Who’s Driving?

Inside Out had only been out for 24 hours and I’d already seen it twice. In addition to the trip we took to the movie theater to see it with my best friend and her three boys. And it may sound crazy, but I’m convinced that this is by far the deepest and most insightful children’s movie I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, please go. Now. Seriously, stop reading and don’t come back until you’ve seen it. But just in case you haven’t, no worries, I promise not to give away any spoilers. 🙂

11009135_10204323113749973_7157234629957383461_n_2The premise of the movie is that we are driven by 5 main emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These 5 emotions live inside our head, pushing buttons and twisting knobs on a giant console table. They direct how we feel about things, they are responsible for the way we react to things, they are responsible for how we perceive things. And the feelings we emote externally are a direct result of who’s at the helm. If Joy is in control, we are happy. If Fear is in control, we are afraid. You get the idea. The one who sits in the middle chair is the one calling the shots.


As I was watching it the other day, something occurred to me. It’s clear that the little girl in the movie is being primarily driven by Joy, and even though the other emotions get to take control here and there, Joy is the one at the wheel. She (Joy) doesn’t like any of the other emotions to take over too long, and is eager to be back in charge when it’s her turn again. The result is that overall, the little girl is a very happy child. But although the film focuses on one main character and her emotions, occasionally you get a glimpse into the minds of some of the other characters. And what I noticed is that they are not all driven by Joy. Some are driven by Anger. Some Sadness or Disgust. And some are even driven by Fear. There are even a couple of characters that don’t seem to be strongly driven by any one emotion – there’s just a sort of odd balance to them, even if it means they are all equally calm or equally freaking out. But the thing is, not everyone is driven by Joy.


I find this to be incredibly profound, because isn’t it the reality of life? Isn’t it true that some people seem to be wired to smile and laugh their cares away, while others explode or panic at the slightest inconvenience? I’m sure this might get me into trouble, but I could name good friends that default to each of these emotions. Friends that are driven – but not defined – by Fear, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. And I love every single one of them, no matter which emotion is at the wheel. I say it all the time: it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round.


We are all dealing with the same emotions, we just deal with them differently. I’m just the same – I find myself struggling to fight off Disgust, Anger, Fear, and Sadness on a daily basis. And most of the time, I’m successful. But not without constant prayers to God to help me see Joy. Not without relying on His strength to help me push aside the other emotions that can so easily slip back in charge. I’m well aware that more often than not I’m in need of grace, both from God and from my fellow man. Grace that I don’t deserve from any of them, but I’m completely humbled and grateful to receive.

And I guess that’s the lesson in this: we all need grace, so we should all show grace. You don’t know which emotion is at the wheel in the minds of those you come across everyday. Got a brash waiter serving your lunch? Maybe Anger is in charge because he just dealt with a rude customer. Show grace. You don’t like the way that guy is driving his car? Maybe he’s headed to his sick wife and Sadness is the one at the wheel. Show grace. Having a hard time getting your child to be honest? Maybe Fear is in control of their words.


The thing is, you really don’t know the struggles going on in someone else’s head. They may very well be trying to let Joy take over and just can’t seem to figure out how to make it happen. So show grace, the same as Jesus does for us when we aren’t shining beams of light and rainbow-y smiles. I know the emotional war for the middle chair in my head, the thoughts that go through my mind – even when everyone else sees the smile – and I’m well aware that I don’t deserve His grace. Which, to me, is all the more reason to demonstrate it to others.

I’m learning to be okay with who I am – emotional mistakes and all – and to give myself grace for those emotional mistakes that extend beyond my own head out to others. I’m learning to keep relying on God to keep my heart and attitude positive, to extend the same grace to others that He extends to me, and to take the wheel from my emotions and hand it over to Jesus. He’s a much better driver anyway. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Who’s Driving?

  1. You really are an amazing writer! I love how you can take sometimes the most basic idea (like the post about lucky charms), and turn it into something so profound. Your analogies are awesome. LOVE this blog so much, and look forward to each and every new post!

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