So, I’m a little late getting this one out…but here it is… for all you repeat movie watchers and those who wait for Redbox!
Riley’s family moves from the Midwest to San Francisco, causing an emotional upheaval. Inside Out is the brilliantly written story of Riley and her emotions, told from the perspective of her five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. Families will find any number of applications and opportunities for discussion after watching this movie, but I want to draw your attention to how it brings light to Paul’s teaching about the body of Christ.
At the beginning, Joy explains the purpose of Riley’s various emotions. “That’s Fear. He’s really good at keeping Riley safe. This is Disgust. She basically keeps Riley from being poisoned from food or her social life. That’s Anger. He cares very deeply about things being fair. Sadness, she, well, she… I’m not actually sure what she does.” Joy saw good in each of Riley’s emotions (even ones I might have a hard time finding a purpose for), except for Sadness. You can see how Sadness might be particularly difficult for Joy to appreciate, given as they are such opposites.
While this is, in a broad sense, the story of Riley’s emotions, more specifically it’s the story of how Joy learns to value and appreciate Sadness. It’s a struggle we all face, learning to appreciate people and temperaments that are different than ours, especially the ones that are opposite of ours. You can see Joy’s point – what value does Sadness have? Isn’t Joy far better to feel than Sadness?
Throughout the movie, Joy always wants everything to be, well…joyful, obviously. She doesn’t want Riley to feel things like fear or sadness, but somethings can’t be done with happiness alone. For example, they needed to wake Riley up from a dream. Joy tried to wake her up with happiness, but she wouldn’t come out of a happy dream. When she was afraid, however, she woke right up. Fear had a purpose.
Joy first began to see the merits of Sadness first when Sadness comforted Bing Bong and made him feel better. She empathized with him in a way Joy could never have done, and in that space of sorrowing with Bing Bong, he felt better.
Later, Joy and Sadness were recalling a favorite memory. It was a memory of Riley being surrounded by friends and family and laughing and playing hockey. It was a joyful memory. But what Joy hadn’t realized is that that memory was also a sad memory. It was the time when Riley missed a winning goal on the big game. She felt like a failure and was very sad. Her sadness drew the love and support of friends and family who wanted to comfort her. They surrounded her with love, and from that came the memory of joy which Joy remembered. She remembered the fun, but had never realized that her joy came on the heels of, and even as a result of, a moment of great sorrow. Joy said to herself, “Sadness. Mom and dad and the team, they came to help because of sadness.” It was a revelation—sadness has a use, it can actually bring joy.
Prior to that revelation, Joy had done her best to control Riley’s emotions and keep her buoyant. She had tried to keep Sadness, especially, in the corner, silent. After that revelation, however, she began to rely on Sadness. She saw that the only way to help Riley was to let Sadness have a voice in Riley’s life. She began to see that each of them had a purpose and a use, especially when used together. Joy and Sadness weren’t meant to be at odds with each other, they are best when they are partners.
This is a great illustration of the body of Christ. We are different members, but we are meant to work together. This can be hard at times, especially with people who are different from us and seem to be at odds with us. But, God has a purpose for everyone in His Kingdom. We need each other and we need to honor each other. Joy made Sadness feel so much shame for being who she was. That shame only made her more Sad—it was counterproductive to Joy’s purposes. But, when Joy saw that Sadness had a purpose, that she was needed, Sadness was transformed. She was still Sad, but with a purpose and confidence. She was more balanced. When we don’t value each other, we make things worse. When we see that others have a purpose, we validate them, transform them and empower them. Read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 on the matter:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
The body of Christ is a lot like Riley’s emotions: one body, many parts that don’t always see why they need each other, but they do.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why didn’t Joy really value Sadness in the beginning?
- What made Joy begin to see the good in Sadness?
- Joy learned that happy memories are often mixed with sad ones. How is this true in your own life?
- Has being sad ever helped draw other people to you in comfort? Has a sad moment ever sparked a joyful one in your life, like it did for Riley?
- Hoy do Joy and Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust illustrate the body of Christ as Paul laid out in 1 Corinthians 12?
- Have you ever learned to appreciate someone that you didn’t really like or appreciate at first? What changed for you?
- Have you ever felt like something (like sadness) or someone, (also like Sadness) didn’t have a purpose, and later found out that they were very useful after all?
- How does Paul say to treat those parts of the body which seem weaker or less valuable?