(Photo by Selma Komisky)
By Selma Komisky
“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT! The Grinch hated Christmas”
– Dr. Seuss, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
The ability to know and believe that you belong, affects the way you live your life. When I think about the Grinch and his behavior, it went further than the Seuss story’s explanation. This is what it said:
Now, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
Or look at how the lyrics go to the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”:
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch/
Your heart’s an empty hole/
Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch/
I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!/
As a result, this makes me wonder how this fictional character named Grinch comes to this place of grinchiness? I watched this film with an informed mental health lens, and my observation was that the Grinch grew up not dealing with past emotional hurts, lacked nurturing, and was isolated.
Therefore, let’s backpedal to the beginning of the heartwarming Dr. Seuss 2000 film-adaption, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” This furry green character literally was an orphan. Yes, he was parentless.
As the script goes, “It was Christmas Eve, and a strange wind blew in.” A green baby boy came floating via basket on a snowy night, right into Whoville. The movie scene shows baby Grinch abandoned and unnoticed in tree branches near Clarnella and Rose Who’s house. Gazing through the window, he watches the Who’s conga line dance as they celebrate their annual holiday Christmas party. He eventually gets rescued and adopted by these two Who sisters. For a short time until the age of eight, the sisters exhibit love and raised the Grinch in holiday cheer. In his childhood, we can see that young Grinch was actually excited about making a special Christmas gift for his secret crush Martha May, until he got made fun of that is. Then, the film jumps to his adulthood where he lives secluded in a cave atop a mountain overlooking the village of Whoville with his mutt named Max.
We need to keep in mind that sometimes, it only takes one incident to impact the rest of your life emotionally. It is interesting how people can react differently to a painful event, as seen in this movie. Also, loneliness can have a negative impact on your mental health such as depression, irritability, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, and increased stress. The poor Grinch exhibited all of these.
His childhood trauma, being bullied by his enemy Augustus Maywho, his peers, and his teacher’s shaming him for his hairy appearance, later affected Grinch as an adult causing PTSD. Grinch had many flashbacks about his childhood. Also, he dealt with repressed anger toward ALL of Whoville residents. And being that the Who’s loved Christmas, this grumpy creature would get triggered by associated painful memories of being humiliated and bullied during the beloved holiday. Therefore, he hated Christmas.
He had been anti-social for so long and mistrusted everyone. I realize some grinch’s don’t want to be bothered with, but we can be like the blonde girl Cindy Lou who chose to see the good and befriended the Grinch when she boldly nominated him to be the Whoville Holiday Cheermeister for the “Whobilation” festival.
This goes to show, the power of kindness goes a long way. Grinch accepted the invite, although he felt uncomfortable joining the celebration. But he is seen overwhelmed by all the whoopla, and sort of starts to feel accepted by the Whos, when it abruptly halts. When Augustus presents him with a razor as a joke to specifically mock and make people laugh at him, this spirals Grinch into a destructive rampage.
Then, this cynical guy conjures up a malicious plan to steal Christmas from Whoville in an attempt to make his own pain go away. The Grinch thought by going on his own strength, retaliating, and getting revenge dressing like an imposter-Santa, robbing the Whos Christmas items, he could satisfy his deep-rooted rage. Nevertheless, he still came up empty when he saw the Whos resilience despite their village being ransacked. The Whos sang all the louder.
On the other hand, we all know it didn’t work. Why? Because, when we have repressed pain inside that we have stuffed away for many years, it can resurface and manifest into other problems. Nowadays, our culture still has a negative stigma regarding mental health care. And like the Grinch, a lot of people forego getting professional help. Importantly, Grinch was not perfect and had to take responsibility for his actions. Slowly he processed his pain and finally realized that he longed for family, friends, and for someone to care about him. He realized Christmas was a time that family gathered together to share love and give to one another. He also realized he could have restoration. And in the end, when his heart grew larger, he actually felt toasty inside and a transformation took place. He made things right and returned everything back to the Whos he had stolen and apologized. He was forgiven and welcomed back. Furthermore, he had true joy. Also, he embraced the Who community at their holiday dinner (and they embraced him as well), while also allowing himself to be vulnerable to love Martha May.
So, the moral of this article is that everyone has a story, and we shouldn’t be quick to try to diagnose others or judge them. Be mindful and pause before you speak. We really don’t know the reasons for someone’s behavior, just like the Grinch had something deeper going on in his life. Grinches might need some compassion, prayer, perhaps a listening ear or professional therapy. But, the most valuable gift that a human can give is simply love.
“Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:13