Lessons from Faramir

A controversial character because of the discrepancies between the Faramir of the book and the film, the younger son of the Steward of Gondor plays a central role in the last struggle against the forces of evil in Middle-earth. Faramir is the younger and under-appreciated brother of Boromir, a noble warrior. Unlike his brother, Faramir fights not for glory but acceptance in the hope of earning the praise of their father.

Relying too much on someone else’s opinion.

For all his outstanding traits, Faramir has a mighty weakness: his over-reliance on his father’s opinion, rather than faith in himself. It’s easy to understand why he would desire Denethor’s praise, since throughout his life he’s heard nothing but condemnation for the skills he lacks. Many children who hear nothing from their parents but how worthless and stupid they are struggle to believe themselves sufficient.

Faramir has a great desire to prove himself. He wants to please his father at any cost, to prove he’s worthy of respect, and he is willing to die to do it. We all want to prove ourselves, but he takes it to an unhealthy level in his refusal to listen to Gandalf, who tells him he has worth and should protect his life. In this, he is like Éowyn, since they are striving for the same recognition and respect. She wields a sword because of the power it gives her, the thrill of exaltation as she sees the enemy fall, the ability to fight for something she believes in. Their desire for praise unites them as much as their common desire for death to end their emotional pain. Both are suicidal, but able to heal each other’s broken hearts. Faramir fights for the people of Gondor, for his name, and for the praise he will never earn from his father.

Certain parents don’t measure up to what we want them to be. They cannot give a compliment without condescension. They don’t know or care how to make you feel good. We must learn not to rely on their opinion to be proud of ourselves or know we have worth as a human being.

Faramir does not “need“ his father’s approval to live a happy life, but he doesn’t realize this until it’s too late. He wants his father’s approval so much, he almost sacrifices the fate of Middle-earth to achieve it. Denethor wants the Ring. He sent Boromir to retrieve it. Faramir knows he can earn his father’s respect and love by succeeding where Boromir failed. But because of who he is, because of the strengths he has, he learns what Boromir did not—the Ring is corrupt. To take it would be folly; to use it for good, impossible. Sam’s speech reminds him there’s more to the world than his desire for love. There are more important things than Daddy’s approval. Unless Middle-earth works together toward destroying this evil, it will destroy them all.

At that moment, Faramir realizes who he is, independent of his need for approval. He’s not just Denethor’s son, but also the Captain of Gondor. He needs nothing but his own assurance that he has made the right choice. This gives him the confidence to do what is right, even though he knows it will anger his father. When you know something is right, you don’t have to have the approval and agreement of others. Sometimes you have to flout your independence and do it whether you have their blessing.

Don’t be who you are not.

Because he desires his father’s approval, Faramir does his best to model himself after his older brother. Boromir is a warrior, a man beloved among their people for his leadership qualities. This is his talent and gift, one the younger son does not possess. When he takes up his sword, it is to defend his nation. Gondor needs him. Though willing to fight, Faramir is not of warrior material. He’s tenderhearted, intuitive, thoughtful, and sensitive. He cares about the enemy, wonders at their mindset going into battle, and regrets the slaughter he’s forced to take part in while defending their borders. This is not weakness (unlike his father’s scorn for his “softness“), but strength, because it shows his compassion.

The greatest generals in history felt sorrow for the slain. General Robert E. Lee once said, “Thank God war is so terrible, or we might become too fond of it.” He felt forced to defend his home state of Virginia and fight his fellow Americans for a cause he believed in. Lee didn’t like it. He didn’t want to kill his friends and neighbors, men he’d fought with in the past, but he did his duty according to his conscience. This earned the respect of all who fought him, even on the opposite side, because he was a principled man of moral convictions… — like Faramir.

Compassion is a valuable trait. If it is our gift, we shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are, but use our talents for good. We don’t all have to be warriors like Boromir. Some of us ponder and dream instead of bluster and fight. Faramir has one virtue his bother lacked—his noble nature is stronger and more able to resist the Ring.

Overcoming temptation.

One change in the film series is Faramir attempting to take the Ring to Gondor. In the book, he wanted no part of it and hastened the hobbits on their way. But the writers felt to have Faramir brush off the Ring would demean the force threatening Middle-earth. It tempted Gandalf. It tempted Galadriel. Two of the most powerful monarchs in the world almost claimed it, yet a simple captain shrugged it off? Nah.

Faramir had to face temptation to remind us how dangerous the Ring is and set himself apart from his brother. They came from the same “weak” human bloodline, yet one resisted where the other surrendered. His temptation and desire to take it makes him relatable. We respect someone more who faces and resists temptation than someone who easily shuns temptation. As anyone who has ever tried to diet knows, resistance is never easy. Turning our back on something that could give us everything we want, in his case, his father’s love, is even harder.

No one is above temptation, and we may even hesitate before we find our way. Faramir almost takes the Ring, but then chooses not to. Temptation itself is not a sin, but the choice of what to do with it is ours. Once Faramir realized his mistake in bringing the hobbits to Osgiliath, he rectified it. He sent them on their way. It’s never too late to say you’re sorry, to confess your error, to turn and run back to the proverbial or literal path. God is not waiting to punish you for your mistakes. It pleases him that in humility, you admitted your weakness, asked forgiveness, and started again. 

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