Faith Connection

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.

Faith connection

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.”

Dale Carnegie

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.

Paradox: Incompatible Truths In Painful Harmony

Incompatible Truths

Recently I was reviewing my mailbox, deleting all emails that I thought no longer necessary and retaining those emails that intrigued me.

In November 2007, I received an unsolicited beautiful message from a friend. When I checked, I noticed that my friend just received it from a long chain of recipients-turned-into-messengers who were probably as intrigued as I was when I read it, and so excitedly passed it to every friend, thereby spreading it like a virus until it hit my mailbox.

The message was claimed to be the words of George Carlin, a famous American comedian. Here is an excerpt of that message: a sample of striking paradox soaked deeply into the profoundness of truth hidden in our modern reality.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. . .

I admire how George Carlin saw through the undetectable, the invisibles, the unnoticeable, through the unseen reality at work beyond our daily rushed life. He beautifully declares observations with conflicting expectations, bringing incompatible truths together in painful harmony.

Reading through his message line by line, I cannot but agree with its truthfulness. How true! We have wider highways but narrower perspectives, we have more possessions with reduced values. We have conquered almost every space, including the outer space but not our tiny inner space, we have mastered the atoms but not our own unforgiveness and prejudice. We are like big men with little character living in gorgeous expensive houses that is far from home, completing varying advanced degrees and then proudly exposing our senselessness, by parading how much knowledge we acquired while hiding our inability to make sound judgement.

Opposite Truths

Dealing with our own paradoxes in life may not be easy. Most of us when facing two incompatible truths tend to choose one and neglect the other. And when we do, we face an undesirable consequence.

As I write this article, I am in the process of choosing between justice and grace — two principles that are both important in bringing peace both to our society as well as to our hearts. I am in a position that calls for the implementation of “just” practices in my work place. Yet I am also a Christian where my entire faith is founded in the profound message of grace and forgiveness. The whole doctrine of my belief begins and ends with the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

I am called to support justice, yet I am also called to dispense grace. But they seem to me as opposite as east and west. Like oil and water, they seem to repel each other.

I feel like lying in between two opposing yet equally powerful and important truths that are incompatible with each other—a paradoxical situation—where I need to choose. Yet when I do, I will violate the other.

How can I balance justice and grace in my heart? How can I keep them both to peacefully coexist side by side in my daily life?

How should I deal with my own paradoxes. Perhaps I just need to be comfortable with it. Perhaps I need faith . . . but how?

I’m just wondering.