Wounding and Healing

Wounding and Healing

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Many of us have no idea how often we wound the people around us. We don’t deliberately set out to hurt others, but because of our natural insensitivity, we frequently stomp on others’ dreams and feelings without even realizing it.

The following video clip illustrates this problem … and how to correct it.

It’s taken from the movie Pursuit of Happyness. This film is based on the true story of Chris Gardner, who is played by Will Smith. Everything in Chris’s life prior to this scene has gone wrong. He was drawn into a bad business deal and lost all of his money. His wife left him. He was evicted from his apartment. He is a failure on every front.

In this scene, he’s taking a few minutes to allow his son, Christopher (played by Smith’s real son, Jadon), the fun of shooting a few hoops. As you watch the clip, listen for the dream Christopher shares with his father. Note how Chris misses the significance of his son’s words, and how thoughtlessly he stifles his child’s hopes for the future.

Watch how Christopher communicates his feelings without saying a word. Then note how quickly Chris reads the cues, sees his mistake, and seeks to repair the damage. See if you can identify his implied confession. (If video screen does not appear below, click here.)


Christopher is only five years old, but he already has a plan for how he will rise above the poverty that grips his family: like so many kids in his position, he dreams of “going pro.”

Chris is a good father. He has a legitimate parental concern that his son not put all of his hopes into the unlikely prospect of becoming a sports star.

But Chris is not self-aware at the outset of this conversation. He doesn’t take the time to examine his own heart and realize how much his own fears and sense of failure are fueling his desire to protect his son from failure.

Nor is Chris sufficiently other-aware. He fails to realize how his son is processing his father’s string of financial and relational disasters, which have turned their lives upside down. Chris also forgets how exciting and yet fragile a little boy’s dreams can be, and how easily they can be shattered. Most of all, he forgets that a father’s words are magnified in a child’s ears and often have a far greater impact than intended.

So rather than measuring his words wisely, Chris blurts out a valid but badly worded warning to his son.

Christopher tries to respond respectfully, but when the impact of his father’s words hits home, the little guy folds up emotionally. He throws his precious basketball—the symbol of his dreams—aside. His countenance falls, his head and shoulders slump. He loses all joy in the game of his dreams, and dejectedly dumps his ball into a bag … probably thinking he’ll never throw it again.

But then the engagement takes a remarkable turn. Chris picks up on the body language cues his son has sent him. He realizes that he has hurt and discouraged his child. Instead of blaming others or making excuses for his actions, or simply telling his son to “man up,” he does just the opposite: he examines his own heart to discern the source of his insensitive words.

And he finds it … his own failures in life. Below average at basketball. Foolish business investment. Unable to support his family. Abandoned by his wife. Evicted by his landlord. Sleeping in the subway. He feels like he can’t do anything right, and he fears his son may get caught in a similar downward spiral if he puts his hopes in becoming a basketball star.

Chris can’t quite bring himself to make an explicit confession of how his own failures fueled his words, so he makes an indirect statement: “People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it.” Not as good as it could have been, but better than many parents would manage in similar circumstances.

Chris then attempts to repair some of the damage he’s caused. He exhorts his son not to let anyone tell him he can’t do something, not even his father. He goes on to urge Christopher to protect his dreams, ending with this unforgettable advice, “If you want something, go get it. Period.” Words that echo the wisdom of Solomon: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

Watch and Grow

In spite of his initial insensitivity and clumsy communication, Chris salvages this situation and turns it into an opportunity to understand and engage his son in a way that bonds them even more closely together. Here are a few ways you can learn from his example.

  • Watch the clip again and pay even closer attention to the way both father and son communicate their thoughts, fears, and feelings. Strive to improve your ability to pick up on body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and to discern the emotions behind these cues.
  • Ask yourself, “When have I blown it like this, not only with a child but with my spouse, friends, or co-workers?” “What was the source of my failure to be sensitive to the concerns, dreams, and feelings of others?” (Too busy. Wrapped up in my own concerns. Too lazy to really listen. Afraid to get involved. Just didn’t care.) Then seek to change those things in your heart that keep you from really caring, listening to, and serving others.
  • Chris made an indirect confession, as many of us do. What would an explicit confession sound like? (see the Seven A’s of Confession)
  • As you go through today, study the people around you more slowly and thoughtfully. Ask yourself: “What are his dreams? How can I encourage him?” “What is she feeling? Why?” “How have I wounded or failed to understand this person?” “How can I make that right today?”

– Ken Sande

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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2 Responses to "Wounding and Healing"
  1. Below I share a mail that came in my inbox just seconds after reading this Blogg.

    Greetings Leaders,
    Hope you are enjoying summer, even though for most, it is very different from summers past.

    I must confess, there have been times lately when I just wanted to stick my head deep in the sand, and hide from all the madness going on in the world. To clarify, I have not been seeking to avoid the major challenges or tough issues confronting all of us these days. Rather, I was looking for a respite from some of the apparent lack of thinking that is taking place, based on the commentary filling the airwaves. Reactive and biased opinions are so prevalent that one could begin to believe they are facts, simply based on volume. It is almost overwhelming at times.

    For example, I had no idea there were so many public experts about COVID-19, when a good portion of the health and medical professionals are still quite bedeviled by it. You have likely come across some of these self-proclaimed experts yourself, whether it is about their absolute certainty regarding masks, how the virus can be spread, or even how this so-called pandemic is the excuse for the most gross misuse of government power in modern times. Whether about the virus or any of the huge issues in our world today, over the past couple of months, I have heard myself too many times asking the question, “has this person really even thought about what s/he is saying?”

    Time To Think Concept – Presentation Skills Training – Online …So, given how quickly things continue to change every day, take a moment to ponder this question. Are you intentionally taking some time to actually think about the changing events which are occurring before weighing in? Or are you getting caught up in the need to always react immediately, in order to attempt to keep people informed as much and as quickly as possible. This is one of the interesting ironies: sometimes during the most hectic times of rampant change, you first need to pause, take a deep breath, and then carefully think about various actions and their consequences.

    A few months back I awoke one morning to discover a great change from just the night before. Overnight the carpet in my dining room had become soaking wet. My immediate reaction was to start moving the table and chairs, and pulling up the carpet so I could start drying everything out. However, after a few seconds to think about it, my first action was not moving furniture. Instead, it was to shut off the water line to my refrigerator. That was the only possible place water could be coming in, given the kitchen was adjacent to the dining room. (As that was the culprit, consider how useless my other efforts would have been, as the hidden leak continued oozing water into the room.)

    When the unexpected happens which catches us off guard (like a soggy carpet), there is often a natural tendency to simply react in the moment. It is urgent to quickly respond, yet it is important to respond in an effective way. Perhaps the better first step is to take some time to think about the situation, before responding with that immediate knee-jerk reaction.

    So, be reminded that it is OK to take time and think. In fact, it is downright necessary. It is also OK to land on an action or strategy that turns out to be wrong. When attempting to resolve perplexing problems which have never before been encountered, this is bound to happen – a lot. But there is a big difference between a wrong decision and a bad decision. A bad decision is one made without deep thought, due diligence or the other hard work that is usually required to solve tough problems. A wrong decision is one that was thoughtfully determined, but simply did not work as hoped.

    You can never contemplate all the factors affecting the real meaty and complex problems we are facing today. But you can consider a lot of them. So allow yourself the time to check in with your brain – and your heart. Think about it!

    Stay healthy and well, and keep leading and learning.

    Steve Coats

    Managing Partner

    513.703.5935 cell (preferred)

    513.755.7112 office

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