Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

This superb movie portrays the remarkable character and accomplishments of three brilliant African-American women who played key roles in one of the greatest engineering operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

As a former mechanical engineer who once dreamed of flying the Space Shuttle, I loved the glimpses of advanced physics and math that appeared throughout the story. However, that was only the backdrop for a far more important theme: the true story of how Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson utilized their faith and relational skills to overcome multiple prejudices and bring their mathematical gifts to bear in the space race.

Although these women encountered constant gender and racial discrimination, they refused to embrace a victim mentality or succumb to bitterness. Instead, they modeled all of the core skills of relational wisdom.

They turned to God and lived up to their highest values for strength and guidance. They mastered their emotions and exercised astonishing humility and self-control. They related to insensitive co-workers with grace, patience and forgiveness, keeping their focus on serving the astronauts whose very lives depended on the accuracy of their calculations.

Although the system was strongly stacked again them, Dorothy, Mary and Katherine wisely found ways to work within it to achieve their goals. In doing so, they not only helped to launch men safely into space but also won the respect of their colleagues and triggered changes in attitudes and policies that opened the way for other women and minorities to contribute their skills to NASA and other scientific programs.

Here is a preview of this superb movie. (If a video screen does not appear below, click here.)


I alternated between anger, shame and admiration as I watched how these women navigated repeated insensitivity and injustice. It was a needed experience, however, which gave me greater empathy for people who are experiencing prejudice and discrimination, which are still so prevalent in our world, even in the church.

There are several ways you could benefit from this movie:

  • As you watch it, try to identify pride, prejudice or insensitivity in your own heart.
  • Read Seven Steps to Empathy before going to the film and when you watch it note the ways that key characters failed to exercise empathy … and ways that you could develop greater empathy in your life.
  • If you’re in any kind of supervisory or management role, use the film to reveal strengths or weaknesses in your management attitudes and skills.
  • Take a few minutes to read this review by Chris-Ann Manning Forde, who offers excellent insights into the film and the issues and values it addresses.
  • If you work for others, pay attention to the values and relational skills that enabled these women to successfully engage offensive supervisors and co-workers, demonstrate their value to the team, and advance in their careers.
  • This movie is appropriate for young children and youth groups. You could use it to launch discussions on how to use relational wisdom to respond to racial and gender discrimination, pursue career dreams and develop greater empathy. If you take young people to the film, I encourage you to prepare them in advance for the major themes of the story (see this pluggedin review and these suggestions from other parents).

There are not many films being produced these days that are this inspirational and edifying on so many fronts. I encourage you to benefit from the sacrificial work and remarkable example of these exceptional women.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  1. What false or deficient values have contributed to ongoing racial prejudice in our country? What impact have those values had on our relationships and communities?
  2. Where are you prone to pride, prejudice or insensitivity toward others? How does it affect your behavior and relationships?
  3. What values did these women and others like them live out day-to-day in order to avoid inflaming conflict, to overcome prejudice and move their communities in a healthy direction?
  4. What values do you see in their lives that you would like to live out more faithfully in your life? How might that affect your relationships and benefit your company or community?

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.

© 2017 Ken Sande

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