In my spare time I have been watching a show called “Damages” on Netflix. The show first aired in 2007 and ran for five seasons, ending in 2012. I found it to be an unexpectedly addicting series, with plenty of the types of twists that keep viewers (or at least, this viewer) in wonder at the complexity of the relationships and the ripple effect that each character’s decisions have on the others. I find the story lines to be well-thought out, well-written, and well-acted – but I also find that this show sheds light on an important spiritual truth that often goes overlooked.
The book of James tells us that “…where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16). We have all heard of (and maybe we know) those people who are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get whatever it is that they want or think they deserve. We’ve all seen examples of people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and are always seeming to be trying to get themselves out of trouble.
I’ve watched three seasons of “Damages,” and so far in every season there is at least one character who, motivated by greed or selfishness, goes to extremes in order to achieve a desired outcome. And I am not talking about good extremes – I am talking about murder, theft, money-laundering, and other sorts of corruption. In every case, someone innocent dies as a result of the initial troublemaker’s attempts to cover up his or her indiscretions. If just one person in the complex web of deceit that is “Damages” would be brave enough to take responsibility for his or her actions and confess to his or her crimes – so much of the drama of the show could be avoided.
I know that it’s just a TV show, and most of us aren’t murdering people or running around hiding money from the feds. Still, it is a little bit like life. How often have we, on a smaller scale, messed up and then tried to cover our tracks instead of just being honest about what we did wrong? How many times have we let our selfish ambition – our ego and greed – get in the way of the things that truly matter in life? How many “casualties” have the ripple effects of our actions caused?
It’s natural to want to protect oneself. People don’t normally want to bring shame to their reputation or experience even the slightest bit of embarrassment. On the other hand, who wants to live under the shadow of guilt and secret shame – unable to truly move on – for the rest of one’s life? The simplest remedy would be never to do anything wrong. But that’s impossible. So, the next best thing is to take responsibility, face the consequences, and get over it. Then, no one can (rightfully) hold it against you, and you will limit the amount of self-imposed drama in your life.
Coming clean about past mistakes is hard. And yet, in the long run, it is probably one of the most rewarding and freeing experiences that one can have. It makes us stronger, it makes us better, and it makes us immune to being held emotionally hostage by ourselves or others.
As I go back to finish watching the remaining two seasons of “Damages,” I hope to encourage all of us who have made mistakes to not let those mistakes dictate the course of our lives, and to not let jealousy or selfish-ambition cause us to spiral out of control, because the resulting drama is so much more fun on television than it is in real life.