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3 Things Aladdin Teaches Us About Being More Honest – With Ourselves and With Others

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Aladdin first became popularized in the United States in the 1990s by Disney’s animated musical of the same name. But the story is not original. In fact, the story of Aladdin is actually several hundred years old and is only 1 of over 1,000 original stories published in a book called Arabian Nights in the 18th Century. 

Despite there being different versions, let’s stick with Disney’s take for our purposes here. In the film, Aladdin is a street-wise orphan who hustles and steals to try to get by. But after a series of events leads him to discover a magic lamp with a Genie who will grant him 3 wishes, he completely transforms himself. But this comes at a cost.

Aladdin wishes to be a rich prince so that he can win the heart of Princess Jasmine, who he met and lied to about his identity when he lived in the streets. The problem is, even though Aladdin becomes a rich prince, Princess Jasmine recognizes him which causes Aladdin to lie to her for a second time. Throughout the course of the film, Aladdin continues to lie and lie until it not only almost costs him the love of the Princess, but almost costs him his life. 

What can you and I learn from Aladdin specifically as it relates to honesty and dishonesty in our own lives? 

  1. When in potential trouble, dishonesty seems more convenient. Aladdin found himself in trouble all throughout the film. While some of this trouble wasn’t his own fault, some of it was. When Princess Jasmine confronted him about his identity (she did recognize him from the streets when he became a fake prince) he chose to deceive her. But why? He did so because he thought the princess would never accept the real him so he became something else to try to win her over. In our lives, we might also experience potential troubling or inconvenient situations and we too will have to choose between whether we will be honest with others or trick them into believing we’re something (and somebody) other than who we are. Have you ever been less than forthright with people because you wanted their acceptance?
  1. Dishonesty jeopardizes our relationships. Even though Aladdin thought he was trying to maintain his relationship with Princess Jasmine by lying to her, he was actually jeopardizing it because he was manipulating her for his own purposes. It’s not that he meant her harm, but he still disrespected her by taking her for a fool. Instead of being brave himself, he chose to act cowardly so that he could make her his girl by any means necessary. For you and me, when we tell fabrications or half-truths we are manipulating others even if our intentions are good and very much disrespecting them. For our own sakes, we should be completely straight with people so that we don’t potentially lose important relationships.
  1. Dishonesty makes us postpone our own growth and development. One of Aladdin’s biggest flaws was that he was less than truthful and had a tendency to cover things up, especially as they related to Princess Jasmine. Each time he covered up, he was delaying growing into the person he was meant to be – an honest and courageous man who was strong enough to tell himself the truth so that he could tell others the truth too. For us, we must choose honesty if we are to stop lying to ourselves and others – and if we are to overcome our biggest flaws and grow into the people we’re meant to be.

Ultimately Aladdin teaches us great lessons about honesty and dishonesty. It shows us that we should always be honest even when it seems less convenient; that we should not risk our relationships for lack of honesty; and that by being honest with ourselves and others we are choosing to accelerate our own growth and development as people. 

Dr. Rob Carpenter - known simply as “Dr. Rob” - is a transformational author, filmmaker, and CEO whose mission is to entertain, empower, and uplift people and humanity.

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3 Things Forrest Gump Teaches Us About Authenticity

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3 Things Forrest Gump Teaches Us About Authenticity

The movie Forrest Gump is a brilliant depiction of an underdog who overcomes the odds. Not only does Forrest – the main character in the eponymous film – succeed despite his own shortcomings, but he succeeds despite the ridicule of others. 

If you don’t remember the plot of the story, here’s an abbreviated version: Forrest is born in the deep South during segregation times. He is handicapped, mentally slow, and fatherless (well, he doesn’t know he’s fatherless – his mom just tells him his dad is “on vacation”). Forrest is made fun of relentlessly and nobody wants to sit next to him on the bus – except a little girl named “Jennie,” who Forrest falls in love with and pursues the rest of his life. Forrest miraculously overcomes his handicap and, over the course of the movie, experiences a series of extraordinary moments and events that seem almost too good to be true. He wins a scholarship to play football, becomes a decorated war hero, takes over a shrimping business and becomes a millionaire, and finally wins Jennie – and fathers a son with her – before she passes away. Forrest is a true – and unlikely – American hero.

