6 Life Lessons From ‘The Lion King’ That Still Roar 30 Years Later

In June 1994, The Lion King roared its way into theaters and delivered life-changing lessons to the audience.

Thirty years ago, Disney’s The Lion King ripped out our hearts and put them in a blender. Children (and parents) remain haunted by the cute lion cub Simba bawling his eyes out and nudging his father, Mufasa, to get up, when everyone knew the great lion was done for. Despite the ugly tears and the unforgettable music that’s animation’s version of Creed’s Human Clay (because it’s the greatest album of all time, duh), The Lion King deserves its place in cinema’s hall of fame for the life lessons it taught us. Since the world sucks right now, it’s as good a time as any to revisit the classic movie and all its sage advice.

Respect everyone

Mufasa and the lions sit at the top of the food chain, but the wise king imparts a valuable lesson to young Simba. “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance,” he says. “As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” He sums it up by explaining it’s the circle of life – an ecosystem where every element coexists and plays a crucial role in keeping it all together. The lion ain’t lyin’ either.

Too often, people treat others who they deem to be beneath them inferiorly, or only suck up to those who could provide them a stepping stone. Instead, it should be about applying a baseline of respect to every person one encounters on this wild and wacky journey as a traveling meatsack. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to navigate life on this spinning rock in space, so why make it more difficult than it needs to be?

You’re never alone

Losing a loved one hurts. It burns in every fiber of the soul, and the feeling never goes away entirely. However, that doesn’t mean the person vanishes from the mind. When Rafiki tells Simba to look in the water to find his father, Simba does so but says it’s only his reflection. Rafiki reminds him, though: “He lives in you.” This proves to be an important reminder that the memories of a special someone never fade; they’re always there and a thought away.

Tied to this is the fact that there will always be other people ready to help and hold our hands through the darkest times. No matter how alone or isolated we feel, every single one of us matters and there’s someone out there who cares for us. Our own personal Rafiki or Nala, so to speak.

Family doesn’t have to be blood

When Simba runs away from the Pride Lands, he meets Timon and Pumbaa, who quickly become his best friends. However, they’re more than pals; they’re family. The smaller animals help Simba when he decides to reclaim his throne, even though there’s the real risk they could get eaten by the hyenas. They don’t owe Simba a thing here, since they effectively raised and took care of him for years – yet, they do so out of a sense of brotherhood for him.

Think about it this way: Knowing how lions breed, Simba probably has a bunch of other brothers and sisters hanging about Pride Rock, but they never ventured out to look for him – not even once. Instead, they believed Scar’s lies, and he appears to be about as trustworthy as a politician on a campaign trail. It’s Simba’s makeshift family who steps up when it matters most, and that’s something a lot of us can relate to. It isn’t always blood who supports blood, but it’s the people who become family along the way.

Don’t forget to have a good time

Not only do Timon and Pumbaa provide Simba with a home, but they also instill the principle of “Hakuna matata” in him, which means “no worries” or “no troubles.” It might seem impossible to achieve in life, especially with the escalating cost of living and world leaders two steps shy of instigating nuclear warfare; however, it’s a mindset that everyone should strive toward. After all, life is short, so why not dig it and embrace its best offerings?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Simba’s time with Timon and Pumbaa is rife with extraordinary memories and belly-aching laughs. They played, indulged in all the finer insects on offer, and slept under the stars every evening. These are the happy moments he’ll tell his children about one day as he cherishes all the fun he had. Sure, acknowledge and be honest about the bad times, but don’t forget to appreciate the good as it comes around every so often.

Forgive yourself

Scar deceives Simba into believing he killed Mufasa. Even though Simba knows he didn’t trample all over his father or sink his claws into his paws, he feels indirectly responsible for what happened. It’s understandable, as guilt proves to be a natural reaction toward death and the heart tries to bargain with the mind. It takes Simba a long time, and a conversation with his father’s spirit, but he finally learns to forgive himself – for Mufasa’s death and running away. When this happens, he frees himself from the pain, and readies himself to return and claim his birthright.

Similarly, Simba’s lesson strikes a cord with everyone watching. Whether a painful event is self-created or merely an unlucky tragedy, it’s crucial to let go of the guilt eating up the soul and to forgive oneself. If airports charge for baggage, why lug it around for free throughout your entire life, right?

The hyenas will turn on everyone

Hyenas are opportunistic animals – and in The Lion King, they align themselves with Scar, as he promises them the chance to scavenge and hunt throughout the Pride Lands. In the end, though, the hyenas turn on Scar and tear him apart. So, what’s the lesson here? Hyenas can’t be trusted.

In life, the proverbial hyenas are everywhere. They’re the friends or family who only show up when they need something, or realize something is on offer. Here’s the thing, though: They’re only there when it suits them. Inevitably, they will move on to the better offer or find another sucker to mooch off. Consequently, it’s best to keep a close eye on the critters and to not trust them. Throw a bone at them and run in the other direction. Let them hang out with the Scars of the world; they deserve each other.

About the author

Sergio Pereira

Sergio is an entertainment journalist who has written about movies, television, video games, and comic books for over a decade and a half. Outside of journalism, he is an award-winning copywriter, screenwriter, and novelist. He holds a degree in media studies and psychology.