Saturday, May 7, 2022
As a way to spend time together and to get away from normal life for a bit, my wife, Annie, and I enjoy watching British crime dramas such as you’d find on Acorn, Masterpiece, and BritBox. This past week, we invested three nights of our life in a NetFlix Originals offering called, The Anatomy of a Scandal. It was engaging enough … until the end, when it became apparent why NetFlix is struggling.
The mini-series follows the prosecution of a British MP who has been accused of a heinous crime by a former subordinate. The viewer learns that the crown prosecutor, who seems far too invested in the case, is, in fact, far too invested in the case – having both a story of her own to tell about the man, and an unhealthy obsession with making him pay. Eventually, though, the man is acquitted as the prosecutor fails to make a case. But in an almost unfathomable turn of events, the man’s wife recounts to the prosecutor knowledge of her husband’s and the Prime Minister’s involvement in an even more horrific scandal, bringing down all of (yes, Tory) British government. The film ends with scenes of the man’s (ex?) spouse enjoying life with the couple’s children outside new, posh, but magically affordable, seaside digs near Dover, and of the prosecutor, who had, just before, looked sadly beaten and worn, now shown back at it in court, bright, happy, and confident-looking, shoulders back, with a gleam of satisfaction in her eye, as if riding on a cloud – number 9, no doubt.
While there were near-countless reasons to dislike this mess and to have regretted pouring three nights into it (that I won’t ever get back, mind you), the biggest issue I had with The Anatomy of a Scandal is the moral of its story: that it’s possible to lift yourself up by tearing someone else down. See, it doesn’t work that way. No one ever got taller by cutting the legs out from under anyone else.
And that’s the point for the week.
It’s not possible to make one candle burn brighter by blowing another one out. Doubt it? Try it sometime. For fun, light three, then blow two out. The one remaining will not provide any more light. Those who go through life believing that it is possible to improve their position at the expense of someone else are the same sort of people that compete with people they work with and the same kind of folks who make films like The Anatomy of a Scandal. It’s the same mentality that fuels cancel culture; the thought that by destroying someone else, I can make myself look better, feel better, do better, or somehow be better. But the only thing that gets better is the likelihood that decent human beings will want almost nothing to do with me.
See, people don’t want to be around negative people, or people who seek to move ahead by tearing others apart. Instead, people want to spend time with, and be led by, people with something positive to say – by people who lift others up and who by their words and actions seek to make others bigger, not smaller. People want to spend time with people who have something to give, not people whose entire persona is built around taking things away from other people.
Most often, despite the fact that these people believe the problem they are having is with someone else, the problem they are having is solely with themselves. It might be some insecurity or grudge that they’ve ascribed to someone else, but the issue they are having exists only in their own mind. They’ve given control over their life to some offending party for some real or imagined slight – or simply because that person reminds them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, kind enough, or whatever enough. But that person is going merrily along living their life while the brutish candle-snuffer makes their own life and the lives of every person they touch a living nightmare because of it. Because they become obsessed with the notion that it is possible to make their life better by making someone else’s worse.
But it’s not possible. Not even once. Not ever.
But the good news is, it does not have to be that way. There is a better way to live and to lead.
The alternative to living this life of hate and resentment isn’t hard. Like almost everything else in life, it’s a choice. It’s a simple choice to reject the notion that your life can somehow improve when someone else’s life gets worse. It’s a choice to lift up rather than put down. It’s a choice to build up rather than tear apart. It’s a choice to make others feel big, not small. It’s a choice to give more than you take. It’s a choice to light candles instead of blowing them out. And it’s a choice to start forgiving others for everything. For until we stop giving other people control over our lives, we are not in a position to lead the lives of anyone. It’s no more complicated than that.
So, make the right, better choice. Light a candle instead.
PS. It’s apparently also a choice to stop watching NetFlix originals.
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