5 Lessons from 12 Angry Men

This article first appeared on my Facebook timeline in 2017. I republished it untouched, unedited. I believe you’d find it worth your while.

If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it; I promise you won’t regret it. As at the time of writing this, I’ve watched it about 6 times. The movie is that amazing. But even if you haven’t watched the movie, don’t worry; read on, I’ve got you covered.

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American courtroom drama film following the closing arguments in a murder trial. The 12 members of the jury had to sweat over the case and decide if the accused, an inner-city teen is guilty; thus, sending him to the electric chair. However, they all had to vote unanimously i.e. all 12 jurors had to conclude if he was guilty or not and wouldn’t leave the room till a verdict was reached. So a major part of the movie was shot in a room. Names weren’t used in the movie, except at the end where two jurors exchanged names. They were called jurors 1 – 12.

The whole thing started, and they all had to vote to decide if the boy was guilty. The main character, juror 8, was the only one who voted not guilty and went on later in the movie to prove the boy’s innocence; winning all remaining 11 jurors to his side. An epic movie, a must watch. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.

1- Don’t be too scared to stand out.

“Now, okay you ready? All those voting guilty, please raise your hands. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…” Looking at juror 8 was angry men who were furious he didn’t raise his hand, save them time so they can all go home.

“…nine, ten, and eleven. Now those voting not guilty, please raise your hands.” Confidently, juror 8 signified by raising his hand.

“Boy, o boy, there’s always one”, said juror 2 in an irritated tone.

Juror 8 is just my rock star. People are too scared these days to be different. It was Earl Nightingale that said that the problem with most people today is people acting like the wrong crowd, people acting like the wrong percentage group.

Why not be comfortable in your skin? Why not dare to be different? Irrespective of how juror 8 was looked at, or talked to; he didn’t cave in, he was okay standing out. Always ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen?

2- Try to give excuses for people.

“Look, this kid has been kicked around all his life. Born in the slum, mother dead since he was nine, and father in jail for forgery for a year and half, he’s had a miserable 18 years.” – Juror 8.

We all are guilty of this. One way or another, we defy this rule in different ways; lashing out when we’re not supposed to, concluding easily while caging ourselves in anger because of what “that idiot did”. But your life would be so much better if you had this under your belt – if you learnt how to give excuses for people. When the evidences were presented in the movie, it seemed too glaring that the boy had killed his dad. But one man said, “We can’t send this kid off to die, at least without talking about it first; without a fair trial.”

That brings me to another point; most times we act like “supreme judges” just like the 11 remaining jurors in this movie, judging any and every one thinking that they deserve to be punished. That boy didn’t kill his dad, what if juror 8 just concluded like the remaining? A boy would have died because of a crime he didn’t commit.

3- Don’t make conclusions about certain people in certain places.

“Slums are breeding grounds for criminals. It’s no secret that children born here are potential menaces to society. Now I think…” said Juror 3 before Juror 11 quickly interrupted.

“Brother you can say that again, the kids who crawl of these places are real trash.”

Very irritated, Juror 4 retorted; “I lived in a slum all my life. I mean, I’ve played with garbage, I’ve played with trash, maybe you can still smell them on me”.

This reminds me of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk, dangers of a single story. We risk a critical misunderstanding when we listen and believe only one part of a plethora of possibilities. How different would we be from the whites who believed that all blacks were apes, when interesting stuff and bright individuals here were yet to be discovered here?

Of course, we too are guilty of that. We often hear something about a group of people and we let that define them. Less than 0.001% of our population are internet fraudsters, yet we’re defined by it. That should teach us that not every story should be the definitive.

4- Most people will never change no matter how hard you try. Their problem may be beyond your diagnosis.

“I don’t care whether I’m alone or not, it’s my right; you’re not going to intimidate me, I’m entitled to my opinion.

These were the words of the only juror not convinced that the boy was innocent even after all the evidences. A boy’s life was on the line and what he cared about what his opinion. Somewhere in the movie, he revealed to another juror during a conversation that he had issues with his son. Well, he later broke down, cried and voted not guilty after a picture of his son fell off of his wallet. There I realized that his pain wasn’t the accused, but his own son that he had issues with.

Don’t fight wars that you can’t identify your motivation behind; you only cause more harm than good, that’s if any good comes out of it at all. We’re emotional beings, every of our actions are a result of an underlying issue or experience that we may not be able to grab at that moment; or even explain. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a great book to read in that aspect.

5- Valuable relationships.

“Hey!” Juror 9 exclaimed as he approached juror 8 outside the courtroom.

“What’s your name?” “My name is Davis.” “I’m Ricardo.”
“Well, so long,” “So long.”

Davis dared to be different, he didn’t care what the others did or how they felt, what he cared about was to do the right thing; and that earned him a valuable friend in the process. If your fear is being rejected by a certain group of people because of the person you are, then whoever is your friend after you change your attitude may not really be your friend. They may just leave when you start being you.

Dare to stand out, not in a bad way; but in a confident, self-assuring, polite, and humble way. That right spouse will definitely come. Don’t be; in the bid of getting the right people in your life, change your attitude to be accepted. Don’t waste your time on a group of say 5-10 people when a world of 9 billion is waiting to hear you. Stand out!

Conclusion

I hope you were inspired by this article to stand out. If you didn’t get anything else, it’d be my joy if you grabbed this very one. Thank you for reading.

Do you have any comments? Please feel free to tell us your mind; will be highly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time. Have a great day!

  1. January 23, 2021 - Reply

    Wow. Good one. I am particularly interested in that one friend who is better than a million. Good one James Ma

    • January 23, 2021 - Reply

      @Mt

      Thank you so much MT.

  2. January 23, 2021 - Reply

    It’s a beautiful piece and very well-scripted too: all the lessons passed across are valid(even though it’s been since 2017). Welldone James Ma.

    • January 23, 2021 - Reply

      @Modupe Isola

      I really appreciate the kind words Modupe. Thank you so much.

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