The Truth About Beauty

(published in the Hollywood Prayer Network newsletter – March 2012)

One of the surprising news that caught much attention at this year’s Academy Awards had nothing to do with The Artist, Hugo, The Descendants or War Horse.  It was “Angelina Jolie’s Right Leg”.  On the red carpet, her right leg slid out from behind her black, high-slit dress every time photographers wanted to capture her.  Her sexy right leg (and yes, just the right) had a show of its own at the event.  It became a newsworthy highlight.  Angelina’s right leg’s achievement to stardom (versus my right leg) is an indicator of what our society cares about – beauty.  The beauty that captures the attention of others is not something we just want to see but also pursue, which is why so much of commercial industry is driven by our desire for beauty, whether it is the beauty we find in cosmetics, homes, gardens, apparels, art or a sunset.  There’s something powerfully delightfully and profoundly enriching about having beauty in our lives.  But what is it about beauty that is so compelling?

Beauty is an ideal that conveys to us the excellent, whole, worthy and perfect.  And for that, we are willing to sacrifice at great lengths to achieve beauty because in some sense, whether superficial or substantial, it affords us a sense of significance.  We tend to relate beauty to surface aspects that seem to be merely decorative.  But often when we discuss whether something is beautiful we realize that “real” beauty, as some would call it, has more to do with qualities that are unseen, like character virtues, personal values or life principles.  We see beauty in the charity of a sacrificial person, sincere love of a faithful husband, enduring faith of a single mother, or pure innocence of a child.  The portrayal of genuine beauty gives us hope.  It reminds us of the good that’s worth fighting for in an often ugly world with troubled lives.  It reminds us of the redeemable in our humanity.  It tells us, we don’t have to stay this way and we can be better than we are.  Perhaps what people want to see on screen, in stories, in magazines and in art is this unseen beauty that gives us hope.  But what exactly is beauty?  How can we see something unless we know what to look for?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common aesthetic perception which simply says beauty is whatever you make it to be.  While beauty is intimately tied to our subjective experiences of pleasure, delight and attraction, its definition can be independent of our subjective experiences, meaning we can subjectively experience something that is objectively defined.  One of the many defining elements of beauty, I believe, is truth.  This notion that anything beautiful must contain truth extends from the thoughts of the classical Greek philosophers, like Socrates and Plato, to the Christian fathers, like Augustine and Acquinas.  This age-old idea has been embraced by recent Christian thinkers like Schaeffer, Tolstoy and Rookmaaker.  Truth, not merely the surface aspects, is an essential element of beauty, without which beauty could not exist.  Plato argued that anything containing the opposite of truth that is a lie is considered to be ugly.  We’re talking about the truth of anything – truth about what’s real, who we are, our problems, our solutions, and most importantly as Plato would agree, God.

Practically, a pursuit for beauty becomes a pursuit for truth.  Pursuing this objective beauty ignites a passion in us for life that’s larger than life, because we seek not the sentimental comforts of nice feelings but the grander reality of truth that exists apart from our perceptions and desires.  Objective beauty is not molded by our preferences but discovered as we mature in our mind and beliefs.  Embracing beauty defined by truth frees us from the distractions of the small appetites of consumerism, the petty pressures of conformity and the confines of self-indulging feelings.  When beauty is not merely defined in the eye of the beholder, then we may be free to pursue something greater and beyond ourselves.  Our world will always be drawn to and even hunger for beauty.  The question is what form of beauty will we settle for, pursue or be satisfied with.

“REAL STEEL” Echoes the Cry of Every Heart

This film was expectantly enjoyable and surprisingly moving.  It’s a film that has gotten mixed reviews.  I found it had a good story and a real substance to the film that echoes what we all cry for.  Here’s my experience and take away from it, and I’ll warn you before I get to talking about any spoilers.  The story was built in the context of a robot-fighting world.  It reflected the current day MMA fighting, reaffirmed the age-old desire of people to see two combatants duke it out as a sport and carried a Rocky sort of feel.  It echoes human society’s plight to fight, to press on and to overcome.  But in the end, it wasn’t so much about robot-fighting.  It was something deeper.  There was a humanity we can identify with imbedded in the robot-fighting.  Here’s a bit of the spoiler.

