3 Valuable Lessons from Inside Out 2

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 27, 2024
3 Valuable Lessons from Inside Out 2

As someone who has spent the last decade running from her feelings, I found the storyline convicting and comforting. I also sensed three simple lessons emerge...

In between the velvet seats of Danbarry Theater room six, you might still be able to find the tear drop stains I left behind. Only Disney movies can truly touch a part of my heart to evoke such an emotional reaction during a film. My husband, who also shed a few tears during the movie, is obliged to agree.

The 1 hour and 36-minute film tugs on the heartstrings of every emotion. As someone who has spent the last decade running from her feelings, I found the storyline convicting and comforting. I also sensed three simple lessons emerge:

1. All emotions are valuable.

2. All our memories make up who we are.

3. Our emotions aren’t the enemy. 

Even if you haven’t seen the first or second movie, I encourage you to keep reading. God gave us emotions for a reason, and I believe this blockbuster hit touches on those bases.

1. All Emotions Are Valuable 

Inside Out 1 introduces Riley to Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but Inside Out 2 welcomes puberty, bringing a whole new crew of emotions to overload the system: Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy, and Ennui (Boredom).

As Riley begins to navigate life as a teenager, it’s evident her body and mind are changing. Her clothes no longer fit, she’s ravenous all the time, and she's just a tad bit moody. After she's excited to receive a special invite to hockey camp, she’s disheartened to learn that her friends will be attending a different school in the fall—not just any year, but their first official year of high school. 

Without spoiling the plot, Joy has a conversation with her crew about helping Riley adjust. She tosses the bad or unpleasant emotional moments and takes the rest down to Riley’s tree of core values. These emotions and memories create a tree of values that Riley clings to in times of distress. Beliefs such as I’m kind or I’m a good person top the list. 

When Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy, and Ennui (Boredom) threaten to take over as the new emotional crew, we as the audience can see that Riley needs all of her emotions because all emotions are valuable. 

As Christians, there’s a huge misconception that feelings are bad. Especially emotions like anger, worry, or fear. Emotions should not dominate our lives or control us. However, they also shouldn’t be avoided or repressed. We all need emotional regularity to live and process healthily.

Anger, in and of itself, for example, is not a sin. Jesus was righteously angry when He flipped over tables. It’s what we do with that anger, or how we respond to it, that can be sinful (Matthew 21:12-17; Ephesians 4:26). 

Ecclesiastes reminds us that there’s a time to weep and a time to rejoice (Ecclesiastes 3:4). 

Many of the Fruits of the Spirit are emotions: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23). In fact, learning to control those emotions regularly is, indeed, self-control. 

Jessica Hottle says it this way: “When you give yourself permission to move through and experience the emotion as it’s happening without shoving it down or pretending it doesn’t exist, it helps release it without storing it.”

This is why Joy’s original plan to discard all the bad emotions was a flawed design. 

With Christ, we can process and feel every emotion that comes our way. And we should take the time to do this! This doesn’t mean we use these emotions to hurt others or sin. It means we take the time to feel and process with our Creator, as He helps us understand what we’re feeling. Emotional processing is healthy. Emotional bypassing is not.

2. All Our Memories Make Up Who We Are

Near the end of the movie, Joy is having a conversation with Anxiety. Anxiety likes to take control. A lot. Can you relate? I know I sure did. 

"I was only trying to help," Anxiety whispered. 

"I know," replied Joy. 

"But we don't get to choose who she is," Joy added.

"You're right," Anxiety nodded. 

Good, bad, ugly, pretty, happy, and sad, we need all our memories just like we need all our emotions. Why? Together, and combined with our emotions, they encompass who we are. Over time, this combination of memories and emotions makes up pieces of what we believe and, essentially, our identity. 

Our emotions help create our core beliefs (what we believe about life and ourselves)—even the bad ones. This is all the more reason as a Christian why it's important to process these events and feelings as they come. We must know who we are in Christ first before we let emotions overtake us. 

Don't believe me? Watch Inside Out! You'll see how quickly emotions fire first in any given situation without thinking. Anger? Check! Anxiety? Double Check! Fear? Quadruple Check! You can also check your Bible! There's a reason James 1:19 reminds us to be quick to listen and slow to be angry. Why? Because we're really good at getting angry without listening. 

The Biblical Counseling Coalition defines processing our emotions this way:

"God designed us so that our emotions submit to and respond to our beliefs and convictions. What we believe—about God and life—provides the direction we choose to pursue—and directs our experiential/emotional response to our world."

As followers of Jesus, we are called to understand the Scriptures (what we believe; Romans 12:1-2) about God and life (Psalm 42:1-2). If we continually pursue Christ, He will provide direction for our next steps (Joshua 24:15), including our emotional reactions and responses in this world (Ephesians 4:17-19).

We may not be able to control the events that happen to us, the memories we store along the way, or even the physical and mental tragedies we encounter. But with Christ within us, we can learn how to process and respond to them, not allowing them to define who we are. Meanwhile, Christ within those emotions, reveals purpose and meaning beyond ourselves, found only in Him

3. Our Emotions Aren’t the Enemy

At the end of the day, I want you to know that no matter how emotional or emotionless you might be, your emotions aren't the enemy. As Riley learns that each of her emotions has a place in her life, she also realizes that taking the time to process and feel each is part of the process. Emotions come with this journey called life. What an ugly place the world would be if we felt nothing at all.

I've heard it said that it's often a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply (David Jones). The older I get, the more I'm convinced it's a blessing. Nothing feels good or pleasant about crying in the moment. But when we hold our feelings back and prevent ourselves from feeling anything at all, I believe we can miss out on life's greatest moments. 

It's in the emotions that I feel closer to my Creator. It's in the tears that I reach out for Him all the more. It's in sadness that I realize there's got to be something more than life on this temporary Earth. It's in the joy that I can't believe greater joy awaits me in a heavenly home of perfection. 

Faith isn't based on feeling, but feeling the emotions God has given me to feel directs me back to Him. Our lives are richer and fuller when we realize emotions aren't the enemy. We don't rely on emotions to feel or interact with Christ. Faith requires obedience even when we aren't "feeling." But we can rejoice in the gift of feeling so deeply when we do. 

Every emotion is a gift from God. It's learning to process and feel those emotions that are difficult for most of us. Do you struggle to feel your emotions? How can you use your feelings to lead you back to your Creator?

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/skynesher

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.