Learning from George Bailey


In our home, we make it a point to watch certain Christmas movies every year. We’ll put a fire in the fireplace, snuggle on the coach, and enjoy some great movies. “White Christmas” is one our favorites. Great music…great dancing…and great script! For example; “When what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.” Funny stuff! We also love “Elf”…”Smiling is my favorite.” “Family Man” is another great one. And, of course, we enjoy watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but there probably isn’t a movie I have seen more often. However, this year I “got” the movie on a whole new level. For the first time I really understood the whole POINT of the film! You see, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a story that illustrates one of man’s greatest fears…the fear of failure. For the first time this year, I not only understood George Bailey’s plight on a whole new level…more than that, I identified with him. Because I too have been gripped by the fear of being a failure. I too have let it impact the way I’ve treated by family and friends. And though I’ve never stood on the edge of a bridge ready to jump, I have been on the edge of giving up…quitting…all because I feared failing.

It’s been my experience in counseling men that the fear of failure is a common struggle (1 Cor. 10:13). The fact that “Hollywood” made a movie centered around this theme is evidence that this is a common problem. And my experience is that pastors especially struggle with feeling like failures. In moments of openness, I have heard many pastors admit that they feel like utter failures. I want to take a couple of blogs and offer some encouragement…and we’ll use George Bailey as a counseling case study.

Here are some areas we can identify with George Bailey.

Big Dreams.

 George dreams of traveling the world and designing great things! Bridges, skyscrapers…only to never see any of his dreams come to fruition. In a poignant moment in the movie, George tears down the models he designed and built. He realized all the dreams…all the big vision ideas…were never going to happen. He was a failure.

I think all us go into ministry with big dreams and big visions! My church is going to grow and grow…and so we better start planning that building program! There will probably be a radio deal in the works for me at some point…this little church is going to change the world!

Good dreams…only whose dreams are they? Whose vision was it? Still…when these dreams fail to be realized, many men feel like they are the reason. “If only I preached better” or “If only I was a better leader.” Unrealized dreams cause many men to feel like failures.

Watching Others Succeed.

Sam Wainewright is George’s high school friend who turn out to be a very successful man. He accomplishes all things that George dreamed about, but never was able to accomplish himself. From time to time he shows up and is a reminder to George of the life that he will never have…nice cars, trips to Europe, etc. watching a friend live out what George only dreamed about makes him feel even more like a failure.

As pastors, we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. That church over there is growing like crazy…why isn’t my church? That pastor is so appreciated by his people…why I am not? He’s on TV every week…and somehow I’m not good enough to do that. It must be me…if HE can do, but I can’t, that must mean I’m a failure.

Listening to the Critics.

 Near the end of the film, George is at his lowest point. After Uncle Billy misplaces thousands of dollars, George gets desperate enough to ask Mr. Potter for some help. In return, he gets kicked even lower. At one point Potter says, “Why, you’re worth more dead than you are alive.” The look on George’s face and is one of complete devastation. He’s done…worth nothing…an utter failure.

I’m not sure there is another profession that is a target for criticism as the ministry. Everyone has an idea of what a pastor or pastor’s wife should be…and YOU’RE not it! There have been times in our ministry when we have been low…only for a critic to say something that brings us even lower. A few years back, this happened with a man whom I considered a great friend, and mentor. At a low point I went to him for help…only to get more criticism. I too felt like jumping off a bridge!

So George and I have a lot in common. I have dreams that will never come to be. I’ve seen others succeed where I have failed. And I’ve had Mr. Potters kick me when I was down. I have felt like an utter failure.

But praise God, there is hope! No, it’s not in a wingless angel named Clarence. I found hope in the advice from a friend that brought me to THE source of hope and clarification…God’s Word!

But I’ll save that for next time when I blog about “Finding Zuzu’s Petals!”

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4 thoughts on “Learning from George Bailey

  1. Jamie
    Great blog! You are a good writer. I’m wondering if I am “Mr Potter” or the friend that pointed u to the Word or neither. If the first sorry my friend. At times I am very critical of myself and unfortunately others. Anyway just curious.

    1. There is probably no one who has impacted my life more than you, Pastor Ron. No, you are not “Mr. Potter”…your positive example and encouragement has far outweighed any critical comments!

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