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“The Fighter” Fights for Personal Redemption

January 5, 2011

“The Fighter” Fights for Personal Redemption

The story of The Fighter is actually about two fighters. One is living on past self-perceived glory and the other is striving for achievement. They are brothers, played in the movie by Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. Both men are trying to prove something about themselves and seeking a form of self-redemption.

The older brother, Dicky Eklund, has lived a life which has been all about him: his past boxing achievements, embellished in his mind; the attention lavished on him by his mother; and community recognition. He also makes his brother, who has been kept in his shadow, feel dependent on him for his success as a boxer. This is a man who is living in his past and is now addicted to both it and drugs.

The younger brother, Mickey Ward, has lived a life trying to measure up to his older brother – in the eyes of his mother and family, as a boxer, and in his own mind. He loves and seems to resent Dicky at the same time. He is much more reserved, lacks self-confidence, and believes he needs his Dicky’s guidance to succeed, although his brother keeps letting him down. Nonetheless, Mickey is focused on the future and to demonstrating what he can do.

As much as this story is about personal redemption, it’s also about relationships: dysfunctional families, co-dependency, and the need to support and be supported by others. It’s also about trust, believing genuinely in one’s self, and helping others to succeed for their sake and not for one’s own. All of these are intertwined as each brother pursues very different paths toward personal redemption; to discover what will transcend their pasts, to create a fulfilling future, to learn what is meaningful for them, and to become genuinely better people. They learn how to grow and to develop a true confidence and belief in themselves.

Dicky’s personal redemption comes only after he hits bottom and Mickey asserts his independence from him. That’s when Dicky seems to get it – that his narcissistic behavior is getting him nowhere. He must find his way to a fulfilling life by genuinely helping others succeed and perhaps surpass his own accomplishments. He discovers it’s not all about him, it’s about what he can do for others. That’s how he digs out of his hole and begins to create a new future for himself in partnership with others.

Mickey’s personal redemption comes after he chooses to become his own person, and develops relationships by choice rather than by obligation. He knows his path is with others, and he can select companions who are aligned with him. The alignment is crucial. The key to restoring his relationship with his older brother is seen when Dicky again becomes a part of the team without his own selfish agenda.

The lessons for all of us are that the key to ourselves is found not inside of us but through our relationships with others. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is help someone else without focusing on our own needs. Make someone else happy. Help someone reach a higher level of success. We flourish when we help others flourish.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, website, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in “Enlightening Self-Interest.”

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