A friend of mine and I just watched Les Miserables at the movie theater the other night. It is a Musical based in France. While I am sure that 100 people could see this movie and have 100 different interpretations, I am going to share what this movie brought to my mind during and since.While there is so much to be said on all three of the below topics, I will limit this to a brief overview; possibly to be expanded on at a later date. Set up: There are two men throughout movie, and for simplicity sake we will call them Jack (law abiding) and John (almost law abiding).
JUDGEMENT: In counseling people sometimes present being anxious because they constantly feel judged by others. Or, sometimes worse, the demon they can’t escape: the judgement they pass on themselves. Wayne Dyer wrote: “Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others”.
Jack knows the rules and laws of the land. He is to be admired for his tenacity and service to his country. However, Jack neglects to build relationships with the people. He judges people based on what they have done wrong, even more than what they have done correctly. We do see a relationship with God that he prays to and with whom he openly talks and weeps. Yet, it would appear that he has spent so much time judging others, (the only form of a relationship that he knows) that Jack believes that the relationship with his God is one in which he is constantly judged. Does such a heavy burden allow one to feel miserable?
John, so bitter and ready to become the very label he has been given, a thief! So burdened by other’s judgement that he can’t see any light, only darkness. That judgment that was cast on him, he took and owned and made it his identity. How many of us have done this very thing? “They think I’m annoying because I talk too loud: I must be annoying”; “That company rejected my sales plan, I must be a failure”; “I cannot keep my kids from being active in public and my house clean, and smile on my face like this is the easiest thing, being a mother; I must be a terrible parent”. We judge others and ourselves so harshly.
HOPE: Ah, there’s the magic! It is glimmering and tempting us to come a bit closer, to believe in a different life. It seems adventurous and calming all at the same time. Do we dare to hope? Hope in a new life for ourselves? That we have the stamina and finesse to pull such a thing off? Hope. For what do you hope? Some might say that Hope is freely available, some may say it comes with a price.
Jack is so good at his job that he has no doubt in his persistence. He believes that by doing the right and moral thing that the ends will surely justify the means. Sometimes daring to Hope is just as adventurous as the hunt. But there are some of us that know only the rules and guidelines that we have been given, and we are not sure how to Hope. Reflect, if you will, on the following quote: “Hope is like a road in the country; there wasn’t ever a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.~ Lin Yutang Sometimes, we have to allow, even push ourselves, out of the box to believe in Hope and see a different way.
Hope comes easier for some than others. Even though it is easier, it doesn’t mean it comes without risk. And it doesn’t mean that Hope always came so easily. John believed in the identity branded on him by others, by the law, that he didn’t see Hope at first. Most of us have heard the expression: ‘when you hit rock bottom’; or even the title of this movie: Les Miserable (The Miserable). It would appear that is where John found Hope. He hit bottom, and then peered over his box. John recognized that he was taking a risk and he moved forward anyways. Hoping for one thing, and deeming it successful, he Hoped for something else. Once you believe that there is a chance for Hope, it is easier to see in other situations. It seems as though once he believed in Hope, it was impossible for him not to Hope. Can Hope be a trained response to any situation in life?
GRACE: This one word has so many different meanings based on how it is used. As a prayer, to do honor or credit, as a gift, a statement of elegance, etc. For our writing today, it will be interpreted as a gift. One author understood it to mean the following: “ Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” William Hazlitt.
Jack did not accept Grace, nor offer, Grace to others. His life was lived the same way every day; according to the law. He believed fiercely in a justice system that, in some opinions, seemed to judge harshly. Jack remained honorable to his belief system. He became confused when a man from his past had an opportunity to harm him, but made a choice not to do so. This man who could have lived an untormented life spared Jack, knowing that Jack would always do his job, and judge swiftly. This unexpected gift, Grace, to live another day to fight for everything he had identified himself with was miraculous and confusing at the same time to Jack. The confusion that he felt was evident. You see him express the emotions of sorrow, bewilderment, and grief. Jack was so unfamiliar with Grace that it troubled him and he could not embrace it for himself. One might believe that Jack lacked the inward harmony of his soul, because he could not fathom the outward expression of Grace.
John is still wearing the robe of Judgement when Grace is first presented to him. In the movie you see him wrestle with this unclaimed gift not sure what to do with it, and then you catch the moment when he believes Hope is an option. Finally, he grabs Grace and runs with it! He invites Grace to have such a place in his very being that you see him freely offering it when and where he can around his town. It would appear, that John was a stranger to Grace, yet he molded it to fit the William Hazlitt quote above….”the outward expression of the inward harmony”. I think he considered his life rich, not miserable, because of Hope and Grace.
Perhaps one cannot see and appreciate Hope and Grace without experiencing Judgement. Just as the character’s lives portrayed in Les Miserables, we are all offered some sort of Judgement, Hope, and Grace in our lifetime. Some of us will choose only to accept one, while others will accept all three. What will you do?