Against medical advice, former teacher Pat Solitano is discharged from a mental institution by his mother and moves back home with her and his overbearing, Philadelphia Eagles obsessed father. Determined to get his life back together and his bipolar disorder under control, he sets out to win back his ex-wife, who has a restraining order against him. An introduction to an equally complicated Tiffany, creates tension and drama for Pat and forces him to face the realities of his life.
"I opened up to you and you judged me."
-Tiffany Silver Linings Playbook
Judging. It's what we humans do. And really, it is what we need to do to in order to survive in this world. We make inconsequential decisions-judgments throughout our day like what to prepare for dinner, what route to take to the store, what to wear, etc. But then there are the big, life-altering ones like who to marry, what sort of career to pursue, what to do in the chaotic situations that life throws us, etc.. The ability to make sound judgments is an important part of who we are and how we navigate through life. The problem is, when we use these skills to determine the worth of another individual, we begin to skate on spiritual thin ice.
Pat runs every day to stay in shape, he is determined to keep his anger under control and works hard to find his silver lining in all that is bad. His goal is to show his wife he is a changed man and to win her back. Pat meets Tiffany, an unstable woman struggling with how to deal with the death of her husband.
During an evening out, Tiffany opens up and shares some intimate details about her life. When she mentions the two of them are similar in some ways he takes offense. “It’s not right lumping you and I in the same category.” Tiffany is clearly stunned when she responds, “you think I am crazier than you.” Without ever coming right out and answering, it is clear he agrees. Her anger and hurt escalates until she shouts at him, “I opened up to you, and you judged me.” Pat, fresh out of the mental hospital, is clearly flawed, yet he judges her and feels superior.
Since the 1970's, researchers have studied this phenomenon: a person's tendency to cast themselves in a more favorable light. Researchers have discovered that people indeed tend to attribute other's flaws to internal characteristics and their own mistakes to more situational problems. In other words, "you screwed up because you are dumb, stupid, unaware, but I screwed up because I had a bad day, boss or childhood. My flaws are not as they appear, but yours are."
When we step into judging, we lose our humility and our ability to connect with our higher power, because we have just assumed that role. Approaching people and our own lives with the real understanding that we are not in charge and we will never fully understand another person’s situation, puts our own life in the right perspective and honors the Divine, bringing us closer to that energy. When this is a foundational virtue we hold true to, we allow others and more importantly, ourselves to be human. To error and learn.
This is the spirit of Tiffany's character. She sees her flaws and has accepted them. She's been able to embrace all of herself, not disowning her messy past. When she says to Pat, "There's always going to be a part of me that's sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?" we know that she has embodied this principle of nonjudgement of self and others and it has led her to a wiser self.
The tendency to judge is inherent in us. The wise remember that and remember they really know nothing. Then the whole world opens up and we find our silver lining.
This new Hot Chocolate Press blog feature, Monday Movie Inspirations, is written by Kerrie Flanagan and Pam Farone. They take a movie quote and dig deeper into the meaning and how it applies to our lives. We hope it nourishes your soul.