Collateral Beauty

May 7, 2017

I watched a movie recently called Collateral Beauty. The film focuses on the life of Howard, played by Will Smith. Howard is struggling, because he recently lost his daughter to a rare form of cancer. He is checked out on life, and his friends try to bring him back.

There was one particular line in the movie that stuck with me. It involved a flashback—Howard’s wife Madeline was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital, struggling to cope with the fact that her daughter was dying. An old woman sat down next to her, and asked her who she was losing. After Madeline explained she was losing her daughter, the old woman encouraged her to “pay attention to the collateral beauty.”

Collateral beauty. It’s not a common phrase, but you are probably familiar with the phrase “collateral damage.” Collateral damage refers to deaths, injuries, or other damage that is inflicted on an unintended target. By referring to collateral beauty, the old woman was using this concept in a new way. She recognized that the death of a child is an unimaginable tragedy, but encouraged Madeline to be on the lookout for the unintended beauty that might come along the way.

Sometimes I have a tough time wrapping my mind around a concept like this. How could anything beautiful come from something so tragic? Later in the film, however, Madeline shares with Howard some of the beauty she has encountered since the death of their child. For example, she experienced a renewed sense of spirituality, as well as a deep connection with others who were struggling with loss.

I like the idea of collateral beauty because it doesn’t discount one’s pain and heartache. It acknowledges difficulty and struggle wholeheartedly, AND it recognizes the possibility of the beauty and good that can be interwoven into one’s tragedy.

Discussion: What do you think of the idea of Collateral Beauty? Have there been times in your life when you have experienced pain and heartache, yet have also noticed something beautiful in the mix of the struggle?


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