“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot...But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not!” - Dr. Seuss
As a young adult, my husband Michael started his own tradition of watching the Jim Carrey version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the holiday’s eve, a tradition he continued into our marriage. Though Mr. Carrey’s performance is superb, this version is not my favorite. My favorite is seeing Michael crack up every year at the same jokes, as if hearing them for the first time.
He watches his buddy, Jim, and I watch him. That’s my tradition. Well, that and making peanut butter kiss cookies.
The story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a favorite of mine and I could watch Illumination’s 2018 version on repeat. Well, not “could”: I have. My son is loving it this year, so it has become a go-to for us as a family. Simply put, it’s a story about the heart. It’s about togetherness, kindness, love, and the beauty of the season.
While both movie renditions fill in the main character’s backstory, according to Dr. Seuss, we don’t quite know the reason for the Grinch’s negative disposition towards Christmas. What we do know is that his shoes were too tight and his heart was two sizes too small. As a result, he could not feel the joy in the Whos’ celebration. Rather, he was disgusted by their festivities.
“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!”
He had a shrunken heart...a disengaged heart...an undernourished heart...a heart that had acquiesced to a mind that did not care to include it in the day’s plans. For whatever reason, his heart was unable to emotionally connect with the surrounding beauty and feel awe at the town's picturesque scene.
“Whoville was like your town, if your town was a dream.”
And yet, the Grinch couldn’t see the dreamlike attributes. He couldn’t feel them. Couldn’t connect with them.
Only his mind was operating.
In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis taught on the reality of “men without chests.” Little boys (or girls) whose emotions were not cultivated. Who were not trained to delight in the beauty of the world and feel disgust for the ugliness of it. Rather, their minds were fortified against emotion, for it was viewed as childish and in need of eradicating.
Lewis postulated that as adults, these boys and girls turned into men and women who are expected by others to be motivated, have ingenuity, and be committed to their families, friends, and passions. And yet, without heart, the battery for all of these worthy and important endeavors is dead. There is no passion.
Without heart, there is no energy for accomplishment. There is no feeling of accomplishment. And “a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head,” Lewis asserts.
Maybe, unlike the Grinch, some good is still done by people without chests, because morals and ethics may exist on an intellectual level. But is this sustainable? Maybe on some minimal level the individual functions okay, but how would their lives change if their hearts grew two sizes?
How did the Grinch change when his heart was engaged? The change was pretty dramatic.
I know, I know. The Grinch is a fictional book written by someone who made up words in order to succeed at rhyming.
It has stood the test of time and there is a reason for that. There is a reason it’s still around, being remade into new versions for families to enjoy together every Christmas. It’s a feel-good story that inspires emotional connection, kindness, and love.
This story touches our hearts.
And what touches our hearts, inspires our minds. And then our actions.
This relationship of heart, mind, and action within yourself has a delicate interplay. All aspects need attention and development...or you might find you most closely resemble a lime green storybook character.
So, to any Grinches out there, tune in to what C.S. Lewis had to say: Your head is no bigger than anyone else's; it is the atrophy of the chest beneath your head that makes it seem so.
A simple illusion created by proportion.
Have you ever been given the message that emotions are bad?
If so, how do you think this message has impacted your life?
Have you ever passed on this same message to someone else?