Friday, December 21, 2012

Lessons from "The King's Speech"

By J. T. Bean

Each of us face challenges in life that have to potential to paralyze us with fear or keep us from being our best. Often the failures of our past speak loudest in our minds and we allow the messages of defeat to control us. It is in times of personal crisis and struggle when we need a friend to “walk through the valley” with us to see us through to the “other side” of the mountain we seek to overcome.

Recently, our family watched the movie “The King’s Speech”. The film stars Colin Firth in the lead role as Great Britain’s Prince Albert the Duke of York, and later (after ascending to the throne) King George VI. The film is set in England in the late 1920’s and 30’s leading up to the impending British conflict with Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler.

To summarize the plot, Prince Albert, realizes that public speaking and radio broadcasts are emerging as an important responsibility for the monarchy. This is a problem since he possesses a horrendous speech impediment. So he reluctantly employs the help of an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue from Australia (played by Geoffrey Rush).

A friendship between the two men slowly develops despite Logue’s unorthodox methods and lack of a formal education. After the death of Albert's father, and his older brother’s abdication of his right to the throne, the weight of the entire Monarchy is suddenly thrust on his shoulders. He is shortly thereafter crowned King George VI of England. It is at this point where the tension in the film builds and the King’s relationship with his friend and therapist is tested. In the end, the friendship prevails and the King must prepare for a national speech to unite and inspire the British people as war with Germany breaks out.

What I loved about the film was the story of how a stammering British monarch overcame his fear and insecurity to help his nation rise up to meet the challenge of confronting the threat of war. History tells us that England at that time was weak. Prime Minister Chamberlain had routinely conceded to Germany’s demands in order to avoid getting involved in the war. But now when the conflict was unavoidable, the nation needed a strong leader to rally them together. Britain needed someone at that moment to help them find their “voice”--to realize who they were and what they stood for in a time of crisis.

Throughout the movie, Firth’s character displayed a remarkable perseverance in overcoming his speech problems. It was evident that Logue believed in him and consistently spurred him to triumph over his impediment. This was important because life growing up in the royal family was so lonely for Albert that when told by Logue “That’s what friends are for”, the King replied, “I wouldn’t know.”  As sad and lonely as growing up a royal was, the King desperately needed a confidant that he could trust--someone who would challenge him, strengthen him, and lead him on a path of self-improvement.

The movie expertly portrayed a growing friendship between the two men. It reminded me of my own life and those who have stood by me in facing my challenges. How I have appreciated their support, prayers and encouragement. And in light of that, it has forced me to ask: Who am I taking under my wing and helping to find their “voice”?

Proverbs 17:7 says: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” No doubt, the storms of life are more manageable with a friend by your side. And when there is a need for help and healing among friends or family, we should all prepare to be a loyal friend and lend a hand.

Every one of us has issues to confront and obstacles to overcome. It is almost impossible to face the challenges of life alone. We need others who will believe in us, give us the benefit of the doubt, and not give up on us. And each of us needs to look for others in need of support and encouragement. We all need to find our “voice” and assist others in doing the same.