Sean, a supervisor at a juvenile detention center, tells Willie, a juvenile inmate, that despite his father’s lack of love and acceptance, Willie still needs to forgive his father. Ask yourself, what’s right with this picture?
Sometimes anger is an “outward” emotion. Sometimes it can even be useful if used constructively. “Inward” anger has a much different effect. It tends to eat at us and make us incapable of seeing past the problem to a solution. The anger has a stalling effect: it allows us to focus on the past when we should be focusing our energy on the challenges of the present.
In this clip, Sean encourages Willie to forgive his father–to come to peace with his past–so he can focus on being a winner in the present. Sean is able to reach Willie, despite the walls he has built up, because he has the perspective of shared experience. We are more apt to listen to those who have been through what we have been through. Sean is honest in relating his experience. Honesty is a key virtue because it engenders trust. Trust has the ability to establish bonds. We listen to those we trust because we can count on their honesty. Sean is clearly in a leadership role here, but he doesn’t make the mistakes that many leaders do. He does not try to lead by intimidation or coercion. He leads by providing an example to follow and being humble enough to show his struggle. Again, this builds trust and puts Sean in a position to guide. Sean’s message is forgiveness. In this case, both men need to forgive their fathers for a past of abuse and neglect. Forgiveness is one of the most important virtues. To attain wisdom and peace one must learn to forgive those who have done them wrong –and also themselves. Lack of forgiveness breeds bitterness. Finally, Sean offers Willie hope. By acknowledging that they share a burden, one that is not easily carried, Sean displays his willingness to hope for something better despite the hand that he has been dealt.
Willie’s primary strength in this scene is his honesty. He is open with his feelings and emotions, which allows Sean the opportunity to get inside his dilemma. Willie’s honesty is the cornerstone for this whole scene. It is the catalyst. Willie shows his love for Sean by allowing him to see a part of himself that is very personal. One can infer that these feelings are not accessible to most of Willie’s acquaintances. His love and respect for Sean give him the key to unlock his emotional need. This ties in to the virtue of humility. Willie humbles himself, both through his words and through his tears. Humility destroys barriers. This is why it is so valuable and so often mentioned in spiritual teachings. Humility allows us to step outside of ourselves. Willie also uses humor to ease the tension in the scene. When he asks Sean, “is that why you so pissed off all the time?”, he allows them both to take a brief respite from the serious nature of their conversation. This brings them closer (metaphorically and literally – Sean sits down on the bed after Willie’s joke). The humor is a way for them to access more and deeper truths.
We all have experiences, good and bad, that shape the way we develop. Sometimes we are inclined to keep these cards close to our chests, but it is shared experience which enriches the human condition.