The key line in the film, I found, was when the son said to his father, “Fight for me.  That’s all I ever wanted.”  At the heart of the story was about a father and son relationship that was estranged, antagonistic and fractured.  It was about how a father and son can be father-and-son when so much had fallen apart and so much animosity had set in.  The answer was if they wanted this relationship to work, they would have to fight for it.  Like most of our significant relationships, we want to know that the other is willing to fight for us as much as we would want to know deep down in ourselves that we would equally and sincerely fight for the other person as well.  I think the human cry is this: we are all in some shape, some form, like that little boy wanting someone to fight for us.  That’s all we ever wanted.  When we begin to tell ourselves that no one will fight for us and that we have to look out for number one, we dehumanize ourselves by becoming a person who has to develop an arrogant self-centeredness living in a dog-eat-dog only world.  But at our core, we want to know that someone will fight for us – whether it’s our mothers or fathers when we were children, the boyfriend or girlfriend that didn’t work out, the bestfriend whose loyalty you hoped you could count on when everyone else deserts you, or the husband or wife whom you’d like to believe will do whatever it takes to make the marriage work and will win your love over and over again for the rest of your days.  You know why we want to be fought for?  It’s because we want to know that we are loved.  It is the most basic and yet foundational need of our souls – to know that someone out there in the world loves us deeply that much to fight for us.  It’s about having that someone in the world who makes us believe that we are worth fighting for, especially in times when we feel like we aren’t.  We only fight for what we value most.  We want to know that we matter that much to someone.

I always bring things back to God because that’s my worldview – God’s love is at the center of my reality.  After I heard the son say that line, the truth of us wanting to be fought for struck me.  And then I immediately thought, God has fought for me.  When he sent his Son Jesus to die for us, it was no Sunday picnic in the park.  It was the Son of the Most High relinquishing all the rights of heaven and being born in a cruel world to fight for us who couldn’t save ourselves from ourselves by dying a brutal death upon the cross in order to nullify the consequences of sin, conquer death, defeat Satan and overpower the gates of hell.  He came as a liberator to set captives free and I was one of them.  It makes me proud to say that my God fought for me, and he said this was the definition of love (1 Jn 4:10).

I know many of us, perhaps most of us, are looking for someone to fight for us.  We want to know that we are loved and not just loved as in someone will remember my birthday on FB but loved as in someone would be willing to go through sweat and pain to fight for me – someone who would be willing to take a bullet for me.  I know many of us fear that we can’t think of someone being willing to fight for us – it’s a frightfully, lonely thought.  Some of us are the single mothers doing all the fighting for their children.  Some are the hardworking employees in a cut-throat business.  Others are husbands and wives in a non-fairytale marriage.  And still many who are simply lonely in a sea of people simply wanting one good friend who’d say,  “Don’t worry.  I’ll stand by you and fight for you.”  I think REAL STEEL tells us our cries are heard, and me writing this is also saying, your cry is heard.  Perhaps by understanding this cry, we can begin to look for new friendships and nurture current relationships that include people who will be fighters for us even as we would commit to fight for them.  Perhaps sometimes our mistake is we make the wrong friends.  We have fun friends but not fighters.  Perhaps in our current relationships that keep hitting dead ends, we haven’t yet communicated to the other person out of tears and desperation, “Fight for me.  That’s all I ever wanted.”  But most importantly, recognizing our own cries for this may allow us to hear God say to us on a daily basis, “I fought for you, child, and am still fighting for you everyday whether you see it or not.”  Wherever we are in our relationships, we are loved beyond measure because we’ve been fought for at any measure.

Why Do We Keep Fighting When We’re Too Tired To Fight? (Part 2)

What’s the point?  When we’ve fought and strived for so long, the “why” question naturally comes up.  There is likely a cause to our fight. It’s probably not pointless.  However, the goal of the fight could also be us, that is, the fight is part of our sanctification.  A fight shapes and forms a person.  It is both a test and sharpening of character.  Michelangelo says, painting is the art of adding to create an image while sculpting is the art of removing the unnecessary parts to reveal the artwork within.  Sometimes we’re expecting God to paint our lives when he’s actually sculpting it.  The sculpting process rarely feels good, but God uses it in combination with his grace to sanctify us.  At those times when the fight is the fiercest and we are the weakest, we would rather God give us a way out than to give us more grace.  We want an escape but God is not about escaping but about entering.  Instead of giving us an escape, he is more likely to enter into our situations with us, giving us strength of grace.  We’ve seen this ultimately demonstrated in the gospel – instead of escaping our world, he chose to enter it.  But is God indifferent to our struggles?

