Here is the question of the day: Is it better to know the truth even if it’s painful or is it better to live with the mystery looming in the back of our mind? This is the question I walked away with after watching Shazam (don’t worry, no spoilers here). For the record, I found this move refreshing. It was a fun comedy-action movie with a solid plotline that doesn’t just rely on special effects like Aquaman… ugh, Aquaman. Early in the movie it’s said that the main character, Billy Batson, is bounced around from foster home to foster home as he will do anything to find his mom. He was consumed by this mission since he was separated from her as a small child. The adults in his life told him to stop looking, but he couldn’t let it go, and it got him into a lot of trouble. To me, it was a simple solution: Help him find her while preparing him for the possible worst case scenario. If an adult had tried to help him on his mission that could’ve created a bond between them, which would most likely change his life for the better because no matter what happened with his mom, Batson wouldn’t have been alone. Instead, the adults in his life tried to “protect” him, which made it feel like they were against him. If the adults didn’t care about what he cared about, why should he care about them? Ultimately, to Batson, knowing the truth was more important than anything else, and it would’ve behooved others to help him.
In the movie based on a true story, I Love You Philip Morris with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, a movie that has the best twist at the end of a film I’ve ever seen, Jim Carrey’s character also wanted to find his biological mom. Finding her, however, led to experiencing intense rejection because he was a secret she didn’t want her current family to discover. After this hurt, his life spiraled until he was sent to prison. This leads to the question: Was the truth so painful that he would’ve been better off not knowing it or did it free him to move on with his life even if it led to prison?
In the show Grace Under Fire, the lead character Grace is found by her estranged twenty year old son whose opening line is, “Thanks for not having an abortion.” Unlike the other meetings, this interaction proved cathartic, but is the chance for healing worth the risk?
In my own life, I have a cousin who has always known she was adopted. A few years ago, I asked her if she ever tried connecting with her birth parents and she calmly said, “Why? My mom is the one who raised me.” She was at peace and didn’t care where her birth parents ended up. I’m definitely different than her. I’d want to find my parents with the hope that their lives sucked without me because that would seem like justice to me… but I’m not the nicest person.
A variation of the original question is: Do people have a right to know their story even if it’s disgusting or tragic? For instance, does someone have the right to know they were the only survivor from a town struck by genocide? Does someone have the right to know they came from rape or incest? Yes, I said incest. When my wife was pregnant she was asked numerous times if she was related to the father because, as the nurse said, it happens more often than people think. Personally, I believe people have a right to know their story no matter the truth because it’s their story. As someone who doesn’t like to be controlled, what right does someone else have of keeping a person’s story from them? I can see that the people with the opposite opinion of me have good intentions and are trying to be helpful, but who are they to keep the truth from someone who wants to know?
The question that makes this topic even messier is: Does the truth have to wait until the person is a certain age, and if so, what is the appropriate age? My guess is my cousin was at peace because she always knew she was adopted. There was no surprise; it was just what it was, so it was easier to accept. It’s like a child whose parents get divorced or a parent who died before the child is old enough to understand what this meant. There’s no emotion attached to it; it’s just a fact. If this is the case, we might be hurting kids by not being more honest (to a point) with them at a younger age. By trying to protect them, we might be doing more harm.
Regardless of your stance, the important factor is that your belief be founded on love and not a need for control, which often seems to be an underlying issue. As long as love is our motivator, at least our heart is in the right place.
This week may you consider if your main motivation is love or fear.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love