Pain Now or Pain Later

Both are pain, but one of them is sweet.

If I can defeat others, I am strong; If I can defeat myself, I am stronger

My father was a martial arts practitioner, a marathoner, and an amateur gymnast. He could hit a bulls-eye twice with a single hole. Yes, he was a sharp shooter as well, very sharp that he could make his second bullet pass through the same hole the first bullet made. I have seen it many times, but until now I’m still amazed!

He has other talents too. He could swim underwater for more than 3 minutes and resurface with a fresh fish, using only his “sibat” or arrow. He could drive more than ten hours straight. When he walk through the street he could make numerous mental pictures of the environment. When he reach the end of the street, he can tell you how many adults, how many male or female, how many children were there—and what they were wearing or doing. Amazing! How in the world was he able to do that?

That was my father. Unfortunately, none of those talents or skills were transferred to me. To his dismay, I have learned nothing of those tricks or magic. However, I have learned something from him that he wasn’t aware of.

For the few years that we’ve been together, I have learned how he was able to do those things. Oh I’m sorry, not how but why. With the countless conversations that we had, his secret principle gradually made it to the corners of my consciousness. After many years the secret did sink in.

He believed that in order for a person to achieve extraordinary things he needs to choose how he’s going to deal with pain: either he choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret—regret because you did not discipline yourself.

You want to win the martial arts tournament but you don’t want to practice. You dream of loosing weight but you don’t sacrifice enough time to exercise. You want to pass the final exam but you don’t want to study. You want to win but you don’t want to discipline yourself. You want shortcut. You want free success.

“The process of self-discipline,” he said, “is painful. You don’t feel like getting up early in the morning to jog, but you force yourself. You really want to eat lots of ice cream and cakes but you restrain yourself temporarily. Sometimes you really don’t want to do things necessary for you to reach your dream. But those things are essential. Winning requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice is called self-discipline.”

Winning is not a gift. It is something you earned. It’s not free. You sacrifice something to gain it. You sacrifice your time, effort, attitude…you even sacrifice your fear by exercising faith.

Discipline is a form of pain. It’s the kind of pain that you choose. It’s a painful sacrifice!

On the other hand, if you don’t want to bother yourself with small sacrifices, if you don’t want to choose the little programmed pain of discipline, then you just have to wait. Sooner or later, another form of pain will be delivered to you do0r-to-door. You will be welcoming to the pain of regret!

Because you didn’t do some exercises, you remained fat, lack of practice gave you the lowest score in the tournament, lack of study gave you a failing grade. You are now experiencing another form of pain. You are now saying, “if only…”
But it’s a little bit late now.

Inevitability of Pain

Later in my early twenties, I have learned from a pastor that, “Pain is inevitable.” As normal humans, we will not be able to evade pain—for it will always be there. One way or another, pain will come to us. That’s given.

As I ponder over his words, it suddenly hit me. His teachings fortified my father’s secret.

My question years ago was answered.

“That’s why,” I realized, “My father always insisted that, I just have to choose which pain I would like to deal—the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Because pain is inevitable. My father was simply saying, “Because you cannot evade from the power of pain you better choose which pain you want to deal with.”

How I wish my father told me earlier that pain was indeed inevitable. But maybe he chose not tell me that truth because I was very young then, and the color of pain has not yet saturated my young mind’s reality, I haven’t learned the concept of pain more fully. However, as I grew in maturity, the realistic colors of pain gradually became a daily encounter—a daily reality.

Now I understand why my father was able to do those things that many of his friends couldn’t: he chose the pain of discipline by forcing himself to practice more and perfect his skill regardless of how he felt during the time of discipline. He concentrated on his objectives not his feelings.

How about you, which do you prefer, discipline or regret? They are both painful. Yet one of them is a “sweet pain.”

Permanent Attitude

“Because it goes against human nature, forgiveness must be taught and practiced, as one would practice any difficult craft. Forgiveness is not just an ocacsional act: it is a permanent attitude.”

Martin Luther


excerpt from Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Chapter The Arsenal of Grace

A Difficult Task

“To bless the people who have oppressed our spirits, emotionally deprived us, or in other ways handicapped us, is the most extraordinary work any of us will ever do.”

Elizabeth O’Connor


This is an excerpt from Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Chapter Getting Even

Pride, Arrogance and Forgiveness

To be painfully honest, I struggle with my own silent pride everyday. I always need to take extra effort in reminding myself that I am not “more profound” than others…that I’m not better.

Another article from Enough Light reminds me of what a pastor told me about why arrogant people are not in heaven while all other sinners are there. I still remember how it goes. Let me convert the pastor’s voice in written words. I hope I can achieve the same effect.

“Did you know that heaven is populated by ALL kinds of sinners, except for one type?

Murderers, rapist, liars, thieves, adulterers, robbers, swindlers, and all other sorts of sinners can be seen in heaven, except for one group: the arrogant and the prideful people.”

Then the pastor explained further,

“All those sinners got a realistic view of themselves and their standing with God. Their realization brought them to confess and repent. Through faith, they were welcomed by the grace of God in heaven.”

However, the group of arrogant people couldn’t even believe the notion that they are in need…and that they need to be saved. They are not accustomed to the belief that they are “not better” than others. They have a very distorted view of themselves. The idea that “we stand in common ground” infuriates their hearts. They would not accept that, like all of us, they are sinners and that they need forgiveness. They are consumed by their wrong sense of SUPER-superiority. That’s why not a single one of them made it to heaven.”

For a fortifying closing, the pastor reminded me by explaining the concept of forgiveness,

“Remember, except for angels, the population of heaven is comprised of FORGIVEN people. Arrogant people cannot accept FORGIVENESS because in the first place, they don’t believe they are wrong. And forgiveness, even if it’s offered to you, it will not have any power unless you receive it in your heart.”

“And the only way to receive it in your heart is first, to get rid of your own arrogance and pride, and second, to believe that you will be forgiven.”

The pastor’s simplified explanation left me pondering about the connection of FORGIVENESS and PRIDE. Forgiveness is a two-way street. To complete the loop, both are needed: first, it should be offered; and then, it should be received. The good thing is, God’s FORGIVENESS has already been offered more than 2,000 years ago. To complete the crucial loop, only the other step is left. We just need to RECEIVE it. And the only thing that prevents us from receiving it is our own pride and arrogance.

Arrogant and prideful people do not know how to forgive; and they do not know how to be forgiven either.


This post is a response to a friends post in ENOUGH LIGHT article titled, “The perils of self-deception…what are your spiritual blind spots?? Part 2.”

Beyond Justice

Forgiveness has its own extraordinary power which reaches beyond law and beyond justice.

Justice has a good and righteous and rational kind of power. The power of grace is different: unworldly, transforming, supernatural.


excerpt from Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Chapter Why Forgive?