Seven Pounds is confusing—not because of its complex plot that leaves you bewildered for the first twenty minutes (or longer if you miss the significance of the killer jellyfish) – but because of the life and death questions it evokes. I saw the movie with a few teenagers and wondered as we sat in sobering silence afterwards, “How do I help them make sense of this?”
A disproportionate number of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17 take their own lives each year. This demographic also happens to be avid movie watchers. If a teen hasn’t yet seen this movie, they will probably rent it eventually. Let’s spend some time discussing its concepts with them so they don’t get any crazy ideas.
Seven Pounds is an extremely creative story that showcases suicide as an act of courage. The hero of the movie—Tim Thomas, gloriously played by Will Smith—clearly deserves our empathy and respect. We grieve for him and understand his high motives for colliding with a jellyfish. He chooses to sacrifice his life for others. That’s good, right? “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”*
However, as my analytical fourteen-year-old niece reasoned, Tim Thomas was able to change the lives of a full five people while he was still alive. His death resulted in changing the lives of just two more people. Two people were saved through his death, but many others were left with broken hearts: his brother who desperately tried to intervene; his conflicted best friend who assisted him; and his new girlfriend who would own a physically strong heart but an emotionally torn one. And what about the parents? The screenwriters had enough sense not to bring them in; we’d have an even harder time accepting the bathtub scene if Mom were present.
I propose that the greater act of courage would have been for the man to stick around. He was a rocket scientist, of all things. With his skill and talent, coupled with his new passion to save people, think of what he could have done if he were to live! In time, he may have fixed our broken printers! I’m getting silly, but the subject matter is so serious, so deep. To keep going when you have miserably failed; to choose life in the face of great loss; to have faith that there’s a divine plan in the midst of horror; to learn how to forgive and accept forgiveness—these things take courage.
Our hero of the story did not know about this kind of courage. He was confused by his intense pain and wanted his life to stop. Although he had the wherewithal to take this step in such a way that a few others would gain a great deal, the heroes I would like to uphold for all to see are those who have the courage to stay through the good and the bad and give of themselves day in and day out.
In Seven Pounds, Tim Thomas would not be rising again to continue his work. The world lost him. Although the recipients of his sacrifice may proceed to do great with the gifts he gave them, I stand by the principle that the greatest sacrifice for Tim Thomas would have been for him to work through his pain and stay alive.
*John 15:13 NIV
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