One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite books/movies is in To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re not familiar with the story, Atticus Finch is a single father in Depression-era Alabama. He’s a white lawyer who believes in the equality of everyone irrespective of class, status and race. That’s not a popular belief in the 1930s American south.
Atticus is assigned to the defense of Tom Robinson – a black man accused of raping a white woman. The jury will be twelve white men. Atticus knows from the beginning it’s a case he can’t win.
But that doesn’t stop him from making the most persuasive, well-thought-out case in his power – and it’s a good one. Air-tight, even. But the jury is blinded by their prejudice. They deliver a “guilty” verdict.
After the verdict, the floor of the courtroom slowly clears. Atticus (played here by Gregory Peck) slowly gathers his things, watches from the balcony by the friends and family from Tom Robinson’s community.
What makes me cry about this scene is that Atticus’ honest, powerful defense of Tom Robinson makes him an outcast in his own community. He’s branded a traitor by the racist, white townsfolk. But while he loses their respect, he gains it from the black community and those not blinded by racism.
The racist voices are louder, but those aren’t the voices worth listening to.
It’s easy for me to listen to whoever is shouting the loudest. But often those loud voices are the ones powered by hatred, pride and abusive power.
Those aren’t the voices I want speaking well of me.
I’d rather be Atticus – disowned by the people whose opinion shouldn’t matter anyway in favor of the Whisper calling me to love, humility and servanthood.
Whose voice do you find yourself most naturally listening to? Why do you think it’s so easy to listen to the opinions of people whose opinions shouldn’t matter?