We ask, why doesn’t God care enough to take us out of the fight?  It’s in those most intense and weakest moments that God tells us it’s precisely because he cares that he doesn’t leave us the way we are.  He’s not an escapist and he’s not an enabler.  An enabler would save us and leave us the way we are in our marred and broken state.  In our fights, he reminds us that he is not an enabler – he is creator.  One of the greatest graces of all is to rest gently in the hands of the Creator who offers us full access to his grace through the sacrifice of his Son – the perfect God-man who died for imperfect people so that the one who had the most grace gave it to those who needed it most.  He gave us Jesus so we may go into eternity but also so we may fight on for one more day.

How Do We Keep Fighting When We’re Too Tired To Fight? (Part 1)

In a sparring match, one of the factors of losing a fight is tiredness.  A fighter eventually tires out and his muscles don’t have the strength to land a solid punch or react fast enough to a block. The fighter’s vision blurs from a lack of oxygen and his legs are too weak to stand because not enough blood is circulating to those farther regions of the body.  Perhaps many times we have felt exactly like a fighter in the ring of life facing bouts against ongoing trials and uncertainties. The struggles we face wear on us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally and physically.  So often the big question facing us is not “how do we fight,” but how do we go on fighting when we don’t have the strength to.

I’m not sure if I can think of a slam-dunk solution.  We’ve likely heard the various suggestions before: find some downtime, get away, relax, think healthier thoughts, have a more balanced lifestyle, surround yourself with supportive people, or just take a good nap.  But the fight can be so drawn out that all of these suggestions become anesthetics rather than answers.  The only solution that comes to mind for me is what God said to Paul when he cried out of desperation. “My grace is sufficient for you,” God said (1 Cor. 12:9).  This could mean God’s grace gives us power when we our too weak to fight.  It could mean where we lack the ability to be effective God supernaturally intervenes.  It could mean his grace covers us when we can’t do much more than make mistakes.  It could mean all of the above.  We do know for sure that “sufficient” in the original Greek means “enough,” meaning fully satisfied and nothing more is needed.  It means that in that area of our lives and in that moment, we don’t have to be or do more than what we have to offer.  It’s enough because of his grace.  Wisdom is knowing what ought to change and what ought to stay because of the sufficiency of grace.  For whatever reasons, there are things God chooses not to change in our lives.  Our faith, then, is not measured by quantity but defined by kind.  It’s a kind of faith, one that is an intimate, deep sort of trust that allows us to access God’s vast pool of grace.  As unyielding as the fight may seem, so is the flow of God’s fierce and abundant grace.

Thriving vs Being Good: The Telos of Life

While having dinner at a friend’s place up in North Hollywood, I was trying to scoop salad with a pasta spoon – one of those with the serrated, round teeth and holes in the middle.  I was noticeably having some difficulty scooping the lettuce, carrots and tomatoes on to my wife’s plate as I tried to serve her.  The lettuce didn’t actually fit in the spoon but instead kept getting stuck on the serrated teeth.  After watching me struggle for a few minutes, our hosts asked each other, “Do we have any salad tongs?”. Ah, salad tongs would be more appropriate for the task and elements at hand.  After I struggled some more with the pasta spoon one of the hosts finally stated, “That pasta spoon wasn’t meant for scooping salad.”  He got up, went to the kitchen and proceeded to look for a different, more appropriate utensil.  While he was searching, I adamantly continued to try and make the pasta spoon work on the salad.  What ended my stubborn endeavor was when I accidentally flicked a score of lettuce and carrot strips all over my wife that led to an eruption of laughter.

Believe it or not, I pondered on this principle of the evening: the pasta spoon was not designed for scooping salad.  It’s a simple principle, but one that seems to allude us much in life.  We do a lot of doing and feeling in everyday life while living purposefully according to our design seems to be something many struggle to grasp.  Our natural inclination when we’re not living full lives is to try harder.  But perhaps the key is to more accurately discover our design so that we may live a life that’s purposefully fulfilled.  By this I mean not just doing good in life but thriving in it.  To some measure, we can all scoop salad with a pasta spoon and make-do, but that’s not what it was designed for.  Salad tongs would be more effective.  What is our unique, God-given design?

