Most of the film is devoted to showing us these things about George’s life. From the deafness he suffers in one ear—physical disability—to having to miss out on college—loss of opportunity—to taking a job he despises at the building and loan—professional dissatisfaction and loss of dreams—to personally backing his clients in time of need—financial hardship—to moving into a money-pit house he hates—self-sacrifice for his wife… Every step of George Bailey’s path is one of virtuous self-denial. Sometimes he takes these steps with great reluctance, but he takes them because his conscience won’t allow him to do otherwise. He takes them because he must not allow the avaricious Mr. Potter to take over Bedford Falls, and, for whatever reason, he is the one person positioned to stop Mr. Potter. It’s a role George didn’t ask for, a role he never wanted, and a role he could have walked away from at any time if he’d ever chosen to be true to himself, but he doesn’t. George Bailey gives everything he has for his community, and even then, it demands more. It seems to demand his very life.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org