Culture TV

Lessons from ‘HIMYM:’ we can’t do life alone

In this Netflix-era of TV, I know many of you readers have yet to watch the final episodes. So I promise, no spoilers. At least, no MAJOR spoilers: if you’ve seen Season 8, you’re safe.

Kids. It was emotional. Like that moment when you saw Voldemort burst into pieces or Michael Scott show up at Dwight and Angela’s wedding or you heard Mr. Feeny say those utterly beautiful final words, “I love you all. Class dismissed.” 

Was the finale of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) perfect? No. And it upset quite a few people. But endings are never perfect. I am not here to critique, but to highlight some of the best moments.

Television and movies can really mess with us. Storytelling has a lot of power. Power to disarm a sex-driven culture through satire, power to show the heartbreak and overwhelming joy of unrelenting faith, power to show the beautiful redemption found in friendship.

After nine years of watching character development and laughing through the absurdity, nearly forgetting at times that Ted is telling these stories for a specific end, How I Met Your Mother is over. It has left us, but not without two hugely important lessons.

1. “Love is the best thing we do”

Ted has a killer monologue at the climax of a very important wedding where he says, “I mean, you can’t logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical, but we have to keep doing it or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do. Look, I know that sounds cheesy but it’s just true.”

Now I know HIMYM may not be the most holy of television shows. But, let’s be honest, this is solid Christian theology: love is the best thing we do. Nothing could speak more life into human existence than the gospel of self-sacrificial love. The kind of love that causes you to give up your dream job, burn your playbooks, or stand by your best friend as he marries your ex-girlfriend who you’re still in love with.

Love is intentional. But it’s not calculated. Ted’s grandest romantic gestures are nice, but they don’t get him very far. What gets him far is the little choices he makes, the loyalty he shows to his friends, the knowledge that love is the best thing he could ever do.

2. Honesty is the only vow that really counts

My wife and I based our wedding vows off of a few templates we found meaningful. We wrote them together, and they’re awesome. However, we missed something super obvious. We left out a vow that explicitly says, “I promise to live transparently before you, to tell you the truth, always.” And this has been the hardest lesson we’ve had to learn in our first year of marriage.

Barney Stinson of all (fictional) people learned this quicker than I did: “Marshall and Lily have broken most of their wedding vows but they’re still the best couple I know. I think their biggest problem was that Marshall didn’t tell Lily the truth. So I’ve decided to make only one vow to you because it’s the only one that really counts. Robin Scherbatsky, from this day forward, I am always going to be honest with you. Because I love you.”

Blatant honesty and transparent living is probably one of the scariest things we can do. I don’t want to live transparently before everyone I meet. (Acquaintances and strangers don’t need to hear my complaints and struggles. Friends don’t need to know my every move.) But I do want to live transparently before at least one person. Namely, for me, the person I’ve committed my life to. I want to partner with her to clean all the skeletons out of my closet, like Barney set out to do with Robin. Like Ted set out to do with his kids. Like the five set out to do with each other in broken and bizarre ways in a booth in MacLaren’s Pub.

The over-arching theme of HIMYM is that we can’t do life alone. We need to be there for each other at the big moments. We need to live meaningful, momentous lives, creating memories so one day our children (or our friends’ children) can roll their eyes at all of our stories.

Life will get hard and messy and utterly depressing, but friendships provide healing. And while disappointment and tragedy might always be present to those who cling hardest to faith, they will nevertheless find themselves in a beautifully happy ending.

Photo courtesy of CBS