How Good Will Hunting Teaches Us To Engage with Our Life

January 18, 2018

Categories: Fear

One of my favorite movies of all time is Good Will Hunting. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it. The movie follows the story of a young genius (Will, played by Matt Damon) with a troubled past. Being a psychologist, I love the counseling scenes with Will and Sean (played by Robin Williams).


If I could describe the theme of Good Will Hunting in one word, it would be engage, because I think the word captures Will’s core struggle throughout the movie. Will struggles to engage with his intellect, his work, his girlfriend, and his counselor. Will knows a lot about life and love, but he struggles to engage with his own life and love story.

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Will and Sean are talking on a park bench, looking out at a lake. Sean is talking to Will about his struggle to engage:

“If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, ‘once more unto the breach dear friends.’ But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable.”

Fear Can Halt Engagement in its Tracks

Will had all the potential in the world, but he also carried a strong fear, which stopped him from engaging fully in his life. Will was abandoned as a child, and abused by his foster parents. As he grew older, he put up walls and struggled to let people into his life.

What Holds You Back?

Your story probably looks different from Will’s story. But I bet there is something holding you back from fully engaging in your life. Maybe, like Will, you let fear get in the way. Perhaps you carry a burden or addiction that stops you from being all in. I believe we all deserve to live a fully engaged life. We owe it to ourselves to explore and work through the things that hold us back.

Breaking Through

The movie ends with Will leaving a note for Sean. The message was simple, just 8 words. But the message was incredibly powerful, because it represented Will fully engaging with his life, working through his fear so he could apply all his energy toward what he wanted in his life.

“I had to go see about a girl.”

My hope and prayer is that you and I would do the same in our own lives.

Discussion: What holds you back from fully engaging with your life? What blocks you from applying all your energy toward the things you want and long for? What is one step you could take today toward full engagement?


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