Chaplain's thought for the week

News & events

Chaplain's thought for the week

Writing our own script

Just imagine for a minute that someone approached you and offered you a life time of perfect happiness for free. You’re intrigued.

‘What’s the catch?’ you ask. (Surely it will cost you something.)

‘There’s no catch,’ they say, ‘all you need to do think, and speak, and act according to this script.’

And they then pull out the biggest book you’ve ever seen.

‘What’s this?’

‘It’s your script,’ they say. ‘This book contains every thought you should think, every opinion you will hold, every word you must say and every action you have to perform. Follow this script exactly, and I will guarantee your happiness for the rest of your life.’

I wonder whether you’d take the deal?

Most of us, of course, would not. I think we probably value the freedom to decide upon our own happiness. Most of us would never want to consciously live according to the script of another person.

Except quite often we do, just not in such an obvious way. From our earliest childhood we are bombarded with the messages and values from other people which we begin to take as our own, almost without knowing it.

Think about it from the perspective of a young person:

  • Advertising tells them that they need to buy this product, have this holiday, eat this food, drink this drink.
  • Parents tell them that they need to work this hard, play this sport, practise this instrument, get this job in the future.
  • Schools tells them that they need to act in this way, value these values, and have certain aspirations for ourselves.
  • Friends and peers – and studies have shown that this is the most significant one by far during the teenage years than any other time of life – tell them that if they want to be accepted they should dress like this, act this way, hang around with these people, like this music, watch this TV, use this social media.

It’s almost like from the earliest stages of our lives we are given multiple different scripts to act out, each competing for attention – and some of the messages in them are very good and valuable – but what we don’t realise quite often is that we are actually acting from them and not writing our own script. The scripts become so strong and deeply ingrained in our thought patterns that we don’t even notice they’re there.

Here are some examples:

“I must be successful in all I do.”

“I need other people to respect me.”

“I need a good job in the future.”

“I must fit in so people will like me.”

There are so many kinds of scripts, and each of us will have digested different ones. Perhaps the key trick is to name the scripts which we’ve absorbed for what they are and work out whether they are a script we actually want to follow.

One of the things which really stands out about the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel is the way in which he was completely his own person, following his own script. He had the confidence and security to tread his own path, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it went against the customs of his own religion and culture.

Once there were two applicants for an important job.

Enter the first applicant.

‘You understand that this is a simple test we are giving you before we offer you the job you have applied for?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, what is two plus two?’

‘Four.’

Enter the second applicant.

‘Are you ready for the test?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, what is two plus two?’

‘Whatever the boss says it is.’

The second applicant got the job.

Which of those applicants do you want to be? Do you have the courage to write your own script?