on Breaking Bad and the lines we cross

Like so many, I have become hooked on the TV show Breaking Bad. I have never really been a fan of the TV drama but more a sucker for the slapstick stupidity of most 30 minute sit-coms. But, out of curiosity I started watching it on Netflix at the beginning of the year and have become enamored with this incredible story.


The short version is this – a brilliant, yet underachieving high school teacher finds out he has cancer, then comes into contact with a former student – who also happens to be a drug dealer – and makes the decision to “cook” meth to support his family after he dies.

I’m not usually a fan of these kinds of shows because many of them seem to glorify and glamorize the world of crime. This sounds like an old-fogey way of looking at things, but to me when these lifestyles are glamorized, it takes away the true devastation and destruction a life of crime can produce.

What really got me interested in this show was an interview I heard with the show’s creator – Vince Gilligan. Simply put, he had become annoyed with TV shows that had very little to no consequences for the actions of the characters. In fact, he was a writer for “The X-Files” back in the 90’s and he wasn’t proud of some of the things he wrote. For instance, in one episode Agent Moulder shot and killed someone in his house but nothing was mentioned about it the next week!

This is where Breaking Bad moves the needle for me. It seems like all five seasons are a direct consequence of the decisions Walt makes in the first episode. And, all of the difficulties Walt goes through and the ways he changes into a drug-dealing monster share a genesis in a decision to ignore what he knew to be right.

As you watch the show, Walt finds more and more excuses and justifications to do what he does. And, as the show goes on it becomes easier and easier to make horrible and irresponsible decisions. While this is a violent and sometimes difficult show to watch – it is very real.

And, this show is brilliant because it is true. And, as we talk about the lines we draw, I think it is also important to note the lines we cross and the ways we justify our behavior. When we cross moral and ethical lines to get what we want, so many times the consequences are destructive.

When you look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, you see a slow decay from the golden calf to her eventual exile. This wasn’t a sudden thing, but more a slow fade downwards consisting of many justifications.

So, how do we know whether or not our actions are crossing destructive lines? I guess one way is to consider your pride. As brilliant as Walt is in the show, his pride is his destruction. In fact, he has many opportunities to change course. But, his pride wins every time.

C.S. Lewis named pride as the deadliest sin from which all other sin derive their names. It is this sense of self-preservation and adulation that drives so many of the poor decisions we make.

While Walt justifies what he does as a huge self-sacrifice for his family, what he is really doing is serving his own pride and ego. While he might care for his family, he ultimately cares for himself.

Yet, Jesus shows us something quite different. He shows us a path where the consequences are not death and destruction, but peace. When Jesus draws lines, it is not to the excision of all else, but shows us how to truly live in a way that brings life, not death.

How has pride affected the way you live? What consequences have you faced because of your pride?

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