5 Quotes That Remind Us "It's a Wonderful Life"

Decade after decade, we add more classic holiday films to the list. Every so often, there’s one that makes you stop and think. If you’re not familiar with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the film is set in the 1940’s in upstate New York and follows George Bailey’s life from early childhood through high school and into the peaks and valleys of adulthood, marriage, business, and parenting.

Overwhelmed by family obligations and a sense of responsibility toward his community, feels tied down to a company he never had an interest in working for, and a life he never wanted to live. His impassioned travel plans are severed after his father passes, and George experiences several personal and financial hardships alongside the pressures of everyday life. As he ages, he sees his youth, dreams, and opportunities pass him by.

George’s frustrations, guilt, and sadness eventually intersect and overcome him and he considers ending it all on a snowy Christmas evening. There he is met by his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him what life would have been like if he indeed had never been born. The lessons in this classic are impactful and still just as relevant many decades later. Read on for five “It’s a Wonderful Life” quotes that remind us what the holiday season, and life, is really all about.

"Youth is Wasted on the Wrong People"

This scene finds young George Bailey flirting with a girl he’s had a lifelong dalliance with. A man on the porch inquires, “Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death?” George answers, “You want me to kiss her, huh?” and the old man responds, “Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people.”

The man is attempting to dispense the wisdom that comes alongside age, likely believing that he would put youth to better use than young people actually do. What youth is can vary, depending on context, but younger people are often viewed with relative freedom from responsibility or physical disabilities. This scene encourages us to unabashedly take chances in life, particularly while we’re young, while simultaneously encouraging us to forever harbor our youthful spark and magical way that younger people often see the world.

"Remember, George: No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends"

Near the end of the film, Clarence the angel gently reminds George, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.” George feels like an overwhelming failure at the end of his rope. The causes: his failing business and, although his family loves him dearly, a sense of defeat at home. George even feels a sense of failure in his plans to see the world. Clarence nudges George to remember the importance and impact of the several friendships that we see of his throughout the film.

At holiday gatherings you’ll inevitably hear the accomplishments and accolades of your extended family and friends. Try your hardest not to compare yourself to anyone else and to focus on the relationships you've developed over the years, as the true measure of a life cannot be compared statistically. If George Bailey’s realization in “It’s A Wonderful Life” can teach us anything, it’s that if you have surrounded yourself with good friends and family, you should consider yourself a resounding success. As Clarence indicates, relationships are invaluable, particularly around the holidays.

"All You Take With You is That Which You've Given Away"

There are many moments throughout the film in which we see that true worth is measured in the currency of friendship and family as opposed to monetary amounts. This line, uttered by Pa Bailey, deeply reflects that. George’s father was known to be a respectable and kind man of strong morals and ethics. He was a family man, and a businessman who refused to sell out for any amount of money. When he says “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away,” this important sentiment is again woven into the story.

This line may also be seen in the context of the afterlife. We cannot take the fortune or fame or careers or clothing with us when we depart from this earth. But hopefully, we have bestowed upon others our values, our positive attitudes, our ideals, and our legacy. This theme is again shared when George and Mary help a family move into their new home and offer three small gifts. George says, “Bread, so that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever. True worth and the value of life is measured by friendship, family, and one’s character.

"To My Brother, George—The Richest Man in Town!"

In this moment, as George’s younger brother, Harry raises his glass to toast his older brother in one of the film’s final scenes, he speaks again to the theme of wealth and how it is measured. George Bailey is by no means the most financially well-off man in town—but his life is full of riches. Though the holidays can feel commercial and materialistic, it’s important to take stock of what truly matters—family, friends, and the relationships you’ve built over the years. No matter what our bank accounts say, we each have the opportunity to be rich.

"You See, George, You Really Had a Wonderful Life..."

Yet another astute remark from Clarence, ostensibly a rather insightful guardian angel, comes when he points out, “You see George, you really had a wonderful life.” He continues, “Do you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?” This comes just after George considered ending it all out of deep frustration and shame. The end of a long year and the holidays in particular often prove to be a stressful time period for anyone. But to that end, the holidays are a perfect time to regroup and reflect on just how wonderful life truly is. Try to remember: don’t sweat the small stuff and cherish the wonderful elements are your life, particularly during the holiday season.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a timeless and perfectly simplistic movie that’s lessons resonate with us, particularly around the holidays, even decades later. We learn from the film to cherish friendships and relationships, value experiences, be a person of good moral character, and to always seek the wonder and magic in everyday life.

Which "It's a Wonderful Life" quote is your favorite? Do you have any additional favorite moments from the film? Let us know in the comments below!


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