If you are anything like me, you are able to attribute a large portion of your understanding of what is important in life to the movie “Forrest Gump.” Forrest Gump tells the tale of a simple-minded man from the beginning of his youth to the middle of his adult life.
Despite his cognitive deficits, Gump finds himself in the middle of nearly every single significant moment in history from the late 40’s to the early 80's. Forrest’s life contains many elements of love, happiness, and tragedy, as well as serving as a prime example of the way life twists and turns. Not only does the movie serve as a brief history lesson, but it also presents a wide variety of life lessons that anyone can learn from.
1. You can go home again.
If there is one thing that rings true throughout "Forrest Gump," it is that no matter where life may take you, home is always waiting for you. One thing Forrest always valued was his beautiful plantation-style home, and of course, the person there waiting for him, his Mama. Forrest is here to remind us the importance of coming home to our roots, and to never forget that it is okay to come home when you need it. This is something that we often forget as we become wrapped up in our daily lives and obligations. We tend to forget that when life gets out of control, or if we feel stressed out, it is okay to pack our bags and head home every now and then.
As it is made clear in Forrest Gump’s life, home offers a familiar, warm feeling that is hard to find elsewhere. Going home is nothing to be ashamed about or embarrassed for. Sometimes we just need a weekend to curl up in our beds, binge Netflix, and cuddle with the family dog, while simultaneously ignoring our paper due in a couple days.
2. Loyalty to your friends.
What could most certainly be the most important lesson in "Forrest Gump" is the importance of remaining loyal to our friends. Forrest’s primary friendship is established in the beginning of the film, when he first encounters Jenny on the bus ride to school. As Forrest likes to say, he and Jenny were like “peas and carrots!” How often are we able to find a friendship like that? Forrest’s undying loyalty to Jenny is what kept their friendship, and eventual love, intact while Jenny pursued her self-destructive lifestyle. Despite these activities, and perhaps due to slight obliviousness to her pastimes, Forrest remained dedicated and persistent in seeing her and thinking about her throughout the duration of his life. This rings true throughout our lives as well. Many times when a friend seems to go the wrong direction, perhaps rather than ditching them, what they need is our love and support. We also can learn from the film that support, even from a distance, can end up potentially saving a friend's life.
Another example of Forrest’s admirable loyalty is to his friends Lieutenant Dan and Benjamin Blue “Bubba.” Lt. Dan finds himself hating Forrest for saving his life while in Vietnam. Despite Dan’s poor attitude towards Forrest, Forrest stayed by his side during his darkest times and throughout the holidays in New York City. Eventually, Forrest’s dedication was returned, when Lt. Dan stepped up to help him with his shrimping business, and when he arrived at Forrest’s intimate wedding back home in Alabama. We can apply this to our own lives by sticking with those we care about, even when they refuse to care about themselves. We must never lose hope in others, and demonstrate to them how special they really are.
Forrest met his friend Benjamin Blue “Bubba” while serving in Vietnam. His loyalty to Bubba was so intense that, despite being in the thick of a war zone, Forrest would not stop until he was able to pull Bubba out of the wreckage. After Bubba’s death, Forrest kept his word and started a shrimping business while also financially aiding Bubba’s family. Forrest’s actions demonstrate the importance of keeping our promises to our friends.
3. Have faith in where life takes you.
Life is a scary thing! Oftentimes, we find ourselves worrying about our futures and what is going to happen to us. College students worry about picking the right major and where specific career options can take them. We worry about making the right connections to lead us to the right opportunities, and we stress about whether or not we made the right decision constantly. What Forrest Gump reminds us is that life really is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you are going to get. This saying, used multiple times throughout the film, becomes more and more reassuring as you think about it. We must have faith in the decisions we make and understand that what is meant to be will be. If we follow our gut and let go of the reigns a little bit, we will understand how where we end up is exactly where we are meant to be. Forrest finds himself in a plethora of different circumstances, all because he did his best in everything he did, and in the end that is what made his life fulfilling in every way.
Lt. Dan is a perfect example of what can happen to us if we refuse to let life take its course. Lt. Dan was so set on dying in combat that, when Forrest saved his life, he refused to see how lucky he was, and only focused on how his life did not go as planned. He lived his life for many years, bitter, cranky, and rolling with the wrong crowd. It is not until much later in the film that Lt. Dan makes his peace with God, thanks Forrest, and appreciates life fully and with more happiness.
4. It doesn’t matter how others see you, but rather, how you see yourself.
It is no secret that if we spend our lives constantly worrying about what others think of us, we will never be truly happy. This mindset leads to the narcissistic tendencies our society is consumed by, as well as the constant need to impress others. What Forrest Gump reminds us of is that the way you see yourself has an incredible amount of influence in your everyday life. Forrest’s mother always told him “stupid is as stupid does,” and Forrest recalled this quote any time someone asked him if something was wrong with him mentally. Forrest’s mother’s advice could not be any truer. Her words are what kept Forrest’s confidence intact, and what reminded him that he could do anything no matter what anyone else thought of him. Her words reminded him that he was no different than anyone else, and we should think the same. We simply cannot spend our days comparing ourselves to people like the Kardashians or Zach Efron’s girlfriend. (Because, what could she POSSIBLY have that we do not?) We are who we are, and we must learn to love ourselves and understand that nothing can hold us back. Other people’s success is not our failure, only we can fail ourselves!
5. Dedication will take you places, so do what you love.
Another thing we tend to forget is that diving head first into a new activity may be scary, but our commitment to things is what will eventually lead us to where we need to go. "Forrest Gump" reminds us that when we stay committed to the things that matter to us, they will lead to new and exciting places in life that we may have never imagine ourselves going to in the first place. Forrest found himself with a talent for ping-pong, and his commitment to the game eventually led him to compete in China, as well as get him the funding to start his shrimping business and keep his promise to Bubba.
As Forrest's mama said, "we make our own destiny."
6. There is a time for everything, let things be.
The movie itself can be evaluated in phases. First it is Forrest’s childhood, followed by his high school years, college years, army years, and so on. So, what does this mean to us? Life comes in its own phases. There is a time and a place for everything. We must not rush our lives and take time to appreciate where and who we are at this current moment. What is meant to be will be, and we must remember to just let things be as they are every once in awhile.
7. Lead, and others will follow.
When we do what we love, we should never forget that others are watching. Hard work and dedication inspire others, and before you know it, you have a support system you did not even know you had. We all know about Forrest’s infamous 3 year, 4 month, 14 day, and 16 hour-long run. Before he knew it, others were finding inspiration in him and following him during his run. When we find ourselves passionate about something, we must keep our heads forward and lead with confidence, and give the world something positive to look up to.
8. You don’t always have to explain yourself.
During Forest’s extensive run, he oftentimes is bombarded by the press asking him over and over about WHY he is running. Forrest continuously tells them he truly just felt like running. Many times we need to take time to do things for ourselves. We need to remember to do what we need to do to make sure we are feeling good about our lives. There is no need to constantly explain to others why we do things that are important to us.
So, thank you, Forrest Gump. Thank you for teaching us compassion, and thank you for showing us what is means to love. Thank you for showing us what is important in life, and how we should never fail to keep our heads up and our focus forward. Through you, we can learn the true meaning of friendship as well as the importance of dedication to the things and people we love.