In 1997, I watched a movie called Good Will Hunting, which is a movie about a young math prodigy who refuses to take a chance and become the world changer he was destined to be. I hated the movie. It was ripe with profanity, irreverent humor, and horrible language. Despite the fact that the storyline of the movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen, I chose to be offended and I hated the movie. I was appalled that anyone would enjoy the film.
In 1997, the main character, Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, was rude, arrogant, snobbish, trash-talking, low life who selfishly chose to engage in underage drinking, sexual carousing, and generally wasting his life. Robin Williams played the part of the therapist who helped Will find his way and to heal his past so that he was able to embrace his destiny. His character was rude, abrupt, filthy mouthed, and disrespectful. I hated how unprofessional he was.
18 years passed and I held to the memories of how horrible that movie was.
Yesterday I watched Good Will Hunting after a gap of 18 years. I was floored at how brilliantly written, character rich, and otherwise awesome the movie is. Will, the main character, is a kid who is hurting, and who learned to push people away as a defense mechanism, because he was orphaned as a child, and was abused by the adults entrusted to care for him. All through his life he survived by laying low and making do, all the while self-educating at the library because he couldn’t afford to go to college. He was an undiscovered math genius who would some day change the world, but he was afraid to commit to that course because the pain he lived in was too real for him to see beyond his modest life.
His therapist was a man who was reeling from the loss of his one true love, and was withdrawn and bitter from losing all he once had. He was a man who was barely hanging on, desperately seeking shelter from the storm. Because of the pain he embraced, he was able to reach Will and help him find healing from his broken, abused childhood, and gave him the courage to step out and take the risk of living beyond his modest life.
18 years ago I hated this movie because it offended me. Why? Because I was a self-righteous, arrogant, selfish, religious zealot who chose to hate the world and reject it before it could harm me—again. Yes, again.
You see? I was a Will. No, I was not abused as a kid. I was not hated by my family, but I was still afraid to step out of my comfort zone and find depth and meaning. I was comfortable living my modest life. But, I was inflicting pain and misery upon my friends and family, and I was a horrible Christian who was hiding his fears inside of his religious façade. I was afraid of the world and what it represented and I chose to hide behind what was comfortable. I rejected anything that was not religious. And I inflicted pain on those around me. It was my defense mechanism. And I was wrong. Is there anything worse than a self-righteous, religious, snob? Sadly, it was the life I chose.
Why am I baring my soul to you now? Because I have grown. And, like Will, I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and live my life and take risks. One of the risks I’ve learned to take was to write. Yes, I’m an author. I write books, and I make myself vulnerable to you and allow you the option of filleting my stories, which are microcosms of my soul, and grant you the ability to reject me. I’ve chosen to put myself out there. And to be honest, it’s a bit overwhelming.
My newest release is titled, Shadows, which is a book about choices, and the inevitable conclusions of our choices. Due to the magic of fiction, I allow one man to make two choices, and create two realities that reflect those two choices. In one choice he remains true to himself and reaps the benefits of that choice. In the other reality, he chooses to defile himself, and watches in horror as the consequences cause his life to spiral out of control.
18 years ago I made a choice to hate a movie. I chose to reject that movie because it offended me. And why not? It was not a movie that reflected Christian values. Therefore, I must reject it. I chose to do so.
And now, 18 years later, I’ve grown. After seeing the movie, I realized that I never really saw it the first time. I was too busy judging and rejecting it to see what it was actually trying to say. Yesterday I saw the movie for the first time. Instead of seeing the things that offended me, I saw people. People who live in pain. People who don’t want to live in pain any longer. People who are desperate to break free and live free. Free from pain. And I chose to feel the depth of their pain and experience it with them. Rather than reject them, I chose to hear them. I chose to understand them. I chose to appreciate them. And my life is richer for choosing to do so. These are people I can appreciate and I can share their lives. I can be their friend. I might even be able to help them with their pain. None of us want to live in pain.
Look, I still don’t enjoy bathroom humor. I probably never will. It’s not my personality type. I will probably never use the language used in this movie, and I will never tell the jokes in this movie, BUT I will not reject the characters because they do. I choose to accept them as they are, and not cast judgment upon them for not being like me. Our choices really do make a difference in who we are and how our lives play out.
One choice a future makes.