Showing Off versus Self-restraint
I love to watch martial arts movies; but I like Jackie Chan’s more than others. His movies are not violent and not brutal. Rather, they are funny and full of display of genuine art, gracefully performed in a very entertaining way. The one thing that stands out, however, why I love Jackie’s movies so much, is his self-restraint. Though an expert fighter, Jackie always avoids fights by evading challenges, sometimes leaving a connotation that he’s afraid to fight. What a powerful display of self-restraint: the one who can crash your head in a single blow may always choose NOT to, even at the expense of being labeled coward!
In daily life, I observe the very opposite. Many people with power are so excited in testing if it really works, trying to crash people’s heads as much as they can . . . doing it to as many people as they want as often as they can. Some people in position always find ways to exhibit their phantom power — displaying to everyone that they are above us all, that they know something others don’t, that they posses something that others lack. Yet, what they do just makes people repel. And when they observe that people avoid their company, they feel insulted and then they persist to be liked. A paradoxical cycle begins: the more they attract people with their titles and positions, the more people repel.
In contrast, true powerful people are not powerful because they are able to put down smaller people. They are powerful not because they are able to overcome their attackers. No! Instead, they are powerful because they are capable to overcome themselves. They have mastered to restrain themselves from hurting others, from fighting back, from taking revenge.
I also know some people with high position yet they don’t seem to use it to take advantage of smaller people. Like the great Jackie in the movies, they don’t display phantom power, rather they hide their true power so that smaller people will not be afraid of them. They reach out. They, at times, even share power to smaller people like me. In return, I look at them with great reverence, acknowledging the true great power they have.
There, another yet opposite paradox is set in motion: the more they don’t show off their power, the more they become great, and the greatness becomes evident.
They use their power to overcome themselves, their own weaknesses, their own temptations, instead of controlling others. They remind me of a motto that struck me so strongly when I was in college:
If I can defeat others, I am strong; if I can defeat myself, I am stronger.
For years, I worked out my own attitude to align to that motto. And I find it again and again that it’s not always easy.
Knowing that in every rule there’s an exception, here’s what I see In quick view of this two-sided paradox:
Those people who exhibit their power are those who actually don’t have it; while those people who really have it don’t display it.
But how do they do that?
It takes faith to feel comfortable in the presence of uncomfortable paradoxes.
Faith is courage in action. In my part, it takes courage not to use my position. It takes courage not to use my power to crash their heads, specially those who attack me. It takes courage to face the consequence of not striking back.
To be painfully honest, it is always difficult, doubting, troubling, not so assuring. It is challenging. It goes against my human instinct, against my normal reason. That’s why I need faith. Because If everything is so assured faith is no longer necessary. If everything is clear, easy and without doubt . . . if everything is doubt-proof, flows normally with everyday reason, then, I don’t need faith at all. All I need is believe.
Faith, according to the Bible is, “Being sure of what we hope for, and being certain of what we do not see.” In contrast, belief is based entirely in proof and evidence, in what is seen and measured, in what can be calculated and explained. To see is to believe, remember?
As a layman, I see my faith as an inner battle triumphantly manifested in the choices I make after I made it. When the martial arts expert refrain from accepting a challenge or from striking back after being hardly hit, perhaps he’s not displaying belief in himself, maybe he’s exercising faith — believing against all his human logic that by doing so, that by avoiding the fight, he gains victory. Yet, without proof, without evidence, he acts with assurance.
“You can win more friends in two months by becoming interested in people than you can in two years to get other people interested in you.”
How often do I fall into the trap of attracting people only to painfully discover that I am achieving perfectly well the very opposite of my goal! Against the normal flow, I learned that if I want to attract people I have to approach them in reverse: I need to be attracted to them. Instead of using my position or any superficial things, I’d rather selflessly concentrate on people, highlighting and appreciating what they have — a sign of being attracted.
What proof do I have that they will surely like me in return? Nothing. I only have faith.