human frailty


Sticking with the theme of Katharine Hepburn from this post last week, one of my favorite movies is Philadelphia Story. Go look it up, right now. Katharine Hepburn in a role literally written for her, Cary Grant in the height of his glory, Jimmy Stewart at the start of his, an incredible supporting cast, and some of the cleverest and best written lines of dialogue ever to grace the silver screen. One of my favorites is this one:

You’ll never be a first class human being or a first class woman until you’ve learned to have some regard for human frailty.

This is Cary Grant to Katharine Hepburn, on the eve of her wedding to a man who worships her, rather than loves her, as Grant does. Ugh, y’all, it’s one of my all-time favorites for a reason. The whole point of the movie is that perfection does not equate happiness, and imperfection does not equate malice. It’s an hour and 52 minutes you won’t regret, fam.

I could go on, so I’ll stop before I annoy even myself.

It’s a weird thought, having any sort regard for human frailty. To have grace with others and to expect each person is just doing their best. To treat each person you meet as someone who is doing their best to put the shards of their life together in a way that won’t cut down anyone else or themselves. And to not see people’s weaknesses as things that ought to be airbrushed over, or hidden behind a blanket scarf or some cat eye sunglasses.  But that those weaknesses out to be appreciated–not because flaws are to be celebrated or encouraged (they’re not) but because the baring of said flaws is a sign of strength, and an attempt at self-improvement. It moves beyond a culture of #nojudgment, and into a culture of encouragement and empathy.

Because it’s late and I’m feeling introspective, what if we directed that grace inwards? What if you looked at a picture of yourself and din’t cringe? Didn’t immediately think of everything you’d done wrong in it? Eyebrows on too thick, foundation too thin; hair too curly, back too straight. I had a really hard time with these pictures; every single one of them seemed to me like the most awful picture ever taken. Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is to use your outside voice on yourself. Let me explain: would you ever, in a million years, say any of the awful things you’ve said in the mirror to another person? How livid would you be, if someone said those things to your best friend? You wouldn’t stand for it. And yet you subject yourself to it every day? Just something to think about…

It’s a lot, I know, and from a black and white movie about an heiress choosing which of three men she really ought to marry. But it’s late, and my London Fog is cold and I just really have an appreciation for Cary Grant and screenwriters that drop gems like this into the middle of a comedy. And really, for human frailty, as told by Cary Grant. 

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