Dec 032017 0 Responses

The Tragic Tale of Ric Flair

As a kid, I have distinct memories of sitting in my living room floor on Saturday nights and watching wrestling. Dusty Rhodes, the Rock-N-Roll Express, Sting, and a host of other characters would entertain for hours. Even as a ten-year-old, I could tell something was off. While I didn’t think everything was staged, it was clear not every forearm was real.

While some of the wrestling might have been fake, one aspect seemed very real–the lifestyle of Ric Flair. The “stylin’, profilin’, limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss-stealing, wheelin’-and-dealin’, son-of-a-gun” was the star of the 1980s wrestling world. Along with his fellow 4-horsemen, he played the role of the villain–always winning, always audacious, always flaunting his success.

“To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man,” he would say. “Bright lights. Big City. Nature Boy.”

While the wrestling might have been fake, the lifestyle was not. In ESPN’s 30 for 30 Nature Boy, viewers are given a fascinating introspective on Flair, professional wrestling, and the fast and furious lifestyle Flair lived.

It’s a tragic tale. Perception couldn’t have been further from reality. While Flair gave the appearance of a happy, successful life, he was suffering. When he says, “I’ve sacrificed everything for wrestling,” the everything includes marriages, children, relationships with his parents, his body, health, and emotional well-being. While he laughs about the good times, his children give chilling interviews about the father they longed for but never had. While he boasts of his exploits with women and alcohol, he confesses, “I just couldn’t be alone.”

He couldn’t face himself, so he never did. Instead of allowing for silence, he filled every moment with entertainment. Instead of leaning into the pain, he covered it with every vice. Rather than seeking help, he denied any struggle.

For that, he paid the price. For that, he continues to pay the price. The money is still there. The fame is still present. But for what? Money and fame can’t satisfy a restless soul. They can’t make-up for years lost with family and the sorrow caused by poor choices. Neither can bring back to life the son who died trying to live the same lifestyle as his dad.

Pay Attention

Few stories deserve our attention as much as the story of Ric Flair. One way to test truth is to push an outcome to its extreme example and see if we like the result. We live in a society that values wealth and fame above all other things. We are bombarded with messages proclaiming the value of seeking money at all costs, the fun of rejecting monogamy to explore as many women as possible, and the joy that results from having little responsibility and ultimate freedom.

Flair is the shining example of all those things. He had more money, women, fame, and freedom than the average man will ever experience. But is he happy? No. Has he left a meaningful legacy? No. Does he have the respect of his wife, children and friends? No.

People love him, but they pity him. His kids wish him well, but their hearts have long ago put up a guard regarding him. The wife of his youth weeps. His adult children are confused. And the hurts and sorrows barely hide themselves anymore as he faces his own mortality.

Ric Flair had/has everything the average person believes will lead to happiness, but he has never truly been happy. He may have experienced moments of glee, but in hearing his story there has never been a time in his life where he felt at peace, loved, understood, connected, and significant in the lives of others.

Pay attention. Every day we face the temptation to buy into a lie that money, fame, power, and freedom from responsibility will give us something that it simply cannot produce. Yet if we aren’t discerning, we will look at the outside appearances of others and compare it to the inward struggles of our own lives and be tempted to think that money, fame, and power are the answers. They aren’t.

Strangely, happiness and meaningful satisfaction are unrelated to how much we have, how well we are known, or how few demands are made upon us. Instead, they are often the byproduct of surprising elements. Service to others often satisfies more than worship from others. Living within chosen boundaries can bring more peace than having no restrictions. Striving to improve a relationship with one woman can be far more fun than spending time with every woman.

As a kid, Ric Flair was the poster child for a way of life. Who wouldn’t want to be like him? Time has revealed the answer. None of us want to be like him. He deserves our empathy, but not our emulation. We should feel sorrow for what he lost rather than to covet what he has.

In a world where we are continually preached a message of excess, it’s the stories like that of Ric Flair which should come to our minds as we are choosing what to value, pursue and be.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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