The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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What Are You Fighting For?

on June 4, 2012

Last week I came home from work during my lunch break to find my husband watching one of our favorite movies, Cinderella Man.  If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of watching it, I highly recommend it.  I especially recommend it for anyone who thinks their life is too hard. The movie is set during the Great Depression and tells the true story of a boxer who has a string of bad luck and his struggle to simply feed his family.  After going for quite some time being “decommissioned” by the boxing association because they felt he was no longer a viable fighter he is given one more fight, mostly because they are sure he will lose.  He doesn’t. In fact he fights his way into a championship match.  At the press conference prior to the big fight he is asked why he suddenly is fighting so much better.  He answers, “I finally figured out what I’m fighting for.”  When asked what that is, his answer is simply “Milk.”

One of the things that I have learned over the years is this: When asking yourself which battles to choose the answer should NOT be “Every”.  It is not wise to go through life always in turmoil and arguing with everyone.  I used to have this tendency until I learned that life is too short to waste all that energy on winning every battle. Or fighting every battle.  Or turning everything in to a battle.  Your arms get tired.  Your feet get tired. Your soul gets tired.  You don’t have the energy to do anything else.  It isn’t a fun way to spend all your time. Life is much simpler when you learn to choose your battles wisely.

The key in picking your battles  is just what the main character in the movie discovered: you have to know what you are fighting for and decide if it’s worth it.  In his case he was facing an opponent whose punch was so powerful that two men died after fighting him.  What was worth risking his life?  “Milk.”  Feeding his family. Sustaining their lives.  He was no longer interested in fame or fortune or titles.  He no longer cared if people remembered him as a great boxer. He simply was trying to take care of his kids.  His reason for fighting became not about him but about others.   How often is that true in our lives?  How often are our battles for others rather than our own selfish ambitions and pride?  I’m trying to make it less and less often.

I learned this lesson best from watching people who have to be right all the time.  Their way is the right way. Their opinion is the right opinion.  They have to win, Win, WIN every battle and everything turns into a battle when you don’t agree with them. (If you don’t know anyone like this, consider yourself blessed!)  In those people I saw the ugly tendency to act that way in myself and, trust me, it’s UGLY.  These are the people who often wonder, “Is it just me or is it everyone else around here?”  I would submit that if you find yourself asking that question often, chances are it isn’t everyone else.  These are people who wonder why they cannot form close friendships because eventually everyone steers clear of them.  These are the people who believe they are changing the world for the better but who are in actuality ruining their own credibility because they are always warring with someone.  They repeat this cycle over and over and over and over until and unless they find their “Milk.” 

For me “Milk” comes in different forms and I have concluded that being “right” isn’t one of them, especially when it deals with things that are just opinions anyway.  It isn’t worth fighting for. If I’m right people will figure it out eventually.  If I’m wrong no one will be surprised.  Don’t get me wrong: I like to be right. I’ve just grown up enough that my sense of worth doesn’t come from whether or not I had correct opinions about everything. I know people who never admit they are wrong.  Their battles never truly end they  just move to a different battle ground. They never retreat. They never surrender.  They try to wear you out by never letting a thing drop even when it is obvious to everyone but them that the battle is over and they lost. You’d think they’d get battle weary after a while.  They don’t seem to because being right and winning is the only thing that matters to them.  If you read memoirs from generals in wars, you’ll discover that they learned some of their best strategy when they lost a battle and had to retreat. That’s probably because they had to figure out what went wrong and how it could go better.  People who never retreat don’t have the opportunity to do that.

Since laying aside my constant need to be “right”, I’ve discovered that the things on my Milk List usually involve other people. I will usually engage in battle when I believe someone is going to get hurt by another person’s actions.  I won’t stand at ease when I see someone preparing to blow someone else apart. I will step in and help a battle weary friend continue to fight on. People are worth fighting for. 

Everything else is just curdled milk.



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