Although most discussions of Forrest Gump seem to be centered around him as an “underdog,” I believe it is actually his authenticity that is his most striking attribute. Here are 3 things his character teaches us about being true to our most authentic selves:

  1. When you’re authentic, some people will make fun of you. Forrest never tried to be anyone other than who he was – and that earned him ridicule from classmates, fellow soldiers, and various people throughout his life. They called him “stupid” and were stunned that he could succeed despite their labels of him and low expectations about his life. Likewise, if you and I are attempting to be authentic regardless of our backgrounds (or of whether people think we’re smart or not) some will ridicule us because we’re not like them. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let it bother us as their opinions of us don’t determine our destinies.
  1. When you’re authentic, you often end up doing the unexpected – and sometimes the extraordinary. Throughout his life, Forrest wasn’t plotting and planning his way to money, power, or success, yet he got those things anyway. He was simply always trying to be who he was, trying to be a good person, and trying to do the right things at all times. For example, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor and became a millionaire simply because he was trying to help others around him. For us, if we develop integrity as an attribute and follow through on supporting those around us, we will find ourselves in positions of greater influence – and will receive rewards we might never respect. I have found this to be true in my own life especially when I take my eyes off of myself and focus on simply doing the right things (the benefits that flow from doing this have often been immense).
  1. When you’re authentic, others will be inspired by you eventually. Even though Forrest was made fun of and just concentrated on doing what he felt to be right, he became a source of inspiration for others. He became an example for them. He became a north star so to speak. But why? People who formerly ridiculed him – like “Lieutenant Dan” who was his commanding officer in the Vietnam war – eventually saw how real he was and left everything behind to go work for him. When you and I are being authentic, we may not realize it but other people are paying close attention and some may be motivated to be better people in their own lives simply because they are observing us trying to be better in our own.

Forrest Gump is a film that teaches us many life lessons, but being authentic is one of the most important. Yes, we might be made fun of when we are trying to be authentic. But it will always be worth it because we will often end up doing unexpectedly great things and often inspire others along the way – even those who previously ridiculed us. 

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3 Things Divergent Teaches Us About Making Choices

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3 Things Divergent Teaches Us About Making Choices

Divergent is a wonderful book and movie series that has made a huge splash across the world. Not only did the film gross hundreds of millions at the box office, but it made a lot of people stop and think about the kinds of choices they make in their own lives – a rare accomplishment for a blockbuster film.

Here is a quick recap of the film in case you haven’t seen it – or in case you haven’t seen it in a while. Tris Prior, a teen in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, has to make a decision about which “Faction” she wants to live in for the rest of her life after she undergoes an aptitude test. (Factions are divisions within Chicago that require people to live and work only with those who have similar aptitudes and values as themselves. The factions include the brave (“Dauntless”), intelligent (“Erudite”), kind (“Amity”), selfless (“Abnegation”), and honest (“Candor”).) Tris, who comes from the selfless faction (Abnegation), is expected to stay in it but instead chooses the brave faction (Dauntless) to the surprise of almost everyone. And when she does choose Dauntless, she embarks on the ride of her life. 

Trist goes to train with Dauntless – leaving her family behind – and soon seems outmatched by just about everybody there. But while she’s training and slowly improving her Dauntless skills, she takes a sudden romantic interest in her trainer, Four (aka Tobias), who also takes an interest in her. It turns out that not only are both of them previously from the selfless faction Abgnegation, but both are something society considers extremely dangerous: they’re Divergent. (This means that, in their original aptitude test, they test equally for aptitude and skill for all factions – potentially putting them in a position to threaten the power structure by uniting the factions behind them instead of the current rulers). Once the leader of Chicago, Jeanie Matthews, finds out Trish is Divergent she makes it her mission to bring her down because she believes Trish is the only one capable to stop the new mind control program Jeanie is planning to release on the City.

What we see throughout the film is that Trish must make choice after choice – about her identity, about where she feels she belongs and fits in, and about whether she will risk her life to save the factions from Jeanie Matthews. But beyond Trish’s own bravery, what can you and I learn from her about how we also can make decisive choices in our own lives?

