Superb. Awe-inspiring. Sobering. These are just a few words to describe Denzel Washington and Viola Davis’ new film, Fences. Washington directed this film adaptation of August Wilson’s classic stage play and reprised his Broadway role of Troy with Davis playing his strong and loyal wife, Rose. From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see it. After stuffing my face on Christmas evening, my husband and I hit the town and lined up to support this film. I expected to be moved (I mean, what else can one expect from a Denzel/Viola duo?), but while watching Viola dazzle on the screen (in a much softer and more vulnerable manner than we see her perform as Annalise Keating each week on ABC’s ‘How to Get Away with Murder’), her character taught me some valuable lessons.
**Warning: The following contains major spoilers**
- Become fluent in your husband’s love language
The most beautifully heartbreaking scene in the film features the incredible monologue Rose gives when she learns of Troy’s infidelity. My heart pounded as she listed sundry ways she sacrificed and endured during their eighteen-year marriage; and then my heart seemed to stop when he looked her in the eye and admitted he wouldn’t leave his mistress because she gave him happiness he hadn’t known before. My temperature boiled as I clenched my armrests in the theatre. My husband should never feel like another woman makes him better. He should never feel more understood or more secure with another woman.
There is no such thing as a perfect wife. (Click to Tweet!) However, when I first got married I tried desperately to attain some type of perfection that I thought would most please my husband. I found myself frustrated because I added pressure on myself to keep a clean house, keep groceries stocked and meals cooked, all while working and writing full-time. By the time my husband got home from work each night, I was tired and disgruntled and so was he, because while I focused on other aspects I was neglecting his love language: quality time.
Troy’s vehement decision to continue to humiliate and disrespect his wife through his adulterous relationship unsettled me, but my heart went out to Rose because she was doing all the dutiful things that made her a great wife. She cooked, she cleaned, she maintained the house, but she’d forgotten to translate her love into his language. It’s easy to do if we aren’t careful. I still work to do things I think will bring him joy, yet he constantly reminds me that what he wants more than anything else is quality time with me. He wants all of me: a wife who is fully present in the beauty of the moment with him and fully secure in who I am and the gifts I have to offer.
- Give correction with discretion
Honor and respect are paramount for the men in our lives. (Click to Tweet!) They expect it in the workplace, with friends, but I believe it has the greatest impact when they receive it at home. As my husband’s partner, I believe God gives me insight if there may be areas where he can grow or change. However, it’s never my place to publicly correct my spouse on a matter that would expose or humiliate him. Love protects, and calling my man out in front of company wounds his heart and ultimately dishonors him.
There were many times in the film when Rose openly corrected Troy. In one scene, she tells Troy how wrong he is not to give his son, Lyons, money in front of both his friend, Bono, and Lyons. Troy begrudgingly gives the money after being put on the spot, but I wondered how much more effective she could have been with a different approach. Michelle McKinney Hammond teaches in her book The Power of Being a Woman that it’s not godly to control or manipulate your husband, but God has given women the position of influence in our man’s life. There’s a way to use that influence with discretion that will likely inspire change. But publicly calling your man out does nothing more than build a wall between you.
- Honor him in front of your children
Along those same lines, it’s not just important to cover your spouse in front of other company. It’s also imperative to act as a team when it comes to parenting and making decisions in your children’s lives. In Fences, we see Rose contradicting Troy in front of their son, Cory. She voices her disagreement with her husband to their child which may have caused Cory to further judge his father (not that Troy was innocent by a long shot).
I grew up in a home where my parents were unified. Before they made decisions concerning us, they discussed it with one another. If either of them disagreed with the other, they would excuse themselves and converse privately. Most of all, neither parent contradicted the other for any reason. This sent a message to us at a young age that our parents were one unit that could not be shaken.
A house divided against itself shall not stand. Parents must work together to raise their children well, and spouses must partner with God to enrich each other’s lives.
Fences has powerful messages for everyone: fathers and men, especially. There were so many themes that stood out to me, but the greatest lessons I learned came from Rose: Love well, love unconditionally, and always remember your worth.
What about you? What did you discover, love, or hate about Fences? Comment below!