The other night my husband and I watched We were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson. It is a movie about the Vietnam War and the soldiers who fought in a particular battle. About halfway through telegrams start coming for the wives of fallen soldiers. I realized that there were tears in my eyes and I was gripping Jon’s hand really tight. I found myself so wrapped up in the pain the characters were feeling that it was as if I was too experiencing the incredible loss being portrayed.
This has happened a lot recently as I have been watching movies, especially ones that I know are based on true stories and real people. I was thinking about the fact that I used to be able to make it through every movie I watched without so much as mist in my eyes. In fact the first movie I remember misting up in was Armageddon (but really what girl didn’t tear up at the part where Liv Tyler’s character is saying good-bye to the father who wasn’t a great dad but turned into the hero saving the world) and I was a senior in high school at that point. I was pretty proud of the fact that I wasn’t emotionally effected by stories. I thought it was a sign of weakness to cry at movies or show any kind of sympathy for the characters.
That view has drastically changed. It may be the oscar worthy performances of actors or perhaps top notch directing, however I suspect it has less to do with that and more to do with the experience I have accumulated in the area of disappointment, heartbreak, loss and pain over the last 10 years or so. This sounds tragic and terrible but really these experiences that I have had give me the ability to have a soft heart, to step into the shoes of those experiencing the lows of life and the to truly care about the tragedy or difficult times others face, even if it is on screen.
The key now is to translate this into the real people around me. It is easy to feel sorrow and pain of characters in a movie, I don’t actually have to do anything about it, except maybe grab a box of tissues and maybe another bowl of popcorn. However, when it is a friend, a neighbor, a loved one or acquaintance the task becomes more daunting and with so much more at stake. The ability to understand the pain others feel and to empathize is by no means a weakness but a gift from a Creator who experienced what we do. The softer my heart is to those in need the better I will be able to care and serve them. So bring on the kleenex…