“Life ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can GET hit, and keep movin’ forward.”
In this clip from the film, he reveals to his father that he blames him for his unhappiness, saying, “People see me, but they think of you”. Convinced that his father’s fame has robbed him of the chance to be his own man, Robert pleads with Rocky to not go through with a high-profile fight. Rocky has come out of retirement for one final brawl, and being at the age 59, the news has already created a sensation. Robert believes that if he goes through with it, it will once and for all, ruin his efforts to “Have a little something” for himself, besides his last name.
Rocky responds with an incredible speech about perseverance, saying, “You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good, and when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow… Let me tell you something you already know… no one is going to hit harder than life… but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers, saying you’re not where you wanna be because of ‘him’ or ‘her’ or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you!”
I think that we all have a little Rocky Jr. inside. A part of us that feels overwhelmed by “the forces that be”, when we are hurting, or beat down, we look in the mirror and see someone who is lost… often times we begin to think that it is not within our power to change, and it becomes a temptation to believe that it is not our fault. Perhaps it is even a relief, because thinking we have no control, removes us of responsibility. Yet through the love of his father, Rocky Jr. realizes he is wrong. His dad expresses both great expectations, as well as his disappointment in Robert’s cowardice, ending the exchange by saying that, “You’re the best thing in my life, but until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.” In the end, Robert quits his job and rediscovers his own value and worth. With his new found strength he decides to stand by his father throughout the training and throughout the fight.
As Christians, there is a great lesson that we can take from this. The first is that we can’t control how much life beats us down, but we can control whether or not we get back up again. It reminds me of the courage of the martyrs; they had the guts to stand up for what they believed regardless of the opposition, proclaiming Christ’s love until death. This is particularly relevant today when it is common to allow yourself to become marginalized. It is popular to pass on responsibility to others and to blame anything and everything… Like: the government, our society, the education system, family, friends, and pretty much anything else. This is not to say that these things do not influence us in a big way, they absolutely do, and it is vital that we recognize that, but the problem is when we decide that those influences have made it impossible for us to live authentically.
I think we can hear through the scriptures, Christ speaking to us in a similar way that Rocky speaks to his son. Anytime we begin to think that we can’t make it, or that we aren’t valuable, or that we can’t possible live up to the expectations of God, we may start to blame others, to pity ourselves, to make excuses, and to accuse God of not doing enough for us. Yet Christ comes right back at us with his living witness and his eternal words, telling us just how wrong we are. In Mt 14:29-32 Peter begins to walk towards Jesus through the waves of a raging ocean, but he loses focus and realizing the danger of the storm that surrounds him, he becomes fearful and sinks. Jesus does not tell him that he gave it a really good try, or that he is really proud of him for being the only disciple who attempted to walk on water, quit to the contrary, he says, “Oh man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
God shows us again and again how much he believes in us, and he refuses to accept our numerous excuses… responding that his love is sufficient always. Perhaps like Rocky to his son, God is saying to all of us, “I will always love you, you are my child, you’re the best thing in my life, but until you start believing in yourself, you aren’t going to have a life.”…
Christ wants us to experience the fullness of life, he wants us to live authentically by his side. And he doesn’t pretend that it is an easy thing to do either. He openly proclaims that life is difficult and full of suffering, but in the same breath, he tells us to “keep movin’ forward!”… take the hits, and keep movin’ forward.
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