Last night I watched the movie, Braveheart, with my family. I remember watching it when I was a teenager home on a break from college. I remembered it as a sad movie, but inspirational. I also remembered it as demonstration of a beautiful human spirit, full of courage and determination. So many years later, I realized more than ever why this movie is so powerful- it holds a mirror up to each one of us.
This time around a scene stood out to me. It struck a chord. Angus Macfadyen plays Robert the Bruce brilliantly and in this particular scene his acting is so poignant. Robert the Bruce’s father is explaining to Robert that even though Robert doesn’t feel good about betraying William Wallace at his instruction, Robert had done was was necessary. Robert had achieved the father’s goal of increasing the family land and power.
The conversation goes as follows:
Robert’s Father: “We must have alliance with England to prevail here. You achieved that. You saved your family, increased your land, in time you will have all the power in Scotland.”
Robert The Bruce: “Lands, titles, men, power, nothing.”
Robert’s Father: “Nothing?”
Robert The Bruce: “I have nothing. Men fight for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and their children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk, they fought for William Wallace, and he fights for something that I never had. And I took it from him, when I betrayed him. I saw it in his face on the battlefield and it’s tearing me apart.”
Robert’s Father: “All men betray. All lose heart.”
Robert The Bruce: “I don’t want to lose heart. I want to believe as he does. I will never be on the wrong side again.” (Delivered with vitriol.)
Robert‘s Father: “At last, you know what it means to hate. Now you’re ready to be a king.”
Robert the Bruce: “My hate will die with you.”
I Want To Believe
The words that stood out most to me were, “I want to believe”. His aged father had stopped believing, maybe never believed, and now he advised his son that all men betray, all men lose heart. But once you have seen the beauty of someone that believes in goodness, believes in truth, believes that the just thing can prevail, it is hard to turn away from such a bright light.
This is what we all want. We all want to believe. That we can win when we are on the side of of what is right and just. That some people will always do what is right no matter how much they may stand to gain by doing what is wrong. That some people will always do what is right even when they must sacrifice to do so. That some people are worthy of our trust. That there is something worth believing in. That we are worth believing in.
His father reflects on his son’s words and thinks maybe he has accomplished the task of hardening his son up- preparing Robert for the world by teaching him what it means to hate. But Robert the Bruce declares that his hate will die with him. In so doing, he is declaring that this feeling of hate is not going to overtake his goodness. He will let hate go because he choses to believe instead.
A Choice We All Make
This is a choice we all get to make. As life buffets us with disappointments, as we come to realize that even our basic expectations will not always be met, we get to decide. When we suffer the cruelest blows, when we disappoint ourselves, we get to decide. Will we give up, become jaded and turn toward deception, hatred and self interests? Or will we keep believing, keep trying and turn toward truth, love, and what is right?
This is the battle we each face as we progress through life. Trying to hold onto our light and keep shining. Trying to keep seeing the light in others. Making the right choices even when they don’t offer the reward that the wrong choices do. Making the right choices even when that means risking something valuable to us. Protecting what we love and believe in because that is what makes life worth living.
Never stop wanting to believe. In others, and in yourself.