Inside Out: A Pastor's Review

I want to take a slightly different approach to this post and instead offer a review of a movie I watched recently: Inside Out. I will try to keep it relatively spoiler-free. If you have already seen this movie, I hope the review resonates with you. And if you haven’t, I hope that it will encourage you to take a deep breath in the midst of back to school stress and maybe go see a movie with the people you love. 

Inside Out is Pixar’s most recent children's movie that delves into a topic that has befuddled many parents over the years: the emotions of an adolescent. The movie is about Riley, a pre-teen girl who learns how to cope with major transitions in her life. While these events unfold, layers of her personality peel back and we watch as Riley’s emotions scramble to adjust and reconfigure themselves. Her emotions - Sadness, Fear, Joy, Anger, and Disgust (pictured left to right below) - begin to discover that their working well together is critical to Riley’s overall well-being.

That is what I liked most about this movie: it helps all ages get in touch with their emotions. To be honest, I usually don't like children’s movies. I like to be challenged intellectually or emotionally when I watch a movie, which typically leads me to movies for adults. However, Inside Out is challenging and thought-provoking on both intellectual and emotional levels. I both laughed and cried while watching Inside Out, and I also left contemplating how well-balanced my own emotions are. Do I tend to lean too heavily on one default setting at the expense of another? Are my emotions balanced and equally represented?

Author and theologian Henri Nouwen articulates the metaphor of the Wounded Healer to explain that no person is without wounds. The healer is not the person absent of wounds, but rather the person who has recognized their wounds, channels them, binds them up, and seeks to help others do the same. While Nouwen’s metaphor is written specifically for ministers, I believe that implicit in it is the understanding that in order to be a healing presence, a person must truly know who he/she is. And I believe that developing emotional self-awareness, like Riley learns to do in Inside Out, is a critical part of identifying and binding up our own wounds. How can we draw strength from a wound that we have not yet identified? To most effectively and compassionately journey with others, we need to know and understand our own emotions.

Inside Out is a children’s movie that is relevant for all ages. So go enjoy a movie with the whole family after school lets out, or enjoy one by yourself if you have a free afternoon. Any story that encourages us to pause and reflect on our emotions is worth a watch.