Monday 14 September 2015

Tell me how proud you are, Sifu

Tai Lung was out for revenge. He had been locked up for twenty years. But it wasn’t the incarceration that drove him to madness. It was his master. Sifu.

I caught the last half-hour or so of Kung Fu Panda last weekend. That’s right. Kung Fu Panda. This was a cartoon meant for kids. And yet, with all the Jack Black jokes, with all the furry creatures doing kung fu, even with Jackie Chan voicing Monkey, this one scene stood out as unmistakably real - with its raw emotion, pathos and a darkness that seemed almost spiritual in nature.

* As Tai Lung beats his ageing master to a pulp, he lashes out at him in anger.

“I rotted in jail for twenty years because of your weakness.”

“Obeying your master isn't weakness!” Sifu replies.

“You knew I was the Dragon Warrior. You always knew. But, when Ugway said otherwise what did you do? What did you do?”


“You were not meant to be the Dragon Warrior,” says Sifu. “That was not my fault!”

Sifu’s denial sends Tai Lung into a rage. “Not your fault? Who filled my head with dreams? Who drove me to train until my bones cracked?”

“Who denied me my destiny?” Tai Lung pins his master to the ground.

All I ever did, I did to make you proud! Tell me how proud you are, Sifu! Tell me! Tell me!”

His final blow sends Sifu flying across the room, landing in a heap at the foot of the stairs.

Tired, solemn and sad, Sifu replies, “I have always been proud of you. From the first moment, I've been proud of you. And it was my pride, that blinded me.”

“I loved you too much to see what you were becoming. What I was turning you into.”

“I'm sorry.”

With Tai Lung, it is obvious what the ill-effects of pride are - self-delusion, self-justification, self-importance. We tend to associate pride with the strong, the boastful and the arrogant.

But you see, Sifu confesses, that he, too, was blinded by that same illness called pride.

Though Sifu sincerely loved his pupil, Sifu’s pride kept him from admonishing him, from disciplining him and most importantly, from teaching him lessons of humility at an early age.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute… We have become, and are still, like the scum of the earth.”

But then he tells them the reason for addressing them in this way. “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:10, 13, 14)

The wrong term for this is tough love. That’s not what this is. This is humble love. The only way to expose and deal with pride, without ourselves becoming proud and self-deluded, is with humility. “When reviled; we bless; when persecuted, we endure.” (1 Corinthians 4:12)

And there are times in life, when the only effective way to address the wise of this world, is for ourselves, to become fools.

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