On Being Forgiven

I began training in the martial arts when I was 17. I’d read George Leonard’s book The Ultimate Athlete a year or two prior and had fallen in love with a martial art called aikido. It was offered at my university by Shihan Bowen, who taught both aikido and karate.

One day in class he demonstrates the difference between the arts.

“Let’s say I have a student who wants to cause trouble.” He motions to his assistant to come at him with a punch, and demonstrates disabling him with an arm break but doesn’t follow through. “If I use karate to stop him, I break his arm, and I am not forgiven.”

“But if I use aikido to stop him,” he says, motioning again to his assistant, who throws the punch and is wheeled around and quickly pinned to the floor, “I don’t break his arm, and I am forgiven.”

When faced with a communication that you find threatening — a complaint or a conflict — do you strike back, or do you respond in such a way that you will be forgiven?

Image used under Creative Commons license from toosuto’s Flickr feed.

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