Billy Elliot is the brilliant cinematic saga of an 11-year-old British boy who wants to become a classical ballet dancer. Billy’s plight is especially challenging because he lives in a very macho home and town where men are expected to be manly men, and his family wants him to be a boxer. Billy’s father and older brother, both manly men, find his dance aspirations utterly abhorrent, for they equate them with being a sissy or homosexual. As a result, they do everything they can to squash Billy’s vision and turn him into a real boy.

But Billy’s ambitions are stronger than his family’s objections, and he pursues his dream in spite of their opposition. Eventually Billy gains a shot at being accepted to a prestigious dance academy, which would offer him a hope of turning his dream into a real career. At first Billy’s family dismisses the notion as utterly preposterous, but over time they realize that he is sincere, and they grow to support him in his quest. In the process, his father and brother come to heal their deep-seated animosity toward each other. Ultimately, after a great deal of conflict and torment, the family is united in their efforts to get Billy into the dance program.

The drama leads to a crucial scene in which Billy receives the long-awaited letter from the dance academy, informing him as to whether or not he has been accepted. The movie’s director does a remarkable job building and milking the tension around opening the letter; I was on the edge of my seat, nearly biting my fingernails waiting to find out if Billy had gotten in.

So as not to spoil the movie for you, I will not tell you the ending. But I will tell you what I felt as I waited to learn what the letter said: it didn’t matter. Whether or not Billy was accepted to the dance school was less important than what had happened to him and his family in the process of his application. As he held fast to his ideals in the face of massive resistance, he developed immense soul strength. At the same time, his family experienced the healing of a lifetime as they learned to support him and resolve the deep differences they had etched over many years. The invaluable life lessons they all learned, far outshined whether or not he was accepted to the academy. No matter what the letter said, they all triumphed, and a happy ending was assured.

It is easy to be seduced by the idea that how things turn out is more important than what happens in the process. Manifestations, as desirable as they are, are by-products of the soul qualities that are developed in quest of the goal. The real question is not “How did it turn out?” The question is, “What happened to your spirit as you journeyed?”

I studied with a healer who told me that two of his most profound healings occurred with people who passed on soon afterward. “How could that be?” I asked him. He explained, “These people experienced a spiritual healing; their souls came to peace before they passed. Yes, it is important to try to heal the body, but it is more important to heal the spirit.”

In my seminars I often work with people who are struggling with having been divorced. Many talk about the “failure” of their marriage. I asked one fellow, “How long were you married?”

“Twenty years,” he answered.

“And were you happy most of that time?” I asked.

“Yes, we had a good marriage for many of those years. It was just during the last few years that our relationship unraveled.”

“Then why discount the gifts of those good years just because it didn’t last forever?” I asked him.

Just because a marriage (or anything) ends, doesn’t mean it failed. Ideally, of course, we would like a marriage to last for a lifetime. But when it doesn’t, we dishonor the relationship by casting an aura of failure over all of it. If you loved, learned, and grew during the time you were together, there was real success. The relationship is a failure only if you learned nothing and you go on to repeat the same mistakes. And even if you do, all of your experience is contributing to ultimate learning, so it is all part of your soul’s growth.

I find it interesting that, in contrast to other life adventures, we make separate rules of judgment about marriage and relationships. If you stay in a job or a home or a friendship for 10 or 20 years, and then you resign, move, or grow apart, you don’t say, “My job (or home or friendship) failed.” You acknowledge that the experience served an important purpose during the time you were in it. Then, when it no longer is a source of life and joy, you acknowledge that you have grown, changed, or moved on, you appreciate its gifts, and release it with love. When it comes to marriage, however, we are taught that we have failed unless we have stayed together for a lifetime. This seems rather harsh to me.

Let’s begin to celebrate our lives as an adventure in dynamic unfoldment. Of course we want it to turn out in the way we would like, but when it doesn’t, there are many other gifts available, gifts often far more meaningful than grabbing the brass ring. The real brass ring is the joy of the journey. Just ask Billy.

By Alan Cohen


  • Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the best-selling Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It, the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life and his newest is the prosperity guide Relax into Wealth.

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