Disney doctrine can be summed up in a simple phrase: Be true to yourself. If you live according to this maxim, all your dreams will come true.

It’s the dogma that creates the drama:

  • Cinderella singing about her dreams and being true to her inner princess
  • Mulan refusing to fit into cultural stereotypes
  • Ariel longing for a world she wasn’t created for
  • Aladdin becoming the prince he pretended to be

Disney movies (and most of the rip-offs) tell our kids again and again that the most important lesson in life is to discover yourself, be true to whatever it is you discover, and then follow your heart wherever it leads.

Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of:

  • You are what you feel.
  • Embrace what you feel no matter what others say.

From Disney to Lady Gaga

Music only reinforces this message during the teenage years. For example, Lady Gaga’s anthem “Born This Way” celebrates our urgings and longings:

Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

The rest of the song makes it clear that sexual longing is a big part of what you’re born with and ought to embrace. Your feelings rule. If you go against your feelings, you’re living a lie.

The only problem is feelings can be tyrants. And strangely, those who resist the tyranny of their feelings are often ridiculed rather than celebrated.

Is it courageous to give in to whatever feelings you have? Is being true to yourself the recipe for happiness?

The Counseling Room

Here’s where Disney doctrine leads to glaring inconsistencies in the real world. Consider the following scenario in a counselor’s office:

Teen #1: “I think I’m gay, but I want to change my sexual orientation.”

Counselor: “I’m sorry, but sexual orientation is fixed from birth. You need to embrace who you are, not try to change.”

Teen #2: “I am a boy, but I feel like a girl and want to change my sex.”

Counselor: “That’s fine. Your gender is flexible.”

The Tyranny of Feelings

What we have in the first case is a young man who has feelings he wishes were different, and yet he is commanded to accept the dictates of nature, as expressed by those feelings.  He must be cowed into submission and forced to accept whatever his attractions dictate.

What we have in the second case is a young man who wants to change his sex. Strangely enough, in this case, he is not commanded to accept the dictates of nature. No one would be so intolerant to quote Lady Gaga to him: “You were born this way. Be who you are.” No… the feelings rule. Even when the chromosomes disagree.

It is baffling to me that a counselor can say a person’s attractions are fixed from birth and yet a person’s gender is flexible.

But that’s Disney doctrine taken to the extreme. Feelings rule. We live under the tyranny of our feelings; otherwise we’re living a lie.

Breaking the Tyranny of Your Feelings

Here’s where Christianity opposes the “follow your heart” mentality of much of the Western world.

  • We are told, not to love ourselves first, but to focus on loving God and neighbor.
  • We are told we are born sinners and need rescue from our fallenness, not affirmation of it.
  • We are being remade in the image of God, so that the ever-deepening discovery of His grace and goodness to us is the defining marker of our life, not our own self-discovery.
  • We live according to the declaration of acceptance pronounced over us through faith, not according to our own self-acceptance and the desire to fall into the good graces of others.
  • Leaning forward isn’t celebrating yourself as you are now; it’s embracing the vision of who God is making you to be.

Don’t Be True To Yourself

The truly courageous are those who crucify the self the world tells us to be true to. And then we are raised with Christ to become the person God always intended us to be.

As Gil, the retired pastor in Clear Winter Nights says:

“I know there are people who think I’m telling them not to be true to themselves. And they’re right. The Christian preacher tells people all day long, ‘Don’t be true to yourself. The self you’d be true to is rotten to the core.’ Authenticity isn’t accepting your sins. It’s admitting your sins and then being true to the person King Jesus has declared you to be.”