Tag Archives: honesty

Honesty, and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

We watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last weekend, and began thinking about honesty in relationships.

The film is certain to delight the heart and tickle the funny bone.  Seven English retirees, from a charlady to a High Court judge, are lured to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India, through what can only be described as the most optimistic brochure imaginable.  The brochure was produced, and the hotel managed, by an enthusiastically positive young part-owner. He doesn’t see his “optimistic” take on reality as dishonest. He prefers to speak of things as he hopes they will be in the future, rather than dwell on the unpleasant details of the present. His motto is, “Everything will be alright in the end; if everything is not alright, it is not yet the end.” A wonderful philosophy, but a touch of reality may occasionally be required.

Others also wrestled with honesty.  Graham, the retired judge, had lived in India as a youngster, where he had a gay relationship with a young Indian childhood friend. The relationship ended in disgrace for the Indian boy while Graham was able to retreat to university in England, and a distinguished legal career. Now, 40 years later, he seeks out his friend to find healing for the pain and guilt of a lifetime. The friend’s openness towards his wife, from whom he had no secrets, meant that there was no awkwardness, only joy, at the reunion.

Evelyn (Judi Dench) discovers at the beginning of the movie that her husband of 40 years should not have been trusted, at least not with the family finances.  When asked about trust in a marriage, she spoke of the time she met her husband on a rickety carousel. He put his arms around her and said, “Trust me.”  And so she did, for 40 years, while he made all the decisions.  His favourite saying was, “End of discussion,” when there had been no discussion at all.  At his death she discovered that he had failed her miserably. She would have to sell her flat and would still have precious little to live on.  To the horror of her family she decides to take charge for the first time in her life, and retire to India.

Norman and Madge, both looking for love, and pretending to be more than they are, have little success in meeting interested singles. When Norman admits to being nothing more or less than lonely, he connects with a similarly lonely Englishwoman who has been in India all her life.

Jean and Douglas’s marriage has lasted nearly forty years.  His loyalty has survived her complete negativity towards everyone and everything, but enough is enough.  When Jean determines to go back to England, she leaves him behind in a traffic jam recognising something of her own failure reflected in his righteousness.

Probably the most honest of them all is Muriel (Maggie Smith).  Deeply racist, her brutal honesty gets her into all sorts of trouble until she begins to discover the humanity of others.  She stops running from her past as a charlady, and embraces those same strengths to carve a place for herself in this exotic land.

Honesty is clearly not a straightforward thing; the challenge is at the very least to be honest about honesty.

We also watched “The Dilemma” on TV the same weekend.  Yes, I know, but that was all there was.  In this movie a man tries to intervene in his friend’s marriage when he discovers his friend’s wife is having an affair.  He becomes obsessed with honesty, but somehow misses honesty in his own relationships.  During the 40th wedding anniversary celebration of his girlfriend’s parents, he insists that the main ingredient for a successful marriage is honesty.  The father interjects, “…and love.”

“Yes,” our hero replies. “But honesty is key.” His simplistic view of honesty is pretty scary.

Another take on honesty is provided by Sue Townsend in The Woman who went to Bed for a  Year.   One of the characters in the book, Brian Jnr, asks seven-year-old Venus to define goodness.

Venus replies, “Goodness means telling good lies, so that people won’t get hurt by true words.”

I would suggest that only love is strong enough to differentiate between “good lies” and bad, between truth that builds and truth that destroys.

What do you think?  Is honesty more complicated than we make it out to be?  Do share your comments below.

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WikiLeaks: Judgement and Hope

Logo used by Wikileaks

Image via Wikipedia

WikiLeaks and their public face, Julian Assange, are the news. I’m not qualified to debate the morality or otherwise of the leaks, but the theology of it all intrigues me no end.

While America is angry and embarrassed, the rest of the world is just too glad it isn’t their diplomatic communication hanging up on the washing lines of world media. And I’m very grateful that I’m far too unimportant to have my inmost thoughts, first impressions, and dubious actions, splashed around the world. Imagine having all one’s thoughts visible for everyone to see.

Hang on. What was that? What did Matthew say?

“You can be sure that on the Judgment Day you will have to give account of every useless word you have ever spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

And Paul?

“Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes; he will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purposes of people’s minds. And then all will receive from God the praise they deserve.” (1 Corinthians 4:5),
and again,
“For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, in our bodily life.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

 The Last Judgement. Every thought, every deed, every failure to act, every motive will be examined. I doubt that WikiLeaks is what the Bible has in mind but it does make one furiously to think.
Last Judgement by Stephan Lochner, panel paint...

Image via Wikipedia

Some think of the Last Judgement as an enormous court case, with every single person in the dock and actual books open, containing our every thought, word, and deed—a celestial WikiLeaks. Others think of it less literally. But, whether at the end of time or right now in the present, God is the silent watcher over all we do, the confidant of all our thoughts and motives.

But if fear of the Last Judgement is what keeps us honest, we are poor indeed. We will tend towards dishonest niceties instead of honest candour. We will do as the Pharisee’s did, polish the outside of the filthy cup and fail to deal with the horror within.

The Psalms suggest a way. Their candour is directed towards God. God is the only one who can take our fears and foolishness, our hatred and prejudice—all those things that destroy us and our relationships—and transform them and us into treasures of his kingdom.

Throughout the Psalms we find depths of despair (and even, at times, raw hatred) along with exquisite praise to God, a God who receives it all in love and understanding with a desire to heal, to strengthen, and to make whole. Psalm 130 is a good example. In eight verses the Psalmist takes us swiftly through what was probably a long and difficult struggle, from despair, through confession, to hope and trust, and on to proclamation. In verse three he makes reference to God’s WikiLeaks: “If you kept a record of our sins, who could escape being condemned.” (This is far more serious than a modern diplomat asking if Julian Assange has a record of his transgressions!) His openness bears fruit. God is able to deal with the failures, the sins, the weaknesses, because they are on the table; nothing is hidden. God ensures that our worst thoughts and motives are examined in his love and grace, and forgiven at the Cross. He gives us a new perspective on ourselves, our friends and our enemies, on our work, and on God’s purposes for our future. It is in that openness and honesty that the healing work of the Spirit of God is done. He brings the Psalmist out of his despair over his own wickedness, to where he can proclaim God’s love and forgiveness to his people.

Don’t wait for your WikiLeak—celestial or otherwise. You can start with God today.


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