In his 1994 Oscar-winning performance, Tom Hanks played the role of the seemingly simple-minded yet complex character of Forrest Gump. Throughout his life, Forrest was intertwined by two other characters.
First we have Lieutenant Dan. Lieutenant Dan came from a long history of military commanders who were best known for the honor and glory that comes from dying on the field of battle. In one scene the lieutenant’s platoon came under fire and was suffering heavy losses. Dan himself lost his legs. Preparing to proudly accept his fate in the family legacy, he was suddenly interrupted by Forrest. As Forrest carried Dan to safety, Dan shouted to his rescuer to put him back and leave him to die. The bitterness of missing what Dan perceived as his destiny drove him to a life of alcoholism and anger.
Before I get to the next character, let me give you a sense of where I am going with this. As Forrest puts it, “Stuff happens.” I changed the first word of the well known phrase from its original for sake of the reader. Whether it be from your childhood or any injustice that was done to you, it is easy to become bitter about it. Bitterness is much like an unwanted vine. It grows and roots itself deep within our hearts and minds. Often without realizing it, bitterness affects most areas of our lives, especially our relationships. And like that vine, the sooner we learn how to properly deal with our hurts, the easier it is to remove bitterness.
Next we have Forrest’s favorite girl and childhood friend Jenny. Jenny grew up in an abusive home. Since her childhood, Jenny’s desire was to run “far-far away.” And as she grew up, Jenny did just that. She ran as far away from all remembrances of her past into a life of sexual promiscuity and drugs. Jenny became a political activist for an extreme group and considered suicide more than once. She ran and ran but found that no amount of physical or psychological distance could separate her from the pain of what happened. Her external behavior was a result of her inner turmoil and she couldn’t outrun it. Forrest himself attempted to run for years to deal with the pain of abandonment and rejection he felt from Jenny’s departure for his home in Alabama.
Never dealing head-on your past hurt or current problems can only result in bitterness and/or a mental or physical attempt to escape. Running can be as simple as avoiding the pain or conflict, to moving away from a relation or job. Attempting to flee usually results in running to some “thing” or into the arms of someone. But at the end of the movie we see a third way — a better way. The best way.
When it was all said and done, Lieutenant Dan got a set of artificial legs, a wife, and a career in the world of business. Dan chose to learn from the experience and to overcome the pain of disappointment. No longer was he controlled by the obstacles of his circumstances. Rather, Lieutenant Dan, as the movie seems to imply, lived happily ever after.
Jenny got her life straightened out, as well. Jenny took her son back to Alabama and married her childhood friend and the father of her child, Forrest Gump. Jenny unfortunately was to leave this world before her time. The consequences of her actions were both real and deadly. But in her final years she reconciled her life and focused on her son, her husband and her future. Jenny died but not before she left a positive linage to what was once a line of dysfunction.
We can’t always control what happens to us but we MUST control how we respond to those things. You have a choice. You can choose to become bitter about it and permit the pain to cause you and your loved ones unnecessary stress and grief. You have the option to run from it, but by now you have figured out that the issues and the pain seem to run with you. Finally, you can choose to how to learn from it and to overcome it.
Yes, it really happened, but it doesn’t have to define who you are or who you become. Don’t be afraid to seek good and wise counsel and get past your past. Never allow your past disappointments to determine your future. Learn what you can from the experience and move on.