The Road That Leads to Me

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? =)


Lose the Linus
August 12, 2008, 4:27 am
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We have so much to learn from children. Kids will play with anyone. My two year old daughter is a true people person. She lights up whenever she sees another child, and is quick to say hello and invite them to play. SHe doesn’t care what clothes they are wearing, or what sandboxes they run in. She isn’t concerned with their social status at their preschool and doesn’t care if she has played with them numerous times before. She just sees a friend. A person. An opportunity. When do people stop using this mindset, and begin treating certain people and events as just not worth their time?

When did people become security blankets? So many people I know use other people as their security blanket. Like Linus, they won’t go anywhere without that one friend, or that one couple, or someone from that social circle. Other “blankets” just aren’t worth getting to know. It doesn’t matter how great new blankets are…all people see is that its something new…something unknown, and something not worth the time or effort to get to know.

I am so driven crazy by people who ask, “Well, who else is coming?” when you invite them to something, or when they wait to respond to something until they know the guest list. At first, you can take this personally, and say to yourself, “Oh, I guess I’m not good enough of a reason to come,” or , “I don’t want to come over to your house unless someone “good” is coming.” Now, I have taken the stance that those people just need to get over themselves. They are scared, and are cheating themselves. You can’t allow yourself to cling to one or two close friends or couples..Its not healthy and doesn’t allow you to grow. You need a variety of people in your life to challenge you…to support you…to make you a better person. You don’t need your best friend around to have a good time.

Let the friend blanket go.

Throwing away my rock

Shirley MacLaine once said, “Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” Who are the strangers in your life? Maybe you’ve been like me…Do you duck back inside your house the second your neighbor comes into view? Do you keep an over-watchful eye on your child at the playground to avoid the cliqueish Mommy banter that you secretly really want to be a part of? I do…My favorite move is the “busy shuffle.” Its the one where I need to seriously concentrate on my cup of coffee in the church lobby, or where I am suddenly extremely interested in the weekly bulletin. I’ve grown weary of my quick exits and all too fleeting glances.

I wrote a few weeks ago about “sitting on a rock.” This refers to the waiting we sometimes do when it comes to developing relationships. We become so self-conscious that we cheat ourselves out of friendships by waiting for people to come to us. The thing is, usually, everyone else is sitting on their rocks too. Someone has to get up first…Is it going to be you?

I recently found out that I’m not the only one that has been sitting around waiting for the masses to discover my “wonderfulness.” I think most people struggle with confidence from time to time. They allow their self-doubt to infiltrate any social setting, preventing them from allowing people into their lives.

I decided to get off of my rock of isolation, and make the first move. I am praying daily for God’s guidance, and for the right people to respond to my gestures and invitations. As I said in my previous post, I won’t have a friendship where I’m the only “giver,” but I am willing to be the set things in give people a chance to get to know me. And, I know that with courage in my heart, I can accomplish anything. Okay, that last line was a quote from my daughter’s Madeline movie, but its true. A few people have responded, and I am praying that something will develop. All I know is, fear doesn’t control me anymore. I realize that if someone chooses not to get to know me, or chooses to avoid social settings, it is THEIR issue, and not mine. I can’t take it personally if they like their rock. You can’t make people like you or get over themselves enough to talk…or to come over..But, the invitation stands…I’m open…Oh, and I have a rock for sale…I don’t need it anymore.