on ordinary people

Watched a movie from the 80s called Ordinary People last night. It was listed on my boyfriend‘s syllabus as preparation for the Christian counselling course he will be taking this fall. The film revolves around a family of three who have lost one son in a boating accident. Con, the other son, attempted suicide shortly afterwards, and the parents, Calvin and Beth, are trying to hold together as they continue on living. Beth is an extremely cold woman: at the beginning of the movie, when Con refuses breakfast (he is still in recovery after emerging from a four-month stint in the psychiatric ward), she takes away the French toast she has prepared for him and grinds it through the garburator. She has little conversation with her son throughout the film, and is not affectionate, even cruel. Cal, on the other hand, is devoted and kind; set on listening and understanding and figuring things out. A small bit of the dialogue in the film stuck out to me:

Calvin: Can’t you see anything except in terms of how it will affect you?

Beth: No! And neither can you or anybody else. Only maybe I’m just a little more honest about it.

Calvin: Well, stop being so goddamned honest and start being a little more generous. And think about [Con] for a while.

Beth: I cannot respond when someone says ‘I just did this great thing. Love me.’

Calvin: All he wants… All he wants is to know that you don’t hate him. That’s it.

I was struck by Beth’s insistence that to be honest was the best thing to be, and how that is definitely a cultural (or perhaps just human?) default: to be honest, and expect that everything will work out from there. I was further struck by Calvin’s proposal that maybe she just needed to choose to forgo the honesty and to be generous: to step outside herself and express love, or even at least approval, of others.

Been wrestling lately with the darkness of our human hearts and the need to choose to love. After all, as per Jeremiah 17:9, the heart is deceitful beyond cure. Who can understand it? And the refrain that should echo in our heads after such a phrase: But Jesus…


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