Show, Don’t Tell

In The Equalizer 3, badass retired agent Robert McCall is not having such a badass time. Of all the people who could — and usually can’t — hurt him, McCall gets shot in the back by a ten-year-old. Discovered by an Italian policeman, who brings him to the doctor of his confidence, the two save McCall’s life first, then ask questions later. One of them is…

“Did we save a good man or a bad man?” “I don’t know,” McCall says, no longer sure whether his killing sprees are actually done in the name of good or simply an addiction he can no longer get rid of. After the aging assassin recovers and settles into the comfy village-life of the Italian coastal town, new trouble soon appears, and once again, McCall must decide: Will I clean up this mess with a gun, or is that just going to make things worse?

Looking for some guidance on whether to fight for or abandon his new life, McCall turns to Enzo, the doctor who saved him. “Remember what I asked you?” Enzo says. “Am I a good man or a bad man?” McCall replies. “Yeah. And you said you didn’t know.” As if to reaffirm, McCall repeats: “I don’t know.”

“Only a good man would have said that.” And with that, McCall knows everything he needs to know. About what to do. About where to go. About which side to take, what to let go of, and what to take a stand for.

There’s only one reason to try very hard to convince someone that you are a good person: You need them to believe you so that you can believe yourself — because deep down, you’re aware of all the evidence to the contrary. It’s not other people that need convincing. It’s you.

If, instead of erasing the bad evidence by telling yourself and others a story, you simply try to make up for it with good deeds, you won’t find that conviction either — but you’ll realize it never existed in the first place, and that’s worth a lot.

When it comes to ethics, morals, and values, the only way to share our stance is to live it. Show, don’t tell, and when push comes to shove, ironically, everyone else will be able to tell who you are long before you show your hand.