Seriously. What can you learn from movies? Aren’t they just for entertainment? They say that the things of value you really learn are from experiences you learn in life. I’m going to go out on a limb and disagree with that. Not only can you learn from the experiences of others so that you do not make the same mistakes, but you can also learn from the stories told in movies.
The first thing I learned was honor, and I learned it from the 1981 movie Excalibur, starring Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, and Patrick Stewart. Of course, I learned about honor. It’s about knights, right? Funny thing. A whole lot of betrayal occurred in that movie, and what I still learned was honor.
After Arthur has pulled Excalibur from the stone and is declared king, the first thing he has to do is quell a rebellion of knights that will not swear fealty to him. He and his adopted brother lead a force to relieve the siege against his ally Leondegrance. During the fighting, he gets the jump on Uryens and has the knight with a sword at the man’s neck. He demands the knight swear faith to him.
Uryens response: “A noble knight swear faith to a squire?”
Arthur ponders this for a moment and then hands Excalibur to Uryens—the sword that declares who is king over the realm—and kneels in the moat at the man’s feet. He says, “You’re right. I’m not yet a knight. You, Uryens, will knight me. Then as knight to knight, I carried off your mercy.”
At this point, the veteran battle lord Uryens has some thinking to do. Does he claim the sword and the kingship as his own? Does he follow through and knight the young squire?
This is where I learned honor. To show your enemies mercy. You gain nothing by humiliating and destroying your enemy when he is already defeated. When you show mercy, you have the chance to create undying loyalty. Uryens swore fealty to Arthur, commenting on the depths of his courage, knighting him in water and then kneeling before him.
I also learned honor from the actions of Uryens, the defeated enemy. I learned here that when the victor shows you mercy, you show loyalty and respect because together you are stronger than apart.
So, if I learned honor from a movie, how have a I applied it in my own life? And have my children learned to practice it themselves from my actions?
About ten years ago, I was playing indoor soccer. Most games, I played goalkeeper, my favorite position. But for some reason, I played out on the field this game. The score was knotted at 1 apiece. In our league, when the clock buzzes, the game is over—no injury time.
With less than a minute to go, we earned a direct kick just outside the box. Here was a chance to win the game. As I was bending to retrieve the ball, one of my opponents kicked it out of bounds. We did not have time to retrieve it before the buzzer ended the game. The ref didn’t see it.
My blood boiled, and in anger, I threw a few cuss words in Spanish at my opponent and stomped away furious. As I was gathering my stuff off our sideline, I looked up and saw my wife and two kids watching me. Something clicked.
I walked down to the other end of the field and apologized to my opponent for my behavior. My kids were there. I didn’t want them seeing their father being vindictive. It’s just a game. The behavior of others does not justify my reactions. I should be in better control of myself.
Later, I learned from my wife that when our children saw me walking to the other end of the field after the game, they had both said, “Uh oh.” They thought their father was getting ready to throw down. But their mother shook her head and said, “Watch.” She said they were proud of me.
Did this display ever make an impact on my children? Yes. My son and I were at an arcade a few months later playing Donkey Kong when he found a $100 bill on the floor. Instead of putting it in his pocket, he said to me, “Someone is going to be missing this.” He took it to the manager and requested that it be given to the person that says it was lost.
I learned honor from a movie. My children learned honor from me.