It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up: Vince Lombardi: 1950
15th June 2020
When my children were little we had an inflatable Homer Simpson weighted at the bottom. It acted as a kind of punch-bag so that when you knocked him down, he immediately popped up again. And if you’ve ever watched the Simpsons you will know that Homer is a pretty resilient guy in his life of hard knocks. He and his family certainly persist through thick and thin and this is largely because as a family they really do stick together in mutual support. This is one reason why the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams is such a fan, saying that “What you see in The Simpsons is not a dysfunctional family but a family with remarkable strength and remarkable mutual commitment. For all that Homer is a slob and Bart is a brat and Lisa is a pain in the neck, you know there’s real affection and loyalty.” Following this it’s alleged that the Archbishop was invited to be animated as a guest in one episode, but sadly declined.
This week’s quotation comes from the famous American football coach, Vince Lombardi. Nicknamed ‘The Pope’, because of his previous calling to the priesthood, Lombardi embedded in his team the values of perseverance and mental strength; the will to win and the determination to never give up. He encouraged his team to bounce back after set-backs, to learn from their losses and to get up again, to persist.
This is of course good advice but some of us may spend much of our life avoiding the risk of being ‘knocked down’ in the first place, for fear of failure and the possible humiliation that may ensue. Yet we know that avoidance of risks will likely result in the stunting of human growth.
Mariam in the Lower Transits expressed this idea very well in our recent lesson, when in response to the ‘Thunk’, If you could take a pill that meant you would never fail, would you?’ said, ‘If you don’t ever fail, your learning might be compromised’. Well said.
Of course we will all be ‘knocked down’ at times in life whether we choose to take more risks or not, so it’s what we do next that makes all the difference. And the positive thinking espoused by Lombardi is a part of what can help us be more resilient, and bounce back like the inflatable Homer Simpson. However, we are unlikely to be resilient in isolation and this is where I return to the Simpsons again, who as family persist because of their commitment, loyalty and affection for one another.
Resilience comes from the humility to recognise the need of others when we are ‘knocked down’. Sometimes in our hyper-individualistic society there is an over-emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency (which may of course serve us well in the normal course of events) but does not serve us well in more troubling times. It is then that we need to recognise not only do we need the help of others but that it is a strength to ask for that help or to accept the help they offer. Strength through humility will lead to resilience but it is something we find even more difficult the older we become.
When you are knocked down, be determined to get up, be determined to persist, but then reach for the hand of one who can help you, with thankfulness. We really are in this together.