8 Things We Can Learn From “This Is Us”
This Is Us, the hit show on NBC, was lighting up Facebook Sunday night. Women couldn’t wait for the Super Bowl postgame coverage – which was pushing the start of this much-anticipated episode 30 minutes late – to end.
Many were settling in with their box of tissues, anticipating an ugly cry kind of night. Still others begged Facebook friends not to post anything about the episode because they would not be able to watch it until the next day. Finally, after two years, the episode every fan has been waiting for aired, answering the questions about THE fire and Jack’s death.
If you are not a This Is Us viewer, you may not know what I am talking about. But, if you are on any social media, I am sure you have seen countless references to the highs and lows of each episode and the intense emotions it seems to evoke, especially from its female viewers. I came late to the This Is Us party but on a recent long international flight, I decided to watch it to see what all the brouhaha was about…and I was hooked. Even I made sure I was caught up on all of the previous episodes and settled in to watch Sunday night!
As a minister to women and a teacher of women’s leaders, I keep my eye on the things in culture that resonate with women. While media, culture, trends, and the like do not tell us everything, I do believe that the way of culture gives us glimpses into the hearts, desires, dreams, hurts, needs, and tender spots in women. Knowing these things gives me as a minister, open doors to conversations that can lead to true, lasting answers through a growing relationship with Christ.
What does This Is Us tell us about today’s women?
I threw this question out on Facebook, to my friends, and to my students. While they may not apply to everyone, here are 8 things I believe we can learn about women today:
- 1. DADS have a more significant impact on the lives of their children, including their daughters, than many of the women whom we meet might acknowledge. And the pain that comes from difficult dad relationships, or even the loss of that relationship, can have long and lasting effects on a woman. A daughter wants a dad who is a hero, a provider, a protector, and a rescuer. She wants a dad who adores her, even when no one is looking, to the point of being willing to lay down his life for her.
- 2. MOMS impact daughters differently than dads do and the relationship can get messy. Growing up, daughters take cues from their moms, learning how to be a woman, and continually compare themselves to her. Sometimes those comparisons and feedback are positive; sometimes the messages heard are less so. Even so, whether the relationship is close, distant, abrasive, tender, critical, loving, or mistake-ridden, there are still days a daughter just wants her mother, and a mom just wants a relationship with her daughter.
- 3. STEP-PARENTS, even in the best of situations, can still be outsiders to the children, especially adult children. While there are many wonderful stepparents who have truly become a child’s “real dad”, when the loss of a parent is experienced as an older child, it can be harder for that child to fully embrace and accept this new member of the family. And navigating what that looks like in everyday life can get tricky. Even though Miguel married Rebecca years after Jack died, Kevin still had to ask, “Did you love my mother when she was still married to my dad?”
- 4. IDENTITY is important. Knowing who I am, where I fit, and what I can do can be affected by what the world expects, what my family expects, and the expectations I place on myself. Many today are on a never-ending search for that last elusive piece of their identity puzzle. Even as adults, Kevin, Kate, and Randall are still grasping for who they are.
- 5. The search for ACCEPTANCE is a real struggle for many and those who seem to have it together the most may be the ones who are searching for it the hardest. Be careful not to judge a book by its cover. The pretty, skinny girl, may be hiding a secret, looking for someone to be her friend. The handsome, successful guy, may be insecure, lost, and silently yelling for help. The accomplished, driven man, may be struggling to hold it all together, and the one whom society tends to shun, may have talents yet untapped. We just need to get to know them.
- 6. Everyone’s PERSPECTIVE of the same situation is different, and those perspectives can influence how we relate to others. Even siblings can view their growing up experiences differently, believing someone else the “favorite” and themselves “not good enough” and all may believe themselves to be the odd one out.
- 7. Sometimes, people take RESPONSIBILITY for things they should not and other times they fight owning up to their own issues. Helping women let go of unwarranted guilt over a situation they had no control over or pushing others to acknowledge they need help, is a fine line to walk, but both can result in redemption and freedom.
- 8. MARRIAGE is hard. PARENTING is hard. LIFE is hard. Women are in some difficult situations and are doing the best they can, but it is hard. Sometimes a woman just needs to hear the words, “Thank you.”
The popularity of This Is Us and its unique portrayal feels closer to real than make believe, and it give us a small glimpse into the complexities of a woman’s heart and soul. Culture provides natural entry points to initiate meaningful conversations with others that lead them to finding hope, healing, and freedom in Christ. Perhaps you see some of these in the women over which you have influence and can use them as starting points. And maybe, you see some of this in yourself.