In addition to the real life cowboys who helped me grow and understand how to live and survive in this world, I learned a lot from the cowboys portrayed in the movies. One movie in particular, “Big Country” with Gregory Peck, has many insightful and helpful teaching moments that if adapted can help us and our children become stronger and more resilient as we face our challenges.
In this movie there are several scenes in which Gregory Peck is challenged to prove his manhood by fighting, breaking a horse, or doing other things that cowboys did to prove themselves real men. In each incident he declines and walks away form those things which makes him look like he’s showing of but in the eyes of his fiancée, her father, the ranch hands, and the townsfolk their perceptions are that he is a coward. It is easy to understand why they feel these people feel this way, after all cowboys and real men have been doing these things to demonstrate their masculinity for years.
But Gregory Peck doesn’t see the need of these cowboy customs. However, to his fiancée and her father his refusal to do the manly thing (as defined by them) indicates that he is a coward. This perception of his cowardice brings shame to his fiancée and to her father and along with this shame comes embarrassment.
By profession he is a sea captain who fell in love with this woman from the West when she was living in Boston. He is new to this part of the country and to the values and expectations found in this culture but surprisingly he has the inner strength, self-esteem, self-control, and self-confidence to face life his way without succumbing to superficial pressure. The problem is that the people on the ranch or in the town don’t recognize these qualities as strengths.
Towards the end of the movie his bride-to-be finally sees a glint that he is a brave man who is not going to allow others to dictate his life. Unfortunately this realization comes too late but her perception of his cowardly behavior is still with her and causes her to become angry and she lashes out at him one more time. “Don’t you care what people think?”
To which Gregory Peck boldly courageously responded, “No! I’m not responsible for what people think, only what I think.” He knew his strengths and capabilities and he had enough confidence in himself that he didn’t have to prove anything to anyone other than to himself.
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This is a great resiliency quality that we should teach our children as we help them develop their belief and confidence in themselves. Recognizing when they should walk away, with their head held high, will help them develop the courage to depend on themselves when they have to stand-alone. It will also help them ‘Dare to Be Different’ with their heads held high.