A Lesson Learned From Chris Farley
I’ve been reading “The Chris Farley Show,” a biography about the late actor…comedic genius really. I’ve always loved Chris Farley, and was actually watching “Tommy Boy, ” when it was announced that he was found dead. Who can help but laugh when you picture motivational speaker Matt Foley, or the overweight Chippendales dancer? Who doesn’t quote a handful of lines from Tommy Boy on occasion? He was great, and went far too early. However, I never expected to be personally impacted by his life. When I picked up the book, I figured I would simply learn more about his childhood, his career, and read a few funny stories from his life. What has happened is much more significant than getting a laugh from some of the things he did in highschool and college (although that has happened too.)
Most people who followed the actor’s career knew that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol. His problem was actually much more severe than your typical college binge drinking and occasional Hollywood drug use. Farley started drinking in highschool, and started drugs in college, and couldn’t stop doing either. Though he took his work at Olympic Improv, Second City, and SNL seriously, his addictions were controlling his life, and spiraling him downward into a dark place personally. I think many people would surmise that I learned some lesson concerning addiction or moderation from his story. While I did my fair share of drinking/partying in college, I never had a “drinking problem,” and have never touched a drug. What I am struck by is not Farley’s behavior, but the behavior of his close friends and family.
Everyone around Farley knew what he was doing. They could see how out of control he was allowing his life to become. They saw his unhappiness and knew that he did not want to be the “big fat drunk guy.” They walked him home drunk every night, woke him up after he passed out, watched him trip on various drugs, saw him become obsessed with addiction, and sat back and did NOTHING. Quite a few people that contributed to the book stated that they would allow his natural charm and charisma talk them out of confronting him. A brave few would say something like, “So, what’s going on? Why are you drinking so much?” and the second Farley showed disinterest in what they were saying, they backed off and never brought it up again. Now, to be fair, people did start interventions once the problem had gotten extremely serious, and he was beginning to put his life in physical danger. However, I stop and think, would he have died if someone had stepped in earlier? Could it have been prevented if someone had been brave enough to say to him in highschool or in college, “Hey, we need to talk. I’m worried,” and not let him persuade them to stop talking…What if?
So where is the lesson for us? Its twofold really…First, is there someone in your life that has strayed? Maybe they aren’t spiraling out of control from insane amounts of alcohol, mushrooms, cocaine, whatever….but, maybe they have lost their way…lost their faith…given up on a career….stopped going to church…aren’t taking college seriously…allowing something negative to control them….in a relationship that is unhealthy…Are you allowing your like of this person to prevent you from loving them in a dangerous way? My principal used a term called, “courageous conversations.” Who are you allowing to slip just because you are scared of how they will react to your gentle correcting/loving intervention? Is there a “Farley” in your life?
Okay, now wait…before you go “confronting in love,” there are a few principles you need to remember. First, you need to prayerfully and carefully choose your words. Confronting someone in a way that puts them on the defensive typically can and will end up doing more harm than good. Approaching the person needs to be done because you truly care about them, not because you want to condemn them or have some time on your personal soapbox. This leads to principle two…genuine friendship/relationship. There are lots of people I think are doing dumb things. However, I know that it would be completely wrong for me to just go up to every casual acquaintance/casual friend I have and let them know my personal opinions on their life choices. That would be going against principles one and two. You need to have a relationship built on trust and respect before you can effectively confront someone. If that type of relationship is in place, you will also be more likely to approach the confrontation from a place of love and concern, not opinions and judgment.
Secondly, there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. We might be in a “Farley” situation…doing something that is unhealthy, detracting from our walk with God, causing us to lose our way, etc. We need to be open to those people in our lives who may have the courage to confront us, and allow them to speak truth into our life. I can remember a few instances where a close friend pulled me aside, and in a calm and gentle manner, (using the Matthew 18 principle when needed) called me out on stupid things I was doing. Yeah, at the time, it hurt a little. No one likes to hear the truth. No one likes to know that other people recognize the dumb things we are doing….typically because we know we are being dumb, and lack the courage to change..Having someone call us out, only makes it more likely that we will have to change, angering us. However, now, as I look back, I am so grateful to those people, who loved me enough to stop me before I spiraled out of control…who helped me get back on track….who cared enough to not allow me to screw up my life.
So, do you have a Farley in your life that you need to confront in love? Someone you have been watching go astray while you sat idly by….too scared to say anything? Do you love them enough to stop them before they “overdose?” If someone comes to you, or has come, and you’ve shut them out, are you brave enough to change? to listen? Don’t let the things of this world take you before your time. Don’t let them rob you of the happiness you can have. Don’t be a Farley, and stop allowing those you love and care for to be one either. They might end up in a van down by the river, and you wouldn’t want that would you? =)