Modeling Ted Lasso: choose to be kind

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, June 1, 2023

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I’m not quite sure how to best express what I’m feeling. I have a general sense, which is profound gratitude. I also believe that my life has been changed, a holy wound from which I shall never recover, and I’m the better for it.

These aren’t responses to a sacred epiphany or an encounter with an ange. I’m talking about my reactions to the series finale of Ted Lasso. Have you watched it? In just three short seasons, Ted Lasso has positioned itself as one of the greatest television shows of all time. My opinion, of course. But hey, it’s my article! I could go on about the acting, the writing, the impeccable music and the incredible character development. Right now, though, I just want to talk about Ted himself.

Here’s a show about a man who, despite incredible tragedy, has chosen to remain kind. How many times do we watch shows and movies that only show us how tragedy breaks us into a million little pieces? Ted Lasso came along and modeled for the world what can happen to entire families, friends, and communities when just one person chooses kindness in the face of the world’s pain and cruelty.

And what a harsh world it is. Some days, it all feels like too much, like the world’s pain and horror are going to win no matter how hard we resist. Other days, it’s all too easy to pretend that horror away, to go about our daily lives as if we aren’t part of a global community.

Into this harshness, we are born. Into this harshness, we are thrust from birth and must learn how to navigate this harsh world while not giving in to our baser impulses. Existing is hard and making it through to the end as a decent human being is truly a monumental victory.

Here’s the tough part: the complexities and chaos of the world will always be with us. When one war ends, another begins. While one community is given emergency food relief, another buries their children who died of starvation. As individuals, we must reckon with the fact that we have very little power in and of ourselves to fix the chaos, to heal the whole world. We simply can’t do it ourselves.

But here is what we can do: we can choose to be kind to every single person we meet. We can wake up and make the resolute choice to act in such a way that, when people encounter us, they walk away feeling whole, holy, and beautifully affirmed in their uniqueness and individuality.

Even the ones who hurt us. Especially the ones who hurt us. I firmly believe that the world shall be changed through individual acts of kindness and love that act as seeds. As one person is affirmed with love, if they choose to respond with kindness to another, then we shall see a holy growth within the human community that will break the cycles of violence and cruelty we see, experience, and perpetrate ourselves.

Ted Lasso isn’t just one TV show among many. It’s a sustained reflection on how human relationships are transformed through kindness, love, forgiveness, and affirmation. Even when everyone around him called for vengeance, Ted chose to offer radical forgiveness and acceptance to the one who betrayed his trust and maligned him publically over and over again.

It’s a bit strange that the simple act of choosing kindness feels so revolutionary. Perhaps it’s because we are conditioned by the world’s pain to believe that we cannot fight through that pain in order to be better, to remain tender in the face of the world’s hardness. But we can. We must. My prayer for you is that someone today affirms you with kindness and love, and that after receiving such a gift, you too will offer it to your neighbor. Never forget this wisdom found in both Jewish and Muslim holy writing: If you save one life, you save the world.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.