Abuela the Challenger
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Welcome to Summer at Catalyst! This summer, we’re exploring the movie Encanto, meeting each member of La Familia Madrigal as a guide to spiritual transformation. We have to begin with the Matriarch – Abuela herself.
When we meet the family, we’re told, “Let’s be clear, Abuela runs the show. She led us here so many years ago.” Abuela tells us that the family, “Swears to always help those around us” through the mystical force that gives each member of the family a special ability.
Later in the film, we learn that this force came to be through the sacrifice of Abuela’s husband, who gave his life when the family was fleeing soldiers. These refugees found refuge because of Abuelo’s sacrifice, and ever since then, Abuela has made it her sacred mission to protect la familia’s magic and the community that has flourished because of their work.
But when the magic begins to fail, Abuela turns ugly. Her granddaughter Mirabelle’s work to find the cause of the magic’s failure disrupts many of the family’s unspoken rules – like she keeps talking about Bruno! As the house begins to crumble around them, Abuela explodes at Mirabelle, blaming her for the failure of the magic and for hurting the family.
It’s a brutal, ugly scene – in large part because we’ve seen that Mirabelle is right. Abuela’s drive to preserve the magic and protect her family has become oppressive and abusive.
Do you know someone like that? Someone who deep down has a heart of gold but has a crusty, tough exterior? Someone who’s abrasive and rough? Sure, they have their reasons, but that hardly matters when you’re on the receiving end.
At their best, people like Abuela are a powerful force for justice. They stand up for the most vulnerable and speak truth to power. But they can also steamroll over people. It’s hard to be on the other side of someone like Abuela.
If you’re a challenger like Abuela is, what does it look like for you to be healthy and whole? How do you learn to wield your anger for good? And what about the rest of us, those who live with challengers? How do we love them well? How do we help them flourish?