Some of you don’t need to read this. You know. Those that I hope read it are the neurotic, put the kid in the bubble, full, fierce, mama-bear, helicopter parent crowd. By now, being boomer parents, your kid should have gotten a day job and you can do the full-press, “my kid will never experience harm” schtick with your future grandkids. Count me with the fathers who believe skinned knees and fat lips are a rite of passage. A little harm to the kid at the right time can be a positive.
Conflict is part of this world. Fighting happens. Romantic dreams of a perfectly safe world come at the price of free will. Part of being a mature, well-adjusted adult is working through a healthy relationship to the miseries that befall us. With a life in this world where free-will exists it is absurd to assume we can escape into death without harm of any kind. We will find opposition. Some will fight us precisely because our childhood taught us we are entitled to our every whim and to be insulated from any potential stressor.
Warriors run toward the fight. Boxers and mixed martial artists go to the dojo to train and spar. Some of us are fight-seekers. We close the distance. We get inside the attack. We like the sweat, lactic acid in our muscles, the mental duress, the misery of battle. The rush of fighting makes us feel alive. But . . . fighting is bad, no? Someone who is a fight seeker is a problem, right? No, not all the time. For me, the boundary is intent. Why are you running toward the attack? What is your purpose in the battle? If the purpose is destruction, to cause as much damage as possible, to hurt or kill the opponent without regard for the initiating dispute, if that is the purpose, that is wrong. Seeking that sort of fight, being someone who simply seeks destruction, is someone who ought to be defeated. If you are running toward the attack, seeking the fight so that the initiating dispute can be brought to resolution in the least harmful manner possible, then go. Finish it. Last, if you are an athlete and your sport is boxing or martial arts, train hard and train well. Your battlefield is within you. The war is against your own limitations. Victory comes every time you get stronger, improve your technique, conquer yet another aspect of yourself keeping you from a deeper union with God.
I hold a purple belt in Saigyo Ryu Aiki Jujitsu. This is the highest adult rank you can get that isn’t either a teaching rank or a teacher’s apprentice rank. I trained for 5 years. I haven’t trained seriously in over 20 years. I’m way out of shape and don’t remember most of my kata. The spirit of the school, though, is still with me. The definition of victory as accomplishing the destruction of the opponent’s will to fight, remains with me. The love of training, of the sweat and tears, is still there. I am not a warrior as someone in our military is a soldier. My title of warrior comes as a student of fighting. My war is within me. My battlefield my spirit and my heart.
Anti-War. It’s a word we assume everybody knows the definition of. One who is against war. Fighting is bad, no? Yet . . . people fight. Nations fight, go to war. We know better and still, fights happen. Misery is bad, no? No one wants to be miserable. Warriors are fighters. Warriors fight, go to war. War is bad so warriors are bad. Nothing about them could be worthwhile . . . Maybe. . . not. Warriors study war so they can win. They learn their opponents and the battlefield. They push themselves physically, mentally and spiritually so that they can outlast their opponents. They train, and submit to proper authority. They have a relationship to misery and duress that sets them up for success. Athletes & dancers know this. If you are training and comfortable, you are not training hard enough.
In relationships any couple that claims they don’t fight is either delusional or liars. Couples that last figure out how to work through the conflict that arises. Misery, duress, and conflict all have their place in our lives. They all have the potential to make us better people. I still like the metaphor of fire. Fire can be harnessed to heat our homes and cook our meals. It also destroys forests and homes. Misery, duress and conflict share similar attributes. These three can be harnessed to grow us into better people. They can also harm us and thus, must be handled well. The problem isn’t the presence of duress, misery or conflict. It is how we respond to it. These can make us better people.
Victory is destroying the opponents willingness to continue the fight while preserving his or her ability to fight. This is distinct from the way wars are won, where victory is achieved by destroying the enemy’s ability to fight. There is a level beyond that, though, given by Christ in calling on us to love our enemies. This is a radical command. It countermands our instincts on conflict. When we are hurt by someone we want to fight, to hurt back, to make them feel the pain we felt, to get even. Getting even, though, can be problematic. And there is the nagging feeling that really, probably forgiving might be the better long term plan. Still, the emotion is there along with a hunger for justice.
Asking us to love our enemies just seems wrong. Yet it is the way to victory. Loving our enemies puts our heads & hearts in the right place so we can understand what self-sacrificial victory would mean in our particular instance. Then we can work through what is needed to transform the heart of our opponent so he or she no longer desires harm. Where the warrior way can help us is in how we live our lives. Proper submission to authority, preparation and training, knowing our enemy, understanding the battlefield’s effect on the fight, and being literate in strategy and history are attributes of a warrior we can all benefit from. These, along with a warriors attitude toward persevering, can be a plus instead of a minus.