“It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.”
You probably know the story. Many of us can recite much of the poem. And I know I, for one, eagerly flip through my cable program guide every year at this time looking for it. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” A true holiday classic—and it holds truth even if you don’t celebrate Christmas.
For that brief half hour, I’m transported back to more innocent times. I’m curled up in a granny-square afghan in our den wearing my Winnie-the-Pooh onesie. My brothers equally giddy and equally clad in onseies. Our young mother bringing a fresh bowl of steaming Jiffy-Pop. I can almost feel what it was like to be six years old…
But let’s not be fooled. While the Grinch has long been a crowd pleaser with kiddies, the story is equally intended for us adults. And for me, for a middle-aged guy who’s spent the better part of his adulthood striving to gain insight (often painfully, sometimes shamefully) into my intimate relationship with Anger, my inner Grinch has become my friend.
“But I think that the most likely reason of all,
may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
Personally, I love my inner Grinch. Or, I’ve grown to love him. And it ain’t been easy! You see, my inner Grinch is a manifestation of my Anger, covering for Insecurity, covering for Fear. Yeah, there’re lots of layers under that ugly green façade. My inner Grinch is my dark side, rooted in a distant past and clumsily looking for validation in the present. Don’t get me wrong, I can count many joyful, creative moments throughout my life so far. But, like everyone, I can also count my share of dark, pained moments when my inner Grinch came out into the world: lashing out unkindly at a fellow manager, making sharp comments to my devoted assistant, writing curt emails to my thoughtful collaborator. Was my head not screwed on properly? Were my shoes too tight? Was my heart a few sizes too small? Why, exactly, does my inner Grinch show up?
In the cartoon we discover the cause of the Grinch’s anti-social rampage down the mountain was that his heart had somehow shrunken. But me? Those closest to me will tell you that I’ve got a big giant, mushy, heart. No, my inner Grinch has never manifested in my life due to a lack of heart. My inner Grinch is born of that unholy triumvirate, Anger-Insecurity-Fear.
Sound at all familiar?
“The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter,
who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.”
Still, I love my inner Grinch today because I’ve come to understand him and let myself learn from him. Am I glad when he shows up? Well, initially, no. My Grinch never translates into “Me-At-My-Best.” When he does show up, it’s a safe bet to assume an apology to someone will soon follow. But these days he usually teaches me, because I’ve developed the discipline to learn from him when my weakness has allowed him to appear on the scene.
My inner Grinch points me the way toward graciousness. I’ve had lots of practice. As fast as my inner Grinch appears, my truer Self now demonstrates dexterity at a cosmic game of Whack-a-Mole, hitting my Grinch over the head with a sense of gratitude for having warned me about straying too far from the path of kindness, patience, and forgiveness.
I love my inner Grinch because he shows me that while I inevitably fall prey to my human flaws, I will always possess the strength and skills to bounce back and call upon the better parts of myself.
“And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,
that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”
Can we have joy without suffering? Can we feel the light without passing through darkness? Can we find grace without knowing how harm is done?
We all harbor an inner Grinch. It’s inevitable. But can we learn from our dark side? Can we grow to love it? It’s a part of us that we may wish away. But would we be better served to accept our inner Grinch as our teacher?
Love your Grinch.
–Written by Daniel Doucette