Lessons from Person of Intrest

Lately, Mandi and I have been watching Person of Interest on Netflix. Person of Interest is a show about people who work with a super computer that “watches” people and can tell when there is someone in trouble. The machine (as it is called) supplies a social security number for the person in danger. The person could be the victim or the perpetrator of a crime. You never know which. One of the characters on the show is Agent Sameen Shaw, an interesting character because she struggles to feel emotions.

In episode 10 of season 3, “The Devil’s Share” there is a flashback of Agent Shaw as a student in medical school. In this scene she was being kicked out of the program because she casually and flippantly notified a family that their loved one had died while she was chewing on a candy bar.

Her supervisor questions her saying, “Let me ask you this: do you care if your patients live or die?

“Of course.” Shaw answered flatly.

“But does it hurt you? I’ve been watching you for some time, and it doesn’t seem to bother you.”

Shaw tried to dismiss his criticism saying “This place sis filled with doctors who don’t care if their patients live or die.”

“No. This place is filled with doctors who pretend they don’t care. But you’re different, aren’t you? Your attendees all say the same thing about you. You are technically brilliant, remarkably calm. They can’t spot what you really are.”

“And what’s that?” Shaw asked.

“You know the DSM backwards and forwards, doctor. You probably diagnosed yourself in your first year. A diagnosis that showed that you never should have been accepted into this program.”

“I watch the others.” Shaw protested, “I watch the fear creep into them. I watch them make mistakes. And you think these feelings I’m lacking make them better? You’d really rather have one of them working on you instead of me?”

“Yes.” The supervisor answered. “Because if the only thing motivating you is technical mastery, when one of your patients needs you most, then this job just might start to bore you. That’s the difference between fixing and healing. You have a brilliant mind. And you’re very gifted. But you’ll never be a doctor.”

“There is a difference between fixing people and healing people.” That is what got me. There is a difference between fixing people and healing people. That is what many of us miss. We miss that difference. And there is a big difference isn’t there?

I have been learning that when we feel “led by the Spirit” to help someone who is struggling, hurting, stuck in the past, or fearful of the future, we should stop and ask ourselves: are we trying to fix them or heal them? The gospel is not about fixing, it’s about healing.

There are two important things to know about that. First, if our desire is to see the broken fixed instead of healed, we are operating from the wrong motivation. God doesn’t want us fixing people’s problems. If He wanted you to worry about them, He would have given them to you. It is dangerous to confuse the desire for “technical mastery” of holiness for the love of holiness. The former is focused on right behavior, the later is focused on right relationship.

The second thing is that we need to understand that we can’t heal anybody (of fix them for that matter). Healing is something only God can do. Our part is not to heal, but to encourage, comfort, and love. We need to be listening closely to the Spirit for where He is working in the person and how He wants us assisting Him in His work. When we do that, we will see Jesus’ grace accomplish amazing things. When we don’t do that, one of two things happen. Either we will make things worse for them, or we will make them more dependent on us than God. Neither of those are good options.


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