Someone Finally Said It: “Me Before You” And The Reality It Portrays

me before you

A few months ago, all my social media channels exploded. I’m connected to several outlets that work to support individuals affected by chronic illness or disability while educating the public about these unique circumstances. It didn’t take long for many of them to pick up stories about the book and now movie, Me Before You.

I wanted to add my voice. I’ve tried to write a few articles, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to finish any of them. I didn’t know why; not until I heard an advertisement for something, I’m not even sure what it was, that talked about the story from a perspective of normalcy. This is just another love story like all the others. Some would say it ends in a poetic and satisfying, even if not “happily ever after”, way.

It’s no secret (but: spoiler alert) that one of the main characters, a paralyzed man, ultimately chooses to end his life rather than live with his disability. The heroine begs him not to and vows to change his mind. He won’t. She succumbs to the seemingly inevitable.

The picture is painted: living with a disability is too much of a burden for the individual and for all the people around them. Even for those who commit to love unconditionally and are elevated as the most special and well-equipped people to “handle” the challenges of loving someone with an illness or disability.

I think that’s what bothered me. It’s a story that says love cannot withstand anything, and even when it seems it can, it doesn’t because living with a disability is just too hard for everyone involved.

Is it true? The 90% divorce rate for special needs families seems to say so. But it doesn’t have to be true. I know that. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time the last couple of years talking with and encouraging people who live with the fear that it is true, although many can’t even put the feelings into words. But now someone has finally said it out loud, put it on a screen for all to see, and the outcry is mostly coming from the disability community in hopes that someone will stand up and say alongside us that our lives are important.

You’re not too hard to love.
Your life has significance.
We want you here because you make the world beautiful.

Maybe the undertone, thanks to the heroine, conveys a glimpse of this message. But the final verdict is life is simply a choice to be here and if you cannot convince yourself in the long run people will want you more than be annoyed by your circumstances, the only right choice is to end your existence.

Will, the main character, sums it up when he declares: “I don’t want you to be tied to me, to my hospital appointments, to the restrictions on my life. I don’t want you to miss out on all the things someone else could give you. And, selfishly, I don’t want you to look at me one day and feel even the tiniest bit of regret or pity…”

Ending a life is portrayed as a heroic choice; an opportunity to free someone from the burden of yourself while taking control of your circumstances. But what happens when it’s those outside the disability community (the author, Hollywood) who write the words many people affected by an illness have thought at some point in their life? It’s perceived as confirmation of the fear that they are not lovable. It’s a carefully veiled lie, validating feelings of worthlessness by those with a disability and alluding to the possibility this is the way the rest of the world thinks.

I know the fear of being unlovable is something almost everyone has felt, no matter what their life looks like. I pray it’s a fear the Lord has already addressed in your life to expose the root of the lie. He has in my heart, and because of the grace and freedom I’ve experienced for myself, I cannot stand aside and let others speak this lie back into the hearts of people I care so deeply about.

I have a problem with the push to romanticize and normalize assisted suicide. Life and death was never a decision God placed in our hands and He has called us to value and protect all human life – in every stage, every circumstance, and every place on the earth.

But I also have a problem with pushing this romanticism within the context of the disabled community. Whether we realize it or not, Me Before You speaks candidly in a frightening way that reflects the mentality many areas of the world has towards those with a disability. It makes my heart fall over in disgrace that I live in a society where we would praise it as an example of “love” and “living boldly.”

From my perspective, it requires a lot more boldness to give and receive love selflessly and humbly than to cheapen life by saying it’s only worth living and people are only worth loving if nothing ever goes wrong.

Me Before You does reflect a piece of reality, but not Truth, and I’m not sure what to do with that. It addresses a topic I’ve been burdened by for years but have never been able to understand what I can do about it. It portrays perspectives and attitudes stemming from lies but I don’t know where to begin with exposing Light to them. It shows a side to circumstances that many don’t even realize is a battleground with life, marriage, and family at stake but I feel unqualified to be one that engages the fight.

Ultimately, it’s not our battle to win or lose – it’s the Lord’s. And He will always win.

So the only thing I can do is continue speaking and living out Truth where I see darkness. It’s overwhelming at times and I’m convinced I’ll spend every bit of my breath for the rest of my life reiterating your life matters, you are loved, and your presence is significant. Maybe that’s all any of us can do.

