What “Inside Out” taught me

The visiting lecturer got up from her seat and headed towards the laptop. The projector beamed forward. I half expected a short clip on the ins and outs of child psychiatry (it was a few weeks in and most of us -or perhaps just me- were still crawling out of holiday fever). What had emerged on the projector screen, however, was short of what had defined my conventional academic expectation for “video time”. Showing at the front of the class was a movie trailer!


I got a hold of the movie “Inside Out.” Disney’s animation seemed to successfully wheel me in beyond the two-minute tempting’s of their well-engineered trailer. The story began with a little girl named Riley. She, however, was not the center-piece of the movie- her mind was (also known as “headquarters”). Headquarters was run by five personified emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger (they were, in a sense, her “alter-emos”). Their core mission (every pun-intended) was to “appropriately” guide Riley through life’s rollercoaster of emotional frenzies. I laughed (Joy maybe?) and childishly giggled at the creative humor portrayed by these five characters. With just a couple of minutes into the movie I could already tell that Joy was the dominant leader of the pack who was always keen to make Riley smile at any given moment. Disgust, Fear and Anger had their fair share of the limelight too as they each wrestled at Headquarters control pad (Riley’s mind) attempting to bring out the “best” distaste, fear and anger that a girl her age could have. All but one, however, seemed to have that charisma. All but Sadness. Sadness (she) appeared to be, more often than not, the party-pooper of emotion-ville (she knew how to get the tears rolling). Joy’s passive aggressive attempts to keep Sadness at bay failed miserably as she always managed to trail behind Joys happy mantra. Yet, towards the end of the movie, Joy realized that her unwanted camaraderie with Sadness may in fact be the one she needs the most. As little Riley pitched herself on the bus, ready to run-away from her new home, her emotions seemed to not know what to do. She had recently moved to a new town where her family ties were not as tight nor her friends as close. As the bus took off, Fear, Disgust and Anger wallowed in their failed attempts to bring Riley back home. Joy began to see that her happy aura was not always the immediate solution to every pickle. And that’s when Joy called Sadness. And that’s when I saw how the unwanted emotion of Sadness may perhaps be one of our least treasured but necessary gifts.

“There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh”

I hate being sad. I detest moments of somberness where situations around me (and within me) corner me in an ocean of despair. Its funny (not really) how at one moment we can be on top of the moon and the next feel like we are walking six feet under, dead in our misery. I (and I’m sure many others) would be the first to advocate against the pangs of sadness and its faithful kill-joys. But what if you were told that the trials that you are facing were reason enough to be joyful? What if you were told that the dark cloud that seems to rain on your every parade was actually working towards your good- towards your joy? There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for every event under the sun. There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh. There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance [1]. One would consider this to be a “holy oxymoron” (remember the words of James? “Consider it all JOY…when you encounter various TRIALS” [2]). I don’t think God is inviting us to wallow in our despair nor is He asking us to live a life of utter sadness (even before Jesus faced the darkest moment of His life, His message of joy to His followers remained the same). What He is saying is that irrespective of what has, is and will happen to us, He is sovereignly in control of everything that may daunt our path. Whether Sadness or Joy, each season of our lives has a fruit which God keenly desires to be birthed in us (“knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”). His hand graciously guides us (and graciously hold us) as He (and not our emotions) faithfully guides us on the path He has set for us.

What season are you going through? What emotion seems to dominate? Let God bring out the perfect fruit.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

PS: As for the ending of Riley’s story? Well…

At His Feet…


  1. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4-5
  2. James 1:2-4

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