I love movies. In fact, movie watching has been a favorite hobby of mine for many years. In a true testament to how fast time flies, I recently realized that one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump, celebrated its twentieth anniversary just this past year (2014). That is certainly hard to believe. This unorthodox romantic-comedy-drama chronicles the coming of age story of Forrest Gump (played by actor Tom Hanks) who doesn’t realize that he is mentally “disadvantaged” according to societal conventions. His uncanny optimism, encouraged from a young age by the unwavering positivity of his mom, led him on an amazing journey that influenced the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact.
What made Forrest Gump the blockbuster that was the top grossing film in North America that year and still ranks in iMDB as the 13th best movie of all time? What is it about this low I.Q. hero’s story that captured Best Actor, Best Director, and the vaunted price of Best Picture that year? In 2011, what the Library of Congress to select Forrest Gump for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
The Face of Authenticity
There are many reasons for its success including excellent actors, a creative story (which at the time I didn’t know was actually based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom), and several really signature sound bytes that still carry a punch even twenty years later. But, I believe there is one other factor that propelled Forrest Gump into the record books and cemented its place in American movie lore.
That reason is authenticity.
I think about authenticity a lot because it is foundational to the positive influence that I seek to have for myself and encourage in others. Your authentic self is the very center of your character.
- Authenticity is what makes you uniquely you.
- Authenticity is what allows you to wield influence in places inaccessible to everyone else.
- Authenticity is a magnetic force that draws people towards you.
When you are most authentic, you should be at the pinnacle of joy with a radiance that brightens everyone around you
But, so often something is amiss—very wrong in fact.
The Face of the Resistance
Instead you struggle—often hiding your authenticity under a veneer of bravado.
Your self-confidence that should embolden you to live abundantly is dulled by the strains of comparison to those you perceive as better than you.
Your distinct voice sounds muffled, barely audible above the noise of your surroundings.
Your creativity, the very reason that God placed you here, is crumbling under the weight of doubt, regret, apathy, and guilt. Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art calls it “the Resistance”. In the Holy Bible, Saint Peter calls it “the Adversary”. It, in fact, goes by many names.
This Adversary is dark, evil, and intent on destroying your unique influence by accomplishing one single goal—making you a copycat.
- The copycat feels accepted because he does what everyone else does and sounds like everyone else sounds.
- The copycat doesn’t get targeted for criticism because he chooses to run with the pack rather than stand out.
- The copycat feels comfortable because he stays in his zone, his comfort zone where he is safe.
The problem, of course, is that the copycat is a fraud. God did not make any copycat. Not one. Copycats are human derivations.
Building a Masterpiece
God’s intent is clear. The Bible (Psalms 139:14) assures each of us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We says that we are each uniquely and wonderfully made. The word translated, ‘wonderfully’ means to be distinct or unique. To further this idea, in the book of Ephesians (2:10) we are instructed that your uniqueness is a key element of God’s masterful purpose.
I surmise that we love this fictitious character, Forrest Gump, because he reflects that primal drive for uniqueness and authenticity that God placed within each of us—the desire to be confident and secure in our own skin.
We want to rise above our limitations and change the world just like Forrest did.
We want to see our differences as strengths rather than liabilities just like Forrest did.
We want to be authentically present in the moment, just like Forrest did.
No. Forrest isn’t real. But, he symbolizes a real truth.
In the high and low points of life, God will strengthen you with the courage to authentically engage those He puts in your path. In doing so, you and they will find ultimate joy and influence, just like Forrest did.
I’ll close this celebration of Forrest Gump’s 20th anniversary with four of my favorite Forrest quotes that all of us can benefit from internalizing as we pursue our own authentic influence.
- Forrest Quote: “What’s normal anyways?” [Translation: Normal is ordinary. You were made for extraordinary.]
- Forrest Quote: “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” [Translation: Be adaptable. See change as a growth opportunity. You don’t have to respond like everyone else.]
- Forrest Quote: “Stupid is as stupid does.” [Translation: Your actions, not people’s perceptions, are what define you. If you keep acting like a copycat that is all you will ever be. If you act unique, you will be extraordinary.]
And, finally, in the famous line of Jenny Curran (Forrest’s romantic interest)…“Run, Forrest! Run!” [Translation: Get out there and do what only you can do!]
What is your favorite line from Forrest Gump? What connections do you see between the movie and your own call?