The Shawshank Redemption is about the experiences Andy had in prison when he was falsely convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. One theme portrayed in the movie is the role of hope in the lives of human beings. This film explores a series of motifs that help us understand better the process of restoration in the practice of providing pastoral care to Christians, even though this is a secular film.
One of the thought-provoking quotes of the movie is when Andy states, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” It is this hope that leads Andy and his friend Red to think there are better days ahead — something difficult to believe because of their present condition. Thus, while Red is indeed a criminal and is in prison because of their wrong actions, Andy was sentenced to spend twenty-eight years in prison despite being innocent. The circumstances in this environment were against both of them, since there was no opportunity to get a quick fix. Instead, they must fight the cruel reality with hope — a hope that was born from inside and that keeps them alive.
From a Christian perspective, hope is more than having positive thinking about the future. Sometimes pastoral caregivers might forget this important aspect. The people who come to the church asking for help would like to find a quick fix for their problems, where the pastor is seen as “a god” who can control circumstances. Offering a quick fix to people’s problems is not the purpose of a responsible and proper pastoral care. One cannot forget that it is God who does the work in people and that caregivers may be God’s instruments to bring healing. It is people’s responsibility to find their hope. This idea is central to pastoral care because one cannot (and should) not force people to accept our way of thinking.
By the end of the film, one finds a key motif about the meaning of the forty years Red spent trying to find his place in society. He had failed in this task because of his lack of hope in the future and his strong fears. Andy’s example helped him to keep his hope alive despite the circumstances of being confined within prison walls. The forty years Red spent rediscovering his self-worth reminds us of the time the people of Israel spent in bondage in the narrative of Exodus. In some sense, one can affirm that Red was a slave of his circumstances and bondage. This suggests to us that there is a close relationship between hope and freedom. Although our bodies might be “free,” our souls could be in chains if we let our circumstances have dominion over us. Red did not need a quick fix for his psychological situation. In his rediscovery process, Red found hope despite his initial thoughts at the beginning of the movie when he had stated, “Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Red’s change of thinking is observed by the end of the movie when he says: “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”
Something one may learn from The Shawshank Redemption, especially about Red’s change of attitude towards life and Andy’s hope, is about their understanding of life as a journey. For Christians, life is a journey of faith where they experience God’s grace and mercy every day. When one offers pastoral care to congregants, one thing we should not forget it is the main role of hope in the believer’s life as a central aspect of the Christian journey.