The philosophers of old, like Aristotle, believed there was purpose behind every development and action in the universe.  He called it final causes.  It’s this purposeful end that drove the ebbs and flows of nature and lives.  In other words, we were “meant for” something.  Some in history, like Nietzsche, have said there is no ultimate purpose for anything – things just are and any movement of sorts is a way of exerting power.  If you remove the existence of God from the universe, as Nietzsche did, then there is no grand design or purposeful mind behind our world.  There is nothing sacred about our existence in a God-less reality.  But our soulish hunger for purpose would tell us otherwise; our natural intent to think that “there’s a reason for everything” tells us there is such a thing as purpose.  Why would intellectual beings invent an intangible principle of purpose if there were none in the universe?  Our world is not just natural; it’s teleological.  And if there is purpose, then there is a grand mind behind all that is, which is why our souls yearn to discover our purpose.  We are by nature teleological beings because we were made in the image of an intentional and purposeful God.  So, settling for survival is generally not enough for anyone.  Merely surviving feels like dying because our souls yearn for thriving.  When we are pasta spoons constantly immersing ourselves in salads, we feel in our fibers that something is wrong.  The deception is when we (or others) tell ourselves that we just have to try harder; greater efforts will make things right or lead to success.  Instead, trying harder often leads to greater frustration and a sense of guilt.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  The term for “workmanship” in the original Greek is poieima which means “craftsmanship” or “artistry.”  God’s purposeful intent with our lives follows the mindfulness of an artist who desires to express himself through human lives.  The discovery of our purpose is an endeavor of discovering God’s artistic process and passion.  How has God the author and artist designed you?  What is your sacred purpose in this life?  Maybe it’s time to stop being a pasta spoon trying to scoop salad.

(‘Telos’ means purpose.  Teleological means purposeful.)

Wing Chun as an Art of Grace

What I’ve come to like about Wing Chun and how it resonates with me is what I call its “aggressive grace.”  Without trying to use muscle strength to overpower a person, it teaches you to flow, use relaxed movements and to be non-resistant.  We don’t try to clash with the person’s energy but to flow with it, so that we could use the opponent’s own energy against him.  Wing Chun generates power from harmony, peace and grace.

I think one of the key principles of Wing Chun illustrates this grace-oriented flow.  The principle is: as the person gives, I take (loi lau) and as the person takes, I give (heui sohng).  Wing Chun teaches us to fight with a person by not fighting with a person.  If the opponent wants it then I’ll give more of it and if he wants to give to me then I’ll take more of it.  For instance, if he pulls my arm or retracts his own, I’ll let it go and move in for a strike, which is following the flow of his own energy.  Or if he pushes forward, I’ll let his arms pass me and let him walk into my punch.  It’s a wonderful and artful concept, and yet I find it is not a new one just a rarely discovered one.  I think the martial art of Wing Chun illustrated a teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, when he said if a person wants your cloak, give him your tunic as well; or if someone forces you to go a mile, go with him two miles (Matthew 5:40-41).  The Apostle Paul reinforced this teaching and added the effect of grace where he said if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, so that it is like heaping hot coals on his head (Romans 12:20).  There is power in grace.  To a friend, the power of grace moves a person’s heart.  To an adversary, the power of grace overcomes the opposition.  In either case, grace changes things

I think there is a misperception of power in this world.  We think power only comes from might.  The common lesson for every Wing Chun student is to not tense up but to relax when you feel opposition.  It’s our normal reaction to tense – we unconsciously believe muscling our way through a situation will help us prevail.  I find there is tremendous power in grace.  Grace is meant to change a situation.  It is delivered by a person who has complete inner strength.  A person who exercises grace is always at peace, is not anxious and is not a victim to blind rage.  A person of grace does not resist because he can’t, but because he chooses not to.  And he does not exercise force not because he is weak, but on the contrary because he is generating power.  A person of grace flows with adversities in the world and delivers power through that flow.   Martial arts teaches the art of overcoming struggles and oppositions in a physical fight but even metaphorically in life.  In Wing Chun, I see the general revelation of God’s truth about grace.  There’s power in grace to overcome and create change.  Jesus knew this and ultimately demonstrated this on the cross of calvary.  If there is a martial art against sin, death and Satan, it’s seen in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

Things That Aren’t Supposed to Happen

Do you encounter instances or experiences that make you say, “That’s not supposed to happen” or “That’s not right”?  Like, when a talented, young man of 21 at a prestigious college with a promising future suddenly loses his life and the dreams of what was expected to be a story yet to-be-told is cut short.  Perhaps we see the tragedy in the lost potential of such a person – he could’ve been someone great, we know.  But the real tragedy lies not in the loss of the potential but in the loss of the person – the light and brilliance of a personality that was lovable and joyously infectious; the kindness and humility of a genuine heart.  We remember the smiles, the voice and the friendship.  In the end, when tragedy hits, it’s not the potential so much that we’ll miss but the person.  When the light of such a person is extinguished, our minds scream from the pit of our stomachs with an ache, “That’s not supposed to happen!  What is wrong with this world?”  Have you had events in life happen upon you that don’t feel right?  The bottom of your soul screams at these losses, mishaps and misfortunes in life.  What do you do when things happen that shouldn’t – when it’s not supposed to happen that way?

