I recently went on a movie date to see the film “Fences” starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. I must admit, prior to entering the theater, I had only seen the preview once and hadn’t heard of the original stage play. That being said, I wasn’t familiar with the story line and was expecting to watch a movie about a young man who wanted to play baseball. What I got was far more than that. Fences was a thought provoking, emotion inducing, intense film that would stir in my mind weeks after watching it.
When the movie first started Troy Maxson, played by Denzel Washington, seemed like a regular ole father and husband. He went to work, handled his duties as the head of his household, and interacted with his family and talked crap with his friend. Seemed normal to me. That was until his character began to unfold. He was cold man tormented by the missed opportunity to play professional baseball and the cruelty he experienced from his own father. His behavior was understandable (given his history) but watching how it ruined/ haunted him and his family was disheartening.
What a parent does and says to their children will follow them for the rest of their life.
Its crazy. Here Troy was, a fifty three year old man who’s hardened heart was rooted in soil that was rotted by the terrible experiences he had with his own father and the tough life that followed. It lead to him not loving, or even liking his children. He showed them no compassion, no tenderness, no warmth. It became generational, taught to him by his father and leading him to treat his children with the same coldness. Its as if his children had to suffer such treatment because he had to endure it in his youth. It was all he knew from the father who did not love him.
I felt sorry for Troy’s sons Cory and Lyons. Lyons because despite being degraded and put to shame by his father, he had a longing for some kind of compassion from him. Cory because he missed opportunities, witnessed his mom being mistreated, and was filled with animosity.
It’s unfortunate. Even if a parent realizes the effect they have on their child, they may rationalize it a thousand ways or be so set in their ways that they don’t change.
There are so many people who walk around with unhealed hearts and minds because of their parent(s). They crave a hug they never got, an “I’m so proud of you”, a “Go for it, I believe in you”, or a genuine “I love you” from a parent who just does not know how to give it. Even if a person says they think nothing of it because they’ve moved on, there may still be an unfulfilled need or a part of them that remains bitter.
I wonder if parents understand the full effect of what they DON’T do and what they DON’T say. Yes, children need shelter and other provision but they also need to be nurtured (which isn’t just a motherly duty). A child needs to know that their parent is interested in their goals and aspirations. They need to know that their parent believes in their abilities. A child needs to know that their parent wants them to excel in life and to not limit themselves in all they can do. A child needs compassion and love. What isn’t said and done matters too.
So how did I relate to the characters in “Fences”?
In some ways, I could relate to Lyons. I remember growing up I always aimed for “A” letter grades. This continued into my freshman year college. I’d stress myself out telling myself I had to get an A. I need to get an A. If I got a B I’d be pissed like, “what the hell am I going to do with a B?!”. It wasn’t till I was sitting one day and I remembered a time in middle school when I cried because I had a B in a class. I showed it to my mom and even though she was proud telling me I did well, I freaked out telling her ” I cant go to dad with a B?!”. This dad was not living in the house. My parents were long divorced and he hardly talked to me. I went all those years feeling inadequate and needing approval from a father who had no clue what was going in my life. I was like Lyons, wanting his Dad to see him play so he would be proud of him for once. Crazy isn’t it?
I also connected with Cory. The anger. Oh, the anger. Its such a negative feeling that really drags you down but boy does it feel good. Its easier to be angry than to admit being hurt. I carried a lot of anger towards my father for years. He gave me many reasons to be angry. But some how, I’ve always had this tenderness towards him. It’s a tenderness I believe Cory found at the end of the movie. These days I’m grateful for that tenderness because it kept me from being consumed by anger and allowed me to find my way to forgiveness.
So what do we do when we have ill feelings towards our parents? Forgive them. As hard as it may be, we have to forgive our parents sooner rather than later. Some never received the love their expected to give. Some have issues themselves and may not know any better. Even if they did know better, forgive them anyway.
That takes some self examination. We have to reflect on ourselves; our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to really realized the affect our parents have had on us. Acknowledge where you need healing, take it to God, and heal. Reflect, acknowledge, forgive, and heal. It’s easier said than done, I know but you have to try. In this way you’ll find peace and those issues will not be generational.
Go watch the movie.