Although the Christmas holiday season has come and gone, I’ve been thinking about a scene from one of my favorite holiday movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
The film was released in 1987. Steve Martin plays the role of Neal Page, a successful but buttoned-up marketing executive struggling to make it home for the holidays. In his adventures to return home, Neal is paired with Del Griffith, an obnoxious but lovable shower curtain ring salesman. After a series of travel mishaps, Neal and Del find themselves sharing a cheap hotel room in Witchita, Kansas. And not only do they share the room, but the bed. They also share a paltry set of towels and Del uses up most of them, leaving Neal with a tiny wash cloth. When things aren’t going his way, Neal has enough of Del and goes into a tirade about how intolerable Del really is to be around.
Watch this scene to see what happens.
It’s a pretty funny scene. Actually, it’s not funny at all.
Every time I watch it, I connect deeply with Del’s response: “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.”
Here’s the reason I believe this scene gets me every time I see it. I am Del Griffith.
Don’t get me wrong, many parts of me can identify with Neal, too. Like Neal, I can be a cold-hearted cynic at times. I easily criticize. I am an expert at hurting others. However, what I truly want to be is Del. Del is openly hurting. He puts his heart out on his sleeve in his statement.
Before my awakening with the vulnerability and authentic nature of men’s work, I rarely shared with others that I was hurting. Too much of a risk. Who was safe? What would they think? However, hurting – and being hurt – is part of life. C.S. Lewis said, “I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”
Del is sharing that he’s hurting. However, he’s also putting up boundaries by acknowledging Neal’s attack as cold-hearted. Del knows who he is, and he likes himself anyway.
Brennan Manning posed a question to me one day in his book, Abba’s Child: “Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?” Woah! Ever think about that? Yes, God loves you. But God also likes you. It has taken a lot of work to receive that truth. The truth that My Heavenly Father actually likes me truly propels me to like myself. “To all who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God.” (1 John 3:1)
Del is genuine and vulnerable. He admits his faults. You can tell that he’s hurt by the criticism, but he seems to process it in a healthy way. Jesus loves genuine people like Del – and like me. Jesus purposely chose to be around men and women who knew who they were. Peter said, “I am a sinful man.” People who are genuine are in touch with their whole self. I think that’s why Jesus had a disdain for the overly religious Pharisees. It’s amazing to think the term, pharisaical, now means someone marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness.
I want to openly hurt in safe places.
I want to know who I am and like myself anyway.
I want to be genuine and vulnerable.
I am Del Griffith.
By Tim White
Tim completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2013. He has staffed weekends and leads a Faithful & True group of men, many are part of The Crucible Project community. As a former senior pastor and now principal consultant at The Wildwood Agency, Tim is fulfilling his mission by giving men guidance through vulnerable transparency.