BreakPoint: life lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

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Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, is a TV staple this time of year, it looks like just another Christmas decoration. It’s like one of those things you hang on the wall because it’s Christmas, but you hardly ever notice it again. It would be a shame, however, because there are so many beautiful life lessons in this movie. Just ask reporter Bob Welch, author of “52 Little Lessons in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.”

For example, Welch points out how much this film teaches us about grace, the idea of ​​undeserved favor. At the start of the film, the drug addict Mr. Gower slaps a young George Bailey on the ear so hard he begins to bleed. George chooses to forgive him, realizing that Mr. Gower has just learned that his son has passed away.

There’s also the scene where George and Mary try to leave for their honeymoon but witness a run on the building and the loan. Old Man Potter is offering customers 50 cents on the dollar to move their business. Many are tempted to accept it, but George begs the locals to keep their money at the Bailey Building and Loan. Welch notes: “George suggests that one of the reasons for doing this is that the Baileys believe in grace and Potter does not.”

“Here, Ed,” George said to one of his neighbors. “Remember last year when things weren’t going so well, and you couldn’t make your payments?” You haven’t lost your home, have you? Do you think Potter would have let you keep her?

Of course not. Old man Potter did not give a “grace”.

And remember the missing $ 8,000 lost by Uncle Billy on Christmas Eve. As George grabs Uncle Billy and yells at him, in the end he also extends grace. In fact, forced to ask Mr. Potter for help, George takes responsibility, saying he was the one who misplaced the money.

George’s wife, Mary Bailey, is particularly good in the area of ​​grace. When George comes home from work on Christmas Eve, yells at his wife and kids, insults Zuzu’s teacher on the phone, and trashes the living room, Mary has every right to be furious. Instead, she forgives George, tells the kids to pray for Dad, then walks around town asking people for help to replace that $ 8,000.

Grace, Welch reminds us, “is the foundation of Christian faith. Jesus bestowing grace on us by forgiving our sins goes against virtually all other religions, which operate on the basis of what you deserve. But Jesus says, in essence, that you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you don’t deserve. “

The will to offer grace. The will to accept grace. The will to live by grace. This is what makes Bedford Falls such a great place to live.

There are other life lessons in the film that Welch also points out in his book. For example, to count our blessings. Or that wealth is not about money but about the people in our lives. And that we can actually make a difference because, as the angel Clarence reminds George, the life of each one affects so many others.

“52 Little Lessons in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life'” is a great family gift to read as a family. And, of course, don’t forget to sit together and watch Frank Capra’s great classic.

A version of this commentary first aired on BreakPoint in December 2012.

Of Stopping point, December 21, 2020; reprinted with permission from The Colson Center, www.breakpoint.org.

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