  1. We must all make many choices – all the time – so we have to get good at it. In the film, Trish has to decide on leaving her family, joining a new faction, getting a new boyfriend, and working to stop Jeanie. All of these things are major decisions not only for a teenager like her, but would be for anybody. In fact, even one of these things would be difficult to make a decision about. Nevertheless, Trish shows that even though she is conflicted and uncertain in the choices she’s making, she still decides to make them. And with each choice, she seems to get better and better in weighing the pros and cons of situations (i.e., she seems to get more strategic and less impulsive in her actions). Likewise in our own lives, we will have to make a series of decisions and choices and we will have to get better at making them if we are to positively step into our futures just like Trish (and not just stumble into them).
  1. When we make decisions, we will always disappoint someone. Trish’s decisions disappointed countless people. She disappointed her family when she decided to leave her original faction for another; she disappointed her new faction because, as it turns out, she was a threat to it (as she was Divergent); and she disappointed Four and Jeanie multiple times because she had to make the best choices for herself that not everybody understood. In our own lives, we will also make decisions that not everybody will understand either and as a result, we will end up disappointing them. We can’t please everyone and we will have to get used to various people who might find fault or take issue with us on a regular basis.
  1. We must constantly justify our choices – to ourselves. Even though Trish thought she made the right choices in choosing a new faction, choosing to oppose Jeanie, and the like, she questioned herself for doing it. She wasn’t sure she was right all of the time and went back and forth in her mind (and emotions) because of it. Trish had to justify why she was doing what she was doing because of the internal – and external – conflict she was experiencing. For you and me, we will also experience resistance and will have to justify to ourselves our decisions. We should understand that this is normal and not something that we should be concerned about – we will just have to work through our choices knowing that, at times, we will wonder if we’ve done the right thing.

Ultimately, Divergent and Trish teach us many great things about how to make decisions. But knowing that we should get good at making decisions, that we will disappoint others when we do, and that we will have to justify these decisions are three of the most important. 

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3 Things Bridesmaids Teaches Us About Friendship

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3 Things Bridesmaids Teaches Us About Friendship

When the film Bridesmaids appeared in theaters, it was an instant hit. People called it the female Hangover, but I think that’s too limiting. The film stands on its own as a great piece of cinema and a heck of a fun movie to watch.

The film follows the story of a failed baker, Annie, who is invited to be the maid of honor for her best friend Lillian. The problem is that Lillian now has a new rich and seemingly perfect friend, Helen, who wants to plan the wedding herself and all of the events leading up to the wedding. Naturally, tensions reach a boiling point between Annie and Lillian and as a result Annie not only almost misses the wedding, but she almost loses her friendship with Lillian. Nevertheless, the two are able to reconcile and Annie ends up making Lillian’s wedding as her maid of honor.

What can you and I learn about friendship from this great movie?

  1. Our closest friendships will always be challenged at some point. Even though Annie grew up with Lillian and they were best friends, Helen also wanted to be Lillian’s best friend too. This made Annie extremely jealous and insecure, so much so that it almost cost Annie and Lillian their friendship – and Annie’s freedom. Because Annie couldn’t handle the challenge that Helen presented to her, she acted out and did a few unnecessary things that got her arrested and put a bad taste in Lillian’s mouth. Likewise in our own lives, our closest friendships will at some point be challenged by a third voice like Helen’s. This may not happen always or often, but when or if it does we will definitely know when our Helen arrives and starts taking up more time with our bestie. I remember a time this occurred in my own life and it is needless to say pretty awkward and uncomfortable. But just know that it does happen from time to time and that we don’t have to act out like Annie with jealousy or insecurity toward people like Helen who are friends with our friends. 
  1. Our friends will not always like each other – and we don’t have to force them to. Annie and Helen didn’t like each other from the beginning, and that really bothered both of them. But you know who it didn’t bother? It didn’t bother Lillian, their mutual friend (who would prefer they get along but it wasn’t a prerequisite for her). Lillian was okay to have Annie fill a certain role in her life while Helen filled a different role in her life. Even though Annie and Helen wanted to have bigger roles, it wasn’t their decision – it was Lillian’s. In our own lives, we might have friends who may not like each other and we will have to see that we don’t necessarily have to try to make them like each other (even though that would be helpful). A friend of a friend is not always our friend – but, if we’re fortunate, they might be one day.
  1. We will have to give up our “friend ego” if our friend does get a new friend (or friends). Both Annie and Helen clearly had egos about their relationship with Lillian. In other words, they clearly had marked their turf with Lillian and they didn’t want each other – or anyone else – to get on that turf. However, that’s simply not realistic in real life. We will have to be more humble if our friends do get other friends and can’t be possessive of them or assume that we own them just because they’re our friends. They’re our friends because we get along with them and because we provide mutual value to each other’s lives – and if somebody else other than us provides value to their life, we should be happy about that, not upset.

Ultimately, Bridesmaids teaches us many great lessons about friendship. But 3 of the biggest are realizing that close friendships will be challenged from time to time; that our friends may not always like each other; and that we will have to be more humble if our friends do get new friends if we want them to be happy. 

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