The ‘interview of the year’ was aired on Monday 9 March 2021. I wasn’t one of the millions who tuned in to watch Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – I was chairing a meeting of the Church Council at the time. I must confess I’ve not watched it since, though it is hard to miss with reports on the news and on social media – and we’ve seen two high profile journalists ‘falling on their swords’ as a result of the fallout.
Some see Meghan as a brave woman willing to fight for her marriage, her mental health, and her children against the prejudice and opposition of some in the royal family. Others see her as a vindictive outsider who did not get what she wanted and is trying to ‘take down’ the royal family.
Some view Harry as the oppressed son of a distant father, but others view him as a troublemaking rebel seeking attention in all the wrong ways. Some viewers saw the couple as courageous trailblazers making a new way forward for royalty in the twenty-first century. But others saw them as capitalizing on Harry’s inherited platform and fortune.
There are always two sides to a story and truth is always subjective. Indeed, the response from the Queen recognises this, when she said: “Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously …” I guess there are some things that are better not be aired in the public arena, and these, as the Queen continues: “… will be addressed by the family privately.”
Sam Hailes, of Premier Christianity, watched the interview and he responds with a sensitive assessment and suggests seven lessons Christians can learn from Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, and whatever the finer details, when a person says they are struggling with suicidal thoughts there can only be one response. Compassion. This doesn’t mean you unquestioningly accept or believe everything that person says about their circumstances. It means you believe them when they say they are in deep turmoil and emotional pain, you put them first and you do everything within your power to support them. If you watched those two hours and never felt any level of sympathy or compassion for Meghan, then it’s time to ask Jesus to do a deeper work in your heart.
2. Racism is ugly
Oprah’s jaw dropped when Meghan suggested there were concerns from some members of the royal family about her future children’s skin colour. Racism is ugly. Like me, you might be tempted to ask questions such as, “What on earth was the context for those remarks?” (not that any context could ever justify them) in an attempt to understand how such things could be said, but a better response is to pause, to feel the weight of those words, and to resist any attempts in ourselves to explain them away. We can’t kid ourselves that racism is confined to the past. We also can’t kid ourselves that other people are racist and we’re completely pure and innocent of any prejudice.
3. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
A sentiment like this, which is often plastered across pictures of sunsets and shared on Facebook, can seem a bit trite. But it’s true, and last night proved that. Harry and Meghan spoke of putting on a brave face, smiling for the cameras and pretending everything was ok, when in reality Meghan had just told Harry she wanted to die. Obviously that’s an extremely serious situation, but most of us can relate to the principle of needing to put on a brave face – at work, at home or at church – because it isn’t appropriate to fully open up about matters which are preoccupying us. Remember how trapped and conflicted you felt in those moments, and then understand the person standing in front of you today might be in a place just like that right now. Show them as much grace as you can.
4. The smallest acts of kindness can mean so much
You probably won’t see any headlines today about how the Queen offered Meghan a blanket while they were on a train together. Given everything else we heard last night, it sounds inconsequential. And yet Meghan remembered that moment, that quiet kindness, and took delight in sharing the story.
Who looks up to you? Who are you in a position of power or influence over? How can you show kindness to those people today? It might seem like a tiny gesture to you. But to them, it could mean the world.
5. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength
Often it’s our pride that prevents us from asking for help. We want to be self sufficient, but God didn’t create us that way. We are dependent – on him, and on one another. Meghan and Harry were right to point out that admitting you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness. They were right to ask for help and admit to one another they were struggling.
6. Disunity is destructive
Some good can, and hopefully will, come from this interview. But it is unlikely to bring any kind of unity or healing to relationships in the royal family. The Bible says “how good and pleasant when brothers live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). The implication being, how awful and unpleasant it is when there is disunity. Whatever we think of the individuals in this situation, we can all pray for healing, restoration and unity. Not just for the royal family, but for ourselves in our own relationships and own churches. As Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” But note the first two words: “If possible”. We must work as hard as we can for unity and reconciliation now, while also understanding that in this broken world, that is not always possible.
7. Learn from the past
As the interview concluded, this was a message Harry wanted to emphasise. He drew parallels between what had happened to his mother, and to his wife, especially when it came to the media. Whether or not you agree with him that history is repeating itself in this specific example, the broader principle that we should learn from history is rock solid. You could even argue its biblical, as commentating on the Old Testament, Paul said those books were given to us by God, as an “example” and “warning” to us. (1 Corinthians 10:11). He was telling Christians to learn from God’s dealings with others in the past. Why? Perhaps George Santayana’s famous aphorism provides the answer: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”