“I thought I told you to come down to dinner!”
“I’m not hungry!”
“You’ll come out, or I’ll break down the door!”
“It would give me great pleasure if you would join me for dinner. Please?”
“No, thank you!”
“You can’t stay in there forever!”
“Yes, I can!”
“Fine! Then go ahead and starve!”
– Beast and Belle
This argument between Belle and the Beast, when he attempts to invite her to dinner and she refuses, makes me laugh every time I watch it. I suppose I should be scared of the Beast’s temper or impressed by Belle’s courage as she stands up to him. But mostly, I’m just bemused as what they say and how they say it sounds like so many arguments I’ve had.
Mostly with my kids and sometimes about dinner. But no matter the topic or the participants, this kind of conversation always involves a whole lot of stubbornness. That’s particularly humorous because until the last few years, I didn’t even realize I was stubborn.
A couple years ago as my husband and I ate lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, we realized – a bit awkwardly – that we were seated right behind my high school music teacher and his wife.
(I say “awkwardly” because is there anything MORE awkward than being seated near someone you just barely know and/or haven’t seen in a long time? While trying to casually shove chips and salsa into your mouth? Avoiding eye contact while deciding if you should say hello or not? Nope. Nothing.)
Anyway, he stopped at our table on his way out and said hello. Because he’s a grown-up and apparently had no mental debate about whether to duck and run or not. He asked about my parents and brother (I come from a small town), and I said I’d heard he retired a few years earlier. Then – I don’t know if he asked or we offered – we mentioned having a four-year-old. I informed him that she was super smart and sweet but incredibly stubborn.
At that point my former teacher looked at Mark and said, “Well, since her mother is the most stubborn girl I’ve ever met, that does not surprise me!”
We laughed and said our [awkward] goodbyes. Then we finished our burritos and chips. But I couldn’t get that comment out of my head.
Me, stubborn? The most stubborn? Really? Really? That seemed a bit extreme. And not possibly accurate. I mean, yes, I would call myself determined. Strong. Motivated and ambitious (at times). Did I mention strong? Yes, I liked that one. But stubborn? Me?
Nahhhh… Except, well, as it turns out…
Having a child is like holding a mirror up to my worst self. Everything that frustrates or irritates me about my darling daughter? Comes directly from her father or me – or both. And her strong will, her hardheadedness, her complete embodiment of the word, “stubborn”? She got a double dose of that business.
Honestly, though, until we went through a challenging season in our marriage, I’d never used the word stubborn to describe Mark or myself. Since then, it’s all I see. Every issue we have between us, every problem we’ve created, every hurdle we’ve had to jump – it all comes down to one or both of us being ridiculously stubborn. It comes down to us wanting our own way, refusing to bend, only seeing our own perspectives, our own needs, our own opinions (which we become convinced are facts, because – remember? – stubborn).
We’re working on it. Both of us, day by day, counseling session by counseling session, late-night conversation by late-night conversation – we’re working on it. Understanding the problem, seeing what the real issue is has made a world of difference. Sometimes we can even laugh about it. Sometimes.
While I’m less stubborn than I used to be, the times I’m most challenged to kick this stubborn habit is when my life most resembles this scene from Beauty and the Beast. When I have a good idea or try to extend kindness a peace offering – only to be rebuffed or refused, I immediately turn into a roaring beast! My temper burns and my only concern becomes how to force my loved one (yes, my LOVED one!) to do what I want or, barring that, get the last word.
As the Beast learned, that never works. (Kindness – like tending to someone when he’s sick or injured or, you know, giving a girl a giant library – almost always does the trick.)
Last year my church read through the entire Bible chronologically, and I was struck by the patterns we saw in the Israelites. The people God had rescued, the ones who were recipients and witnesses of miracle after miracle, the children of God (yes, the children of God!) made it a centuries-long habit to turn from the Lord in such an extreme manner that He called them, “a stubborn people,” repeatedly.
I have to admit that my kids and my husband aren’t the only ones on the receiving end of my stubborn attitude. When I think about how long I’ve struggled with certain sins or how long I’ve resisted what God has tried to teach me, I think of a few lines from a Caedmon Call song. The singer talks about how the “same old struggles that plagued me then are plaguin’ me still.” He then acknowledges that “the road is long from the ground to glory,” but he’d hoped he was making progress.
Yes! I wonder why it takes me so long to learn some lessons and why God keeps teaching me the same thing, over and over again. And then I remember: stubborn. How often have I dug in my heels, determined to convince God (convince God!?) that my way is actually better, that my choices aren’t that bad, that the things I’m doing won’t hurt anyone?
More often than I’d like to admit. And if you feel like you’re living in your own version of Groundhog Day, where every day – and struggle – is the same, it’s possible you’re a little stubborn, too. The good news, the truth that never changes no matter how long we pout or loud we shout, is that while we might be stubborn, short-tempered, and short-sighted, God is steadfast, patient, and all-knowing. And He will continue knocking on our door until we finally give up our own will for His.
Questions to Consider: