“Don’t be a Scrooge”
It’s a line we hear really all year long but certainly more during the holiday season. But what exactly does it mean?
Scrooge (skro͞oj) n.
A mean-spirited miserly person. (The Free Dictionary)
Most of you realize this reference is from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly, mean-spirit man who refuses to spend any extra money, not even for what many consider necessities (e.g., coal for a fire). Contributing to charity to help the poor is abhorrent to Ebenezer as is accepting his nephew’s kindness toward him.
After visits from three spirits (the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future), Ebenezer realizes how much of a skinflint he has become. He vows to change his ways because of what his future looks like if he does not.
None of us like to think we are a Scrooge, of course, but we often don’t have a problem throwing that term toward another person. I’ve even used the term when someone simply isn’t being as free with their behavior and/or money as I think they should be.
Watching the movie (the one starring George C. Scott) again this Christmas, I realized that Scrooge has gotten a bad reputation and to some extent undeservedly so. In fact, I believe we all could benefit with instead using the phrase “Be a Scrooge” instead of “Don’t be a Scrooge.”
Be a Scrooge
“Scrooge” is usually used with negative connotations. Yet, he is an uncomfortably relatable character too. Everyone struggles with selfishness to some extent, and we’ve all certainly had to fight through a mean spirit from time to time. If nothing else, we certainly know and must interact with someone else who epitomizes a “Scrooge.”
In the story, Ebenezer becomes a “Scrooge” gradually. He wasn’t always that way. Life circumstances combined with his own choices created the person he became. We all can relate to this idea of gradual change.
What’s important to notice, though, is that he didn’t stay that way.
While we don’t want to forget that aspect of Scrooge in the sense that we want to remember not to let ourselves become that way, there’s also inspiration to be found in this character who completely changes his ways. After all, by the end of “A Christmas Carol,” this is what was said of him:
“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the old City knew, or any other good old city, town or borough in the good old world.”
Instead of being an icon of what not to become, can we instead think of Scrooge encouragement of what can happen to anyone?
People Can Change
We’re all likely guilty of thinking someone can never change. Maybe we’ve even felt that way about ourselves. Yet, I’m certain every one of us can also find someone who has changed dramatically for the better. Likely, many of us have also experienced personal transformations along those lines too.
I’ve seen it happen recently in someone I love very much and who I thought lost to the world. He had an experience with the Holy Spirit and became a completely different person almost overnight. I’ve experienced it in myself too. After 25 years struggling with depression, I no longer live under its vice grip because of the transformative power of God in my life.
Unfortunately, while we see people change and are glad for it, the memories of what used to be — broken trust, abundant lies, negativity, depression — don’t just go away. In fact, fears of these coming back often linger for quite a long time if they ever go away. Because this happens so easily and even naturally, we have to determine not to focus on how the person used to be. Instead, we can choose to focus forward and enjoy the person they are becoming.
Let’s determine not to miss the fact that people can change and to remember to include ourselves in that possibility too. Determine to have this hope. Refuse to give up on yourself or on anyone else. Pray more than preach, and trust that God is working in their — and your — lives.