Our Favorite Lessons From It’s a Wonderful Life 🔔 👼

It's a Wonderful Life lessons
Source: Wikimedia

Like so many of you, I make it a point to watch certain holiday films each and every year.

After all, it just wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t spend it with Kevin McAllister, Clark Griswold, and — of course — Cousin Eddie.

But there’s one film that tops my list for a thousand different reasons and makes me smile every time I hear a bell ring.

We’re taking a look at our favorite lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life and what makes Frank Capra’s beloved film one of the greatest Christmas stories of all time.

1. Money doesn’t buy happiness.

Source: The Seneca Falls It’s A Wonderful Life Museum

“I wish I had a million dollars…. Hot dog!”

Mr. Potter may have had all the money, but George Bailey had all the heart.

Just like his father, George couldn’t turn people away when they came to the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan. But Mr. Potter looked at the town’s residents as nothing more than cattle.

Money may buy you material things, but it can’t buy you true friends. In the end, George proved that there are other riches to be had in this life — a lesson that Mr. Potter never seemed to grasp.

2. The little things are the big things.

Source: Flavorwire

“You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.”

George adored his father, but he didn’t necessarily long to follow in his footsteps. At dinner, he makes it clear that he wants to do great things rather than being stuck in a “shabby little office” like his dad.

When we compare our realities with celebrities or those we deem “successful,” we can feel as if our own contributions aren’t as impressive.

George would eventually come to realize the significance of his father’s job by ending up in the same office himself.

3. Dads know best.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

“Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy.”

When Mr. Gower mistakenly sends George off with poisoned pills, George doesn’t know how to handle the situation.

And then he sees a sign on the wall that reads “Ask Dad… he knows.”

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those rare films that places an equal emphasis on the importance of our mothers and our fathers.

George looks up to his dad so much, and this relationship is a catalyst for his eventual battle with Potter.

4. Best laid plans often go awry.

Source: Gentlemint

“Mary, I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and the next day and next year and the year after that. I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet, and I’m going to see the world!”

George is ambitious, and he can’t wait to leave his hometown of Bedford Falls to go out and do something big…  something important.

A series of events forces George to put his dreams on the back burner until they’re eventually all but lost. Planning for tomorrow sounds good in theory, but life has a way of throwing us all curveballs.

Fortunately, some of the greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

5. All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.

Source: bainrow

“Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”

This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie, and it always gets me a little teary-eyed. George has just lost his father, and Mr. Potter kicks him while he’s down by making a motion to dissolve the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan.

George is defeated until Mr. Potter attacks his father’s character, which prompts George to make the above speech. Chills… every time.

But there’s another scene that you may have missed.

When George is forced to forego his honeymoon in order to calm an angry mob at the Building & Loan, there’s a moment when he stops to look at his father’s picture hanging on the wall. Below his dad’s portrait is a plaque that reads, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

George and Mary give the crowd their honeymoon money just moments later, and this selfless act comes back to them in the end.

6. No man is a failure who has friends.

Source: Centsational Style

“A toast to my big brother, George: The richest man in town.”

One minute, George is a man facing financial ruin. The next, his friends show up to prove that there are more good people in this world than there are bad.

George may have lost sight of his value, but his friends never did.

7. Each person touches so many lives.

Source: Classic Movie Hub

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

One of the greatest lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life is found in George’s darkest moment of despair. Clarence lets George see what life in Bedford Falls would have looked like had he never been born… and this alternate reality is a grim one indeed.

George had viewed his life as insignificant, but he quickly realized just how big of a role he played in the grand scheme of things.

8. Life really is wonderful.

Source: IMDb

“You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

There are so many lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life, but it’s main message is right there in its title. Life really is wonderful, and that’s something worth remembering this holiday season and every day of the year.

What are your favorite lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life? Keep the conversation going in comments!

Lesley Sheridan is a high-maintenance fashion, beauty and lifestyle writer who thinks she’s low-maintenance. (Yes, she stole that line from When Harry Met Sally.) In addition to writing for The Local Lifestyle, her work regularly appears on Zenni Optical and Slickdeals. Make her day by sending her a tweet.

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    1. Penelope, thank you so much for your kind words! I agree with you 100% — everyone should watch this film once a year. It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me without it! Happy holidays to you and yours! <3