“Would it help?”
Mark Rylance, the 2016 Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor, plays a convicted Russian spy in the movie, Bridge of Spies. In the film the character Rudolf Abel is continually asked by his attorney if he is nervous or worried about his capture, his legal case, or his potential death sentence. Abel always answers the question in exactly the same way, with his own question, “Would it help?”
Years after seeing the movie, in a time of uncertainty about the pandemic, about war, I still think about his answer, still hear his voice asking the obvious. In just these three words this character reminds me of my own unhelpful anxiety or worry that I attach to most of the decisions I make and to much of the circumstances of life. Surely, if I could stop before the worry took over and just ask myself this simple question, perhaps I would not drop so completely into that dark abyss.
Everyone knows that worry doesn’t help. Of course, we all understand that fear is of little use. We can tell ourselves and others that feeling anxious or nervous about any aspect of life brings no real benefit. Some can even quote the scriptures that ask, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
Doctors tell us that worrying can do as much harm to our bodies as smoking or eating a poor diet. Physically, it is a terrible habit that causes our blood pressure to rise, our breathing to become shallow, our stomachs to churn. Emotionally, it can lead us to irritability and a short temper, which could possibly harm our most primary relationships. Mentally, it distracts us from being able to think clearly. Worrying bears no positive benefit. And yet, most of us still do it, still fall into the same traps, walk down the same path every time we’re faced with unknown outcomes and uncontrollable events, creating much more stress for ourselves than is surely necessary. I can’t count the number of times I have stayed awake at night worried about something that eventually never even came to pass. I have wasted a lot of time thinking about the worst case scenarios only to find out either that the outcome wasn’t so awful or that even in those worst cases, I came out alright. Somehow what I needed, the help I required, the assistance, the answers, the way through, always showed up. And the worrying and the anxiety never helped.
Perhaps, now that Rudolf Abel’s resolve is fresh in my mind and that question lingers for me as an important one to remember, I will not fall so quickly into the worry trap the next time things fall apart. Perhaps I can be just as at peace as a man facing a death sentence so that when I am asked the questions, “aren’t you worried or concerned? Aren’t you afraid?” I will be able to look clearly into the eyes of my questioner and respond with ease, “Would it help?”
You are the light of the world!