Matthew McConaughey Just Because Children's Book NPR's A Martinez speaks with actor Matthew McConaughey about his new children's book, Just Because, which offers life lessons in couplets.

Matthew McConaughey's book 'Just Because' is judgment-free

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A few days ago, actor Matthew McConaughey told me he wished he had not been so eager to grow up. I think we can all relate to being a kid wanting to hurry up to become a teenager, then as a teen, wanting to hurry up to become an adult. McConaughey wrote a children's book where he's exploring some of the trials that kids face that can be character building. It's called "Just Because." So I asked him, why "Just Because?"

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: When we're young, we like to do things because we can, you know, even if we don't want to or need to. We grow older and we get a little more mature, and we start to measure our decisions not based on just if we can, but we ask ourselves, we consider, well, I know I can, but do I want to or need to? That's smart. That's maturity. That's evolution. But I just wanted to remind the kid in all of us that because you can can still be a good reason to do something, and not in a foolish way.

But I think all the couplets in this piece, "Just Because," is just - it's saying there's not one absolute, basically. It's comparing, it's showing the contradictions that we all have with ourselves, with each other and understanding human relationships. And it's just saying, just because it's one thing doesn't mean it can't be another. Doesn't mean it's the - both are true. It really is an inspiration from a favorite verse of mine from the Bible, Matthew 6:22. If thy eye is single, thy whole body will be full of light. And just because just takes away a lot of judgment and shows you the paradox of living.

MARTÍNEZ: Before I opened the book, when I got it in the mail, I had my granddaughter read it by herself. She's about to turn 10. She had a lot of questions, but there were two things in particular. One was just because I lied doesn't mean that I'm a liar. And the other one was, just because I did it again...


MARTÍNEZ: ...Doesn't mean I don't regret it. I had to, like, really think about that because those are kind of grown-up themes that I had to try and explain to a 9-year-old.

MCCONAUGHEY: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, well, that's the idea, that these would be a conversation. And I had these same conversations with my kids, you know? Just because I lie doesn't mean I'm a liar, that's a really cool one that I learned when I was about 10. A friend of mine had fibbed to me, and I called him a liar. And I saw him get completely defensive, like I had just cast a nasty character trait across his whole being.

And he was overcome with guilt and frustration and confusion and then anger. And there was no way, really, out of it. There was no - we were not going to lead to him saying I'm sorry, please forgive me, and then move on. And what I learned from that was, oh, don't ever label someone if they did something one time. Don't label them the liar. That's a character trait. You can say, you lied to me. Why did you lie to - just lie to me right then?

That person, when you tell someone - which I later went to this friend and said, hey, sorry about calling you a liar, but you lied to me. And then he was able to go, OK, you're talking about that specific event. Yes, you're right. My bad. Here's why I did it. I'm sorry. And we came back together. But, boy, there was no coming back together when I labeled him as a liar. And so that's an example across the board that we have to watch, labeling people. There are things people do in certain circumstances and situations. That does not mean it's a full-on character defect of them, nor do we have a right to label them that way.

MARTÍNEZ: What have your kids said about the book? You have a 15-year-old, daughter who's 13, another son who's 10. What have they said about the book?

MCCONAUGHEY: Daughter loves the pictures. She's very visual. We've talked about a lot of these couplets in different ways for - I guess I didn't even know it, but for years. They told me I've been kind of trying to father these - some of these things into them. You know, one of the couplets is, just because you threw shade doesn't mean that I'm out of the sun, and just because they shut me down doesn't mean I have not won. You know, this throwing shade or trolling, and a negative response or comment on something you thought was cool or true, doesn't mean that it steals your joy, doesn't mean that that has to affect your whole day and your whole mood, doesn't mean that you go from, oh, man to sadness, to despair. Watch that because - talking about the social media world - they will pile on. And then all of a sudden, you can start piling on yourself.

So we've had some cool conversations about different couplets in our family, and we still are. And as you started off, A, in the interview, I'm finding that after I'm having conversations with my kids about this book, I'm still continuing conversations with myself, conversations with my wife, conversations with other people about some of these couplets that I'm going, I'm still working on that one. I need to work on that one.

MARTÍNEZ: This book, Matthew, I mean, the way I see it, it's more than just a children's book, it's a children's and adult book, children and parents' book to read together. Is that what you're hoping that this book does...


MARTÍNEZ: ...That that brings these two generations together to understand each other better?

MCCONAUGHEY: That's it, to understand each other, to understand ourselves, to understand humanity, people, life, living. You know, there's a poetry to living. There is innuendo and context. And we're so deadhead red on trying to understand in absolutes and make things certain and black-and-white. And we miss half the picture a lot of times when we do that. I know it's an easier and safe place to go - just to make the decision - go, this is how it is, and it won't change. That's just not really true.

The conversation piece between parents and the children, back and forth, and each person - mother, father, grandmother, brother, sister, child - is going to have a different personal understanding of what this - each couplet means to them, the scenario in their own life. It'll be different every time. I'm still having different ones than I had two months ago with my kids when I talk about it.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Matthew McConaughey. His children's book is called "Just Because." Matthew, thank you very much.

MCCONAUGHEY: A, thank you, sir.

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