We can analyze the situations and come up with answers to explain such things.  We can encourage ourselves with positive notions to give meaning to tragedies. We can philosophize about the tragedy to find out the lessons we’re supposed to learn, because it makes the loss seem redeemable.  But there are those rare moments when all of these fail and all we can do is grieve.  We cry.  We remember.  We write about it.  We may even laugh.  It’s all part of grieving.  What else can we do when things that shouldn’t happen happen?  Sometimes when we try to do more, it makes the situation worse.  There are no explanations that will suffice.  There are no lessons learned that could measure up to what was lost.  But there is one thing we can find in our journey of grieving.  Hope.

We can hold on to and hold out hope.  God promises us with certainty that He will rejoice over his people and take delight in them.  In that world, there will be no suffering but utter rejoicing, no death but life.  “The sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.  Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years… Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:19-20, 24).  There’s a promise of a different reality where in that world the things that aren’t supposed to happen will not happen.  This is not a kind of hope that’s like a wishful thinking.  It is a hope in a reality that is yet to happen.  We can confront what-is-not-supposed-to-happen with what-has-yet-to-happen.  It is the hope of I-will-see-you-again-one-day because we know this to be true in Christ. We can find after all our crying, reminiscing, writing, staring into the sky, and sharing with others that there is a confident hope from God we can cling to.  So grieve without answers, explanations or reasons.  But let the truth of God in Christ lead you through the path of grief to hope.  Hope is sometimes all we have.  But in the face of things that aren’t supposed to happen, hope is all we need.

All This Talk About “Boundaries”

I hear a lot of talk about “we need to have boundaries” these days – personal boundaries, healthy boundaries, relational boundaries, emotional boundaries, physical boundaries… Perhaps all this talk is because we’ve become wiser over the decades about what it means to live a healthy, successful life, one that preserves our happiness and sense of peace.  The psychologist, therapist, sociologist and motivational speaker would likely promote this thinking.  As a pastor, I talk about boundaries with people frequently.  We’re all seeking healthier lifestyles, emotional levels and relationships.  We set boundaries generally to protect ourselves, where the understanding of boundaries is to erect a barrier that keeps unwanted things out.  Maybe what we try to keep out are certain people, types of conversations or kinds of situations.  We set these boundaries because we’ve come to recognize that there are things in this world that can be harmful to us if we allow these things into our lives.  But do boundaries only keep things out?  Or, perhaps boundaries can be meant to keep things in, to protect others outside of us from ourselves.  Boundaries don’t have to be only about self-preservation but also about the preservation of others around us.  When we realize that boundaries can act in both ways, as a barrier to keep out and to keep in, we not only realize that there are things in the world that are harmful to us but there could be things in us that are harmful to others.  Sometimes our own pain, burdens, habits, misperceptions, bad coping skills…brokenness can be harmful to others.  Boundaries can be about grace – to self and to others.  But in the end, I think boundaries reveal something about us.

Regardless of whether boundaries are keeping out or keeping in, the fact that we have to erect boundaries for preservation reveals to us that we are not fully in control and we are not perfect.  We don’t have the power to control the things in the world that can harm us — that’s why we need boundaries.  The boundary is our power.  It’s not a power to change others or circumstances, but it’s the power we have to choose to keep out.  Sometimes by keeping things out, they have the space to change.  We sometimes are even powerless to change things about ourselves, perhaps not forever but at least in present moments, and so we set up boundaries for the sake of others.  Boundaries tell us we’re not in total control and we’re not all-powerful in an imperfect world.  They tell us we are not God.  And realizing and accepting that we are not God is a humble first step towards healthy thinking, healthy living and healthy choices.

I think boundaries do serve one other purpose.  There are such boundaries as moral boundaries.  Many of our personal boundaries include moral boundaries because often the same types of things that may harm us are morally related.  When we tell ourselves, “we shouldn’t” do that or go there, that shouldn’t often has a moral relevance.  Moral boundaries I believe preserve God’s holiness in this world and in our lives.  His actual character of holiness cannot be diminished, because nothing we do can ever change him.  Again, we don’t have that power.  But moral boundaries preserve the quality of his holiness in our own character and lifestyles.  His holiness and glory can be upheld in who we are by our moral boundaries.  So while boundaries are often first and foremost personal, they can also be sacred.

