this question has been a big one for me lately. I love/hate the power of this question. The power is illustrated well in the following clip from the Untouchables.
I was watching the film, Shadowlands, recently in preparation for our new Crash series, What a Waste. In one scene, C.S. Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) has a funny exchange with some of his students during a small group session. One student is sleeping through Lewis’ discussion of Aristotle’s position on plot and character. Lewis uses the sleeping students as an example of Aristotle’s view that plot was character, and one needed only to look at the character’s actions to discipher who they were and what they cared about. “We know he is always sleeping in class; the question is why does he come if he is going to sleep.” When the student wakes up, experiences the embarassment of Lewis’ confrontation, and walks out of class. Lewis watches him leave and says, “Well, the plot thickens.”
In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about how we tend to judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. We get frustrated with someone who doesn’t follow through on a promise, yet we let ourselves off the hook because “I kept meaning to get around to that.” Well, in the words of Aristotle, plot reveals character. Our intentions – the true ones – are proved by our action or lack of action. Going back to the Untouchables exchange, the real issue is not intentions but actions. And if I am not prepared to move in a certain direction and don’t, then why do I keep talking as if I am open to that, okay with that, or for that?
Like you, I can talk a good game and can rationalize things well – both in my head and to others. I do a really good job of telling other people who I think I am. But should my focus be on telling them who I am, trying to convince them? Or should I just live, making choices that reveal my character and intentions?
But the question I keep coming back to is, “Well, Savage, with all that being said, what are you prepared to do?”
Question: Is there a place in your life where you are (or need to be) asking this question?