Maybe that’s what we should have been doing all along.

I don’t know how we got to this place – where instead of loving people no matter their circumstances, we tell them their lives do not matter and they’re too difficult to love. But something has to change. We have to change. I have to ask the Lord to continually hold my heart accountable to ensure there is not even a hint of this attitude in my words and actions towards anyone.

We have to love more like Christ. That is something I know we can and should do every day, with every person we encounter.

Because Christ’s love and God’s Truth is the only thing that can correct and heal the damage done by the lies of this world.

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10 thoughts on “Someone Finally Said It: “Me Before You” And The Reality It Portrays

  1. theblessedbackyard says:

    I’ve been out of the loop lately on movie releases, so I Googled a couple of things about this movie after reading your post. I think this is the part that bothers me the most: “I don’t want you to be tied to me, to my hospital appointments, to the restrictions on my life. I don’t want you to miss out on all the things someone else could give you. And, selfishly, I don’t want you to look at me one day and feel even the tiniest bit of regret or pity…”

    It’s one thing for someone to say they want euthanasia because of the extreme pain or because they’re bedridden with practically no quality of life. I don’t like it, and Bibilically I believe it’s wrong, but I also think it’s their choice. But if that quote is the reason he gives in the movie/book, then he’s making the choice for the woman and his pride is getting in the way. Just like it’s HIS choice how to live his life, it’s HER choice to decide what and who she wants. He said it himself, that he was making a selfish choice, so I guess the title of Me Before You is fitting. There is so much that saddens me about the plot of this movie.

    • MaryLynn says:

      Yes, you make a really good point. It seems there’s a lot of pride and selfishness behind the character. I know of SO many people with an illness or disability who have had similar thoughts in wondering if their circumstances are too difficult for anyone to care about them. It’s dangerous that ending a life is presented as an option in response to this thinking instead of processing those feelings and recognizing the lie behind it.

  2. Tabitha (@tl_tinywishes) says:

    I haven’t read the book, but after some research, I see that the main focus of the book is the topic of assisted suicide. Honestly, this is one of the first posts that I have enjoyed reading on the subject. I love your view and the fact that you are being very level headed about it. I have worked with various special needs individuals- by volunteering and working as a CNA- and it’s not unusual for the thought of just ending it all to enter their minds. But in the end, like in the movie, it’s ultimately someone’s choice- if they are an adult anyways. But I do love that the heroine of the movie goes to great lengths to show, tell, and ingrain in the mind of the disabled man that he is loved and he is wanted. BUT sometimes you can do all that, and in the end, we don’t understand how it is to be in another’s shoes. Especially in the shoes of an individual with such a challenged disability.

    -Tabitha
    http://www.ahundredtinywishes.com

  3. Tabitha Rice says:

    I haven’t read the book, but after some research, I see that the main focus of the book is the topic of assisted suicide. Honestly, this is one of the first posts that I have enjoyed reading on the subject. I love your view and the fact that you are being very level headed about it. I have worked with various special needs individuals- by volunteering and working as a CNA- and it’s not unusual for the thought of just ending it all to enter their minds. But in the end, like in the movie, it’s ultimately someone’s choice- if they are an adult anyways. But I do love that the heroine of the movie goes to great lengths to show, tell, and ingrain in the mind of the disabled man that he is loved and he is wanted. BUT sometimes you can do all that, and in the end, we don’t understand how it is to be in another’s shoes. Especially in the shoes of an individual with such a challenged disability.

    -Tabitha
    http://www.ahundredtinywishes.com

    • MaryLynn says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yes, everyone’s circumstances are different and personal. Ultimately, I hope people will understand they ARE loved and valuable, and they will reject any message that says otherwise!

  4. thatgirlkleia says:

    It’s a wonderful post. I have a friend who teaches children with special needs. She is very passionate about the kids, but she admits there are moments when her heart aches looking at the families who take care of them. She can see the worry and anxiety in their eyes, probably because she knows what’s going through these parents’ heads… the uncertainty of how the world will treat their kids, and or whether or not they’ll be able to find true love in a world where too many people judge. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • MaryLynn says:

      Thanks for sharing your story! It’s encouraging to hear about other people taking the time to understand the uniqueness of special needs circumstances.

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