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Question: What do the following two stories have in common?

Answer: The beauty saves the beast!

Please understand me. I’m not trying to compare the fairly tale wonder of Beauty and the Beast to the deplorable immorality of Fifty Shades (of Gross). That would be ridiculous.

However, what is also ridiculous, and more to the point – dangerous – is the basic love story related by both movies (and many others). And though Beauty and the Beast gives the story line a child-friendly polish, the narrative is just as dangerous without the violent pornographic imagery of Fifty.

What’s the Moral of the Story?

What is this dangerous narrative precisely?

A purehearted young woman comes to the rescue of a tormented man and, despite all odds, saves his soul in the end.

The man may struggle with anger management issues or sexual perversion or any number of character defects that make him an entirely unsuitable candidate for a serious relationship (like, say, the thirst for human blood in The Twilight series).

The point is, the man in these stories is not merely emotionally stunted or socially challenged. He’s severely disturbed.

But, don’t you worry a bit, because the beauty sees something in this beast! Goodness only her love can release. Potential only her love can unlock! Because, you know, she’s just that amazing!

What’s worse, is screenwriters will use whatever plot devises necessary to help us see that same goodness, so we’ll make excuses for his abusive behavior. (“It’s not his fault. He’s a victim!”) As we do, we keep cheering for our heroine to make herself more and more vulnerable. (“Trust him! Open up to him! Hold him! Kiss him!”)

And in the end, the woman saves him!

Or at least she does in the movie.

It’s a potent fantasy for a guy, because if he’s honest with himself, he knows he needs to be saved. And what man wouldn’t like to be saved by someone as lovely as Emma Watson? Right?

It’s just as powerful a fancy for the female, because, let’s face it, whatever your gender, who doesn’t want to save somebody?

What’s the Big Deal?

So what’s wrong with that?

It’s just a story, right?

I mean, as long as we present a PG version, stripped of sexual or outright abusive overtones, what’s the harm?

I see the harm all the time.

In real life.

Where beauty fails to save the beast. (Here’s just one story.)

Admittedly, on rare occasions ill-advised premature romances wind up bringing healing to one or both partners, but please understand, this is only in spite of the romantic and/or sexual passion. Not because of. (More on that later.) Instead…

More often than not, the beast breaks the heart of the beauty. Sometimes he does more than that.

Many times he steals, not only her naiveté, but her innocence. Almost always, he consumes her beauty like a black hole consumes light, so once her love is spent, there’s no evidence the man received any of her love at all.

And often times, the beast does all this despite his best intentions. Because he really does want to be saved. Particularly by something so beautiful.

But instead, both are lost in the end.

Of course, that’s not the way it happens in Beauty and the Beast, or Fifty Shades (of Sickness). That’s why it’s called a fantasy.

Fact or fiction, many of us seem bent on believing it in real life. With disastrous consequences.

And to clarify, it works both ways. There are just as many knights in shining armor out there hoping to save the damsel in distress as there are counselors with shining complexion hoping to deliver the deranged.

Can the Beast be Saved?

In real life, real people, dealing with real brokenness don’t find healing in the arms of a lover who just mystically “gets them.” Real people many times believe they find healing in such relationships, but it doesn’t last, because romantic/sexual love simply lacks the endurance necessary for true healing.

To put it plainly, romantic or sexual love doesn’t hold the power to save you.

Think of it this way, if relationships were medicine then romantic/sexual relationships would be pain killers. The intoxication of being “in love” can make you feel “all better,” but that’s all it is: a feeling.

In contrast, true healing for wounded men and women is found in “unsexy” committed, sacrificial relationships with friends and mentors. Instead of true love’s kiss, these caring individuals share hard truth, garnered from experience, along with helpful resources, shared with patience and wisdom.

All of that might fail to translate well on screen, but this is what can empower a person who really wants to get well to do so.

Again, using our medicine metaphor, unlike pain killers, healthy friendship/mentor relationships don’t merely numb the pain, they actually bring about healing. Depending on the depth of your pain, you might want to seek counseling. There’s no shame in that.

There’s no shame in healing. There’s freedom.

Are You the Beauty or the Beast?

Emotional and relational pain is real. Very real. And its power to warp the identity and character of both men and women is even more real.

If I just described you, know this: there is a love far greater than any “beauty” could ever offer you. It may not be a love you can feel like a flesh and blood lover, but it is more powerful and enduring. It’s the love of a God who willingly takes on your suffering, but who has conquered death, so He can empower you to conquer any inner demon.

But again God doesn’t do this through the magic of a ballroom dance with a stunning specimen of the opposite sex. He does it through ordinary-looking people who make up His church and live dependent on His word and prayer.

And if you’re the one who finds yourself tempted to save a beast (be they male or female), I beg you to STOP!

Remember, romantic love isn’t a healing drug. It’s a painkiller.

A painkiller that will likely make your beloved feel much better for a time, but the effect will wear off, typically within months. Four years at the longest. That’s a long high, but the longer the high the more painful the crash.

You may truly feel more than romantic or sexual attraction for the wounded object-of-your-affection, but please trust me. You are not immune to the impact of love chemicals either. You shouldn’t trust your feelings.

What you should trust, is someone older and wiser who knows and loves you well. Seek their counsel and together you can pray for someone else to minister to the beast you have grown such a fondness for.

Where your kiss could only distract them from their real pain and need, your prayers could save their soul! And isn’t that what you wanted in the first place?

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!