“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” John 7:24 (NLT)
One of the things Wendy and I have learned about acting over the years is that we enjoy the character work as much as we do the actual performance. Building a character means doing the ground work, investigating the character’s history and relationships, and peeling back the layers of who a person really is below the lines of the script and the movement of the director’s blocking. The character work an actor does brings depth to the character on stage.
One of the life lessons that doing character work has taught me is that people are complex, multi-faceted creatures. If I simply memorize the lines and move from point A to point B like a trained dog I do a great disservice to the complex creature I am portraying. Plumb the depths of a character’s heart and mind and you begin to empathize with who he is and why he does the things that he does. Only then can my acting begin to serve the character and the story well.
As I read today’s chapter I could almost feel the chaos of public opinion swirling around Jesus. The religious leaders were saying one thing about Him, some of the crowd another, His family were saying something different, while within His own inner circle of followers there was an on-going debate about Him. Like all who find themselves in the public spotlight, Jesus was finding Himself judged, labeled, and branded. He knew that people were misjudging Him because they had not taken the time to look below the surface of what they saw and heard, to plumb the depths, and to understand who He really was.
Whenever we brush over another person with a swash of generalization, we diminish them so as to justify our simplistic judgement of them. I have done the same thing. I do it all the time. We would all do well to obey Jesus’ command to look below the surface so we can judge correctly. We would all do well to do a little character work for those creatures and characters we dismiss, diminish, hate, or simply avoid. If we do so, we might find there’s more to their story than we ever imagined. We might just treat them with a little more love and understanding. We might just become better creatures ourselves for having done so.