In the end, the kinds of boundaries we set up to keep out, keep in or uphold God’s holiness, says a lot about not only who we are as people but also where we are on the continuum of our personal growth.   Taking the time to consider what are our boundaries (and if we have any) is important for personal and spiritual health.  Just another musing of mine as I thought about boundaries.

(I think it’s important to keep in mind that boundaries are meant to preserve and protect but not alienate and isolate – there is a fine difference.  Maybe that’s for another musing.)

Why Do We Hang On To Old Things?

After being married for 12 years, most of my eighties clothes have slowly disappeared.  My wife used to ask for my permission to sell my old clothes at garage sales, and then they started to gradually disappear into our donation bags.  Unbeknownst to me, I surrendered my clothes when I took large bags to Goodwill.  They weren’t clothes that I would wear, ever – maybe.  I had baggy pin striped pants tapered at the bottom, fluorescent pink shirts, colorfully patterned vests and much more.  I’m down now to just an old black leather jacket and a black leather vest, which I’m fighting to hang on to.  My wife just couldn’t understand why in the world I wanted to keep these.  I couldn’t wear them and if i did, she would not acknowledge me in public!  Haha.  And now, it’s become an ongoing game for her and me – she trying to get rid of stuff and me trying to keep them.  Hanging on to old stuff was a battle throughout my life, though.  It didn’t start when I got married.  I think the hardest thing for me to lose, not by my choice, was something my Dad took away.  I came home from college one day to find that my old 10-speed bike which I got from my Dad when I was 10 years old was “chop-shopped” for parts by my Dad in order to build a new bike.  I said, “I don’t want a new bike. I want the old one!”.  My Dad, looking perplexed, asked, “Why? The old one was beat up and… old.”

Why? You might ask would I hang on to such things?  Why do any of us hang on to such things?  Are we just foolishly sentimental?  I think there’s more to it. I think we hang on to old things because they tell our stories.  Collecting old things is nothing new to us.  Civilizations have collected them for ages.  The old things are remnants of the paths we walked and the people we were.  They’re tangible artifacts from our past that tell our history.  And history are the written chapters of our lives.  They identify where we’ve been and who we were which sheds some meaning on where we might be heading and the people we are becoming.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hanging on to old things.  So you might not be able to use or wear them anymore and they take up a bit of closet or garage space.  But they do something valuable for our souls – they tell our stories.  And sometimes they remind us of God’s faithfulness throughout our stories.  When the years of our lives have been lived out one by one, it’s our stories that we have to show for in the end.  And sometimes old things help to tell these stories.

Warrior: Why We Fight

In the popular hype of MMA fighting, crowds cheering and roaring over the cage fights in an octagon echo the days of the gladiatorial fights in the sand arenas. The craze of seeing two people battle it out has not waned over the centuries. But what are the combatants fighting for? Beyond the brutality and violence, what is the ultimate triumph the fighters are aiming for? The trophy? The money? Fame? Personal accomplishment? I think what men fight for in the octagon is a metaphor of what we fight for in society. Why we fight says a lot about who we are. What do we fight for?

One of the films I enjoyed most last year was “Warrior,” a film that didn’t get a whole lot of attention but had a deep, moving story with incredible acting. It depicts a crucial dynamic of relationships in our society that stems from the condition of our souls. Why do we fight? If we can uncover the answer to this question, it illuminates much of why relationships are the way they are and what our souls are really searching for. I think the film illustrated the important factor that what people are fighting for is not always apparent. Sometimes the fighters don’t even realize what they’re really fighting for. But they fight. And we fight.

Here comes the slight bit of spoiler, just to warn you in case you want to stop reading here. The story showed that what we are often fighting for is forgiveness. In all our hard bouts with people, self and society, forgiveness is the unseen prize that we’re trying to get to and often times don’t realize that is what we’re actually fighting for.  In the surprising and revealing twist of the film, we find that the end of the fight is about achieving reconciliation that can only come by forgiveness and letting go of the anger.  But forgiveness rarely ever comes easy for anyone.  And that’s why we have to fight to forgive.  The deeper the hurt and anger, the tougher the fight.  The external fights we face in life represents the internal fights in our souls. We’re fighting to be free from our anger, hate and grudges. We’re fighting our way to forgiveness that manifests in reconciliation. The true and genuine Warrior then is the one who gets to a place where he or she no longer needs to keep fighting. When forgiveness is achieved, the fight is done. The Warrior has won.

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