I’ve always loved Charles Dicken’s holiday classic A Christmas Carol. The dual message that kindness, love, and friendship are the only true source of happiness and that anyone and everyone can change and be redeemed, are heartwarming and inspiring.
Until this year I had never read the full text of the story. Instead, I watched the Disney’ version, where Mickey Mouse plays the role of Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s really well done, and I enjoy watching it each year with my kids.
The version I read this year was the original text, as written by Charles Dickens, and included illustrations by P.J. Lynch. The artwork was well done, and I’ve included some of it here.
Now, having read the full text as Dicken’s wrote it, I can say that it is definitely worth reading. A good number of Dicken’s scenes and lines are unfortunately not included in either the Disney version nor the Muppets movie adaptation (also a good one).
I believe that the messages we glean from A Christmas Carol are the types of principles we should be intentionally trying to live.
As the holiday season can be very busy, and I’m sure you have enough on your plate, I’ve decided to share with you some of my favorite lines from the book. I hope that these will help inspire you to love and serve others and put first things first.
Jacob Marley’s First Visit
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world – Oh, woe is me! – and witness what it cannot share, but might shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
Again, the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why.”
I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
It’s funny how we truly do create our own versions of bondage. The things we make most important in life are the things that we carry with us always – most often in our minds, but at times also in our physical lives.
Imagine if we always put relationships first, the ones that are most important. We would always be tethered with love and chained down with friendship. What a burden to bear.
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, “wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Once again, where do we put our life’s work? Do we focus too much on our education, careers, prestige, wealth, and power?
What we should really be concerned with is those around us. How do we help others? How can we serve? How can we lighten someone else’s burdens?
“Oh! Captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet, such was I! Oh! Such was I!”
Life is too short to spend it on the things you weren’t sent here to do. Find the things you’re passionate about, the things that will give you fulfillment, and spend your time there. That’s the whole point of living intentionally after all.
“The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.”
If we’re not careful, if we neglect the relationships we do have, the day may come when we no longer have a meaningful influence on them. We should cherish the relationships we have and be there for the people who need us.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
“It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
Are we aware of how much power we have to bring happiness to others? A kind word or deed goes a long way to making someone’s day that much brighter.
In like manner, we have the ability to ruin a perfectly good day. Being intentional about our words and actions includes being careful of the effect they have on others.
“This is the evil-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”
“You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your noble aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”
Scrooge actually makes a valid point here, but he’s missing part of the story. It’s noble to provide for yourself and your family, but those who take this responsibility to the extreme often suffer a great loss of happiness in their lives.
Doing enough and having enough are in themselves enough. The World’s expectations of us are a poor target to aim for, as it will always be moving and will never provide satisfaction.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
“But the didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while, they played forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
It’s good to have a little fun every now and then.
“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degrees, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”
In a way, the purpose of living intentionally is to drive out ignorance from your thoughts and actions. To live with the full knowledge of the decisions you make, and to accept the consequences.
Ignorance can be a comfortable place to be, but it’s seldom the path to enduring satisfaction.
The Ghost of Christmas Future
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”
It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is a precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”
By this point in the story, Scrooge has already become a different man. He demonstrated courage here, the courage to see and hear things that are hard for him to take.
Being willing to accept feedback with an open mind is critical to self-development and growth. It’s not easy, but its worth it.
“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these shadows of things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
Still, the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the course be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
Scrooge is beginning to see that he must change and change drastically if he is to experience a happy life for the remainder of his days. He makes a good point though – the outcome of our lives depends on the course we take.
What course are we on? What changes do we need to make to arrive at our desired destination?
“He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and from, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness.”
It’s funny how much joy we can experience when we see the value in the things around us. The things we have. The friends and family we have. The experiences we go through.
All things can bring us happiness if we let them.
“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that us these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.”
Often times, when we make changes for the good, others will be doubtful of our change or uncomfortable with it all together. These are poor reasons for us to fear change.
Anyone who is willing to make disparaging remarks about your improvement is someone who deserves much less of your time or mental attention.
Seek out those who will be happy for your improved state, and be happy for theirs in return.
The laughter of others is far less important than the laughter in our own hearts.
Again, I think that it is worth reading the full text of A Christmas Carol, but if you don’t have the time, I hope this was enjoyable for you. If it was, please comment below and share with your friends and family.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.