There was an interesting exchange between two characters on a recent episode of Flash Forward that highlights an important lesson for all of us. Here’s a brief synopsis: A man named Bryce has cancer, but hasn’t told his family or any of his friends because he doesn’t “want their pity” and because they’ve already been through too much. A woman he’s telling this to (a psychiatrist) responds, “Telling them is not for their pity, but for their support. At this time in your battle, you need all the support you can get.” (paraphrased).
How often do we hide our struggles and difficulties from others because of our pride? Having someone’s pity is a very humbling place to be, so instead of taking that on, we hide our problems beneath the surface and act much stronger than we feel. This seems so ridiculous when brought out into the open, yet we all do it (I am guilty of this quite often).
Another excuse we oftentimes make when not opening up to others about our problems is that we don’t think they can provide a solution…that it would just be a waste of time. The comments of that psychiatrist, however, prove this to be irrelevant. Regardless of someone’s ability to tangibly help us through a problem, they can always support us. That could be through encouragement, showing that they’ve got our backs, or through prayer.
Most of the time, we do this without even realizing it. Our hesitance to share our problems with a loved one comes automatically. That’s where our awareness of ourselves and our actions is especially important. We probably won’t be able to correct this the first, second or even tenth time, but enough observation of what we do and when we do it could allow us to grow out of it down the road.
Reflecting at the end of the day is also very helpful as it allows us to detach from the emotions involved and think clearly about something that happened earlier in the day. Doing that and being constantly aware of ourselves is the only way for us to grow out of this. At a time when our world is making life difficult (either morally or financially), we could all use this type of growth.
One of my favorite new shows is the ABC show “Flash Forward”. It does a great job of combining drama and science fiction from a moral standpoint. I wanted to discuss a recent episode (“The Gift”) that had a major scene that I think relates very well to our Christian faith. If you haven’t seen this episode yet or think you may want to watch this show from the beginning, you may want to avoid reading below until you’ve done so. Otherwise, the plot of the story doesn’t matter so much as the content of the message and its’ application to our faith.
In this episode, an FBI agent “Al” decides to commit suicide to avoid causing another woman’s death (that has yet to occur). He finds out from his flash forward that he is the cause of the death of a woman named Celia but doesn’t find out how or why. He also finds out that she has twin boys that would be moved on to foster care after her death. This hits him deeply in the present and he decides to commit suicide to prevent this from happening. In addition to this, his committing suicide proves to the world that what they all saw in their own flash forwards don’t necessarily have to be the case. His own flash forward can’t come true now that he’s dead.
While, as a Catholic, I am obligated to look at suicide as a path all of us should avoid. It is seen as giving up rather than fighting through whatever is bringing us down in that moment. In this case, however, I think it relates well to one of Jesus’ comments when he said (paraphrasing), “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Al truly lays down his life (via suicide) for Celia and her two sons by undeniably avoiding the possibility that he cause her death.
This also reminds me of what St. Maximillian Kolbe was known for. He held true to that quote of Jesus’ by giving up his own life to take the place of another man’s in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. He didn’t know that man personally but knew he had a family, so this wasn’t even a case of laying down his life for his friends but a complete stranger. Al’s decision to do this for Celia was the same as Al only knew Celia’s name and that she had two sons (he didn’t know where she lived, what she looked like or even what her last name was). He sacrificed himself anyway to save her and, in the process, gave hope to the world over.
Pretty remarkable stuff and quite profound for a TV show on network television. If you aren’t watching this show, it’s certainly worthwhile as it raises a lot of good questions and moral dilemmas.