Hollywood’s definition of a happy and fulfilled man. It’s A Wonderful Life taught me to evaluate why I’m doing what I’m doing. I review my motivation when I make decisions—is it for my happiness, for the happiness of others, to avoid judgment, to receive approval? Am I making the decision with my highest intention to be integral?
It took me twenty-five years to appreciate the gift George Bailey gave me. I make my decisions with awareness. I no longer feel I’m a victim. I no longer make decisions based solely on what other people want or a fear of judgment from others.
George Bailey didn’t change his life so much as he changed his perspective. I changed a lot of things in my life including my perspective.
My definition of being a better man is to be integral and authentic. George Bailey helped me understand.
It can be a wonderful life. Take responsibility for your life, be integral, and be authentic. It’s in your best interest.
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