If I’m flipping around the TV and happen to fall on The Shawshank Redemption, I stop what I’m doing and watch. It may just be starting. Andy is erroneously convicted of murdering his wife. Or, it could be in the middle, as Andy and Red’s lifelong friendship is building. It could be the end as Andy makes his triumphant escape by climbing out of the hole he dug in his cell and swimming down a 500-yard sewer pipe to freedom. Doesn’t matter, I’m in until the end.
I could go on about all the nuances of the plot, the symbolism, the character development, and the thematic genius of the movie, but I won’t. Well, maybe just a little.
I’m focused on one quote from the movie:
“It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living, or get busy dying.”
Throughout the movie, Andy Dufresne is hit with life-crushing challenges. He takes each hit, feels overwhelmed, and even mourns being the victim. He then gets up, dusts himself off, and takes control. He decides to get busy living. The alternative is unacceptable.
His redemption isn’t just his ultimate escape from the prison, but the redemption all of the people he touches along the way. Andy brings a new perspective to everyone around him. He helps the other prisoners find their own value. He sets in motion a long, and silent, quest for justice. Even as a prisoner, he controls the direction of his life, and his own redemption. It isn’t the world around him, but the world within him that points the way.
Each of us get to make choices…every day:
Make progress, or make excuses.
Add value, or take it away.
Be an asset, or a liability.
Build trust, or erode it.
Help, or hinder.
Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
Get busy living, or get busy dying.
I don’t know the full definition of redemption, but I’m sure it lies in these choices.