Should Aikido be Effective?

Aikido, Kokyu Dosa.

Aikido, Kokyu Dosa.

There have been many questions about the effectiveness of Aikido as a martial art. Human as we are, we find it difficult to reconcile the idea of something so oxymoronic like the stand of Aikido as a martial art that is “non-violent”. I believe that the question of effectiveness can only be answered when we have understood the mechanics and effects of violence and conflict, and in our proficiency to handle them. As with any martial art, when all is said and done, the most basic measure of martial effectiveness depends on the outcome.


TRAINING IN THE DOJO

OSensei3Each Aikidoka has his or her own reasons for doing Aikido. Some would join an Aikido dojo to learn self-defense, while others as a form of exercise to improve their health, and so on. If you ask a thousand Aikidokas about their reasons for training, you will get a thousand different set of answers.

Still, it is important for us to reflect on our reasons for practicing Aikido- what we emphasize in training, what we think of training, and what we would like to get out of training; all these affect our growth in Aikido. Having said this, let us start by asking ourselves the following questions. These are specific to our experiences and goals in practicing the different techniques in the dojo:

Do we seek to learn how to masterfully inflict pain during training?
Do we aspire to make our throws more “powerful”?
Do we train to better dominate our ukes?
Do we think of the best possible angles to dislocate joints?
Have we ever caused injury to someone?

Now as a follow-up, in these instances when we caused pain or injury; or in cases when we banged our ukes’ bodies mercilessly onto the mats:

How did your ukes feel? Were they happy? Were they impressed?
Or were they scared? Vengeful?
Did they like what happened?
How did they respond when you traded places and you took ukemi for them?

I don’t think anyone wants to be slammed to the floor, or have their joints twisted and painfully hyper-extended. Unless you are a masochist, pain is always uncomfortable and undesirable. If our goal in training is to learn techniques that causes harm, or learning how to dominate and injure; I think now may be a good time for us to reflect on what we’ve been doing, and their effects.

Will training to do techniques this way lead us to reconciliation or will they create more conflict? If the latter, is this really a practice of Aikido? Or something else?

In Aikido, it is our aim to transform the initial separation into a celebration of togetherness.

 Let us remember that our goal is to control the aggression of the attacker without injury; and not to escalate the conflict. Our actions reflect our intent. What is your intention in doing Aikido?

“To injure your opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is Aikido.” -Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei

“To injure your opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is Aikido.” -Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei

If we continue to train in order to or while causing harm, we are defeating the purpose of our art. As I said in another article, without understanding the philosophy, we will not be able to fully express Aikido in our movement.


DOING TECHNIQUES

You see, we have to think of the aftereffects- the consequences of our actions. We have to understand that, unless we want to be murderers and kill any and all attackers; there is always the next attack. And the next attack, this retaliation,  can happen anytime- immediately, days, months, or can even take years. This pattern of  attacking and retaliating starts a vicious cycle of “hate that leads to hate that leads to more hate”. Isn’t it more prudent (if we really want to defend ourselves) to not add fuel to the fire as our response to the threat of an attack? In my own training, I am not compromising the effectiveness of my technique in order to uphold the philosophy. Rather,

 I uphold the philosophy in order to increase the effectiveness of my technique.

Doing martially sound techniques is by all means part of our training method. And it is important to emphasize that the effectiveness of Aikido is not limited to its  collection of techniques, and physical steps. Aikido also has its principles and philosophy that should always be expressed together and within the physical movement.

As a matter of fact, it is counterproductive to act from a standpoint of “doing a technique to someone”.  To “do a technique to someone” actually hails from a mindset of separation. In Aikido, we should practice Musubi. Person A is not actually doing a technique to Person B. Instead, Persons A and B are doing the technique together. This is training in moving as one.

In embracing the principles of Aikido, we should be training our techniques with the intention of love. It is important to realize that in the practice and application of the different techniques in conflict situations (actual or as simulated in paired exercises ), all these movements are in fact, physical opportunities for sharing our peace, our goodwill, and our compassion. In our practice of techniques, let us not fight fire with fire, but fire with water.

For some time now, I have made it a habit in my training to sometimes ask my ukes this question after each technique:

“How did that make you feel?”

The tricky thing about Aikido training is that we cannot actually feel the effect of our techniques ourselves. We need feedback in order for us to know what we have to work on. I am very grateful to my ukes, without whom, I would have never improved; because basing from their response and the principles I know, I can adjust my training goals accordingly.


THE LOVING PROTECTION OF ALL THAT EXISTS

avol3

Avalokiteshvara, Chinese: Guanyin, Japanese: Kannon. The Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion and Mercy.

In a fight under the win-lose dynamic, winning and not losing are two different things, and Aikido is very effective in not losing. Actually, Aikido goes beyond this. In doing Aikido, we act to reconstruct the win-lose dynamic itself by reconciling the separation (brought by conflict) through our movements, and transforming it into togetherness (win-win).

From a win-lose to a win-win situation, both parties end up unharmed and at peace. 

Let us remember that there is no other in Aikido; that there is no enemy. What we have are techniques (when done correctly) capable of transforming the harmful intention from an attacker; ultimately bringing both parties together in peaceful understanding. Quoting  O’Sensei:

“The source of Budo is Divine Love- the spirit of loving protection for all that exists.”
「武道の根源は、神の愛—万有愛護の精神—である」

In any martial situation, Aikido’s goal is to transform conflict and purify it, so that there may be peace. This is the practice of Aikido as Misogi, or purification. It is an art that seeks to purify malice and overcome hate through movements coming from a heart of sincere compassion. This compassionate intent can always be felt in the vibrations of our movement. It is never a vain effort. We aim for purification- a change of heart.

This is a very difficult level of mastery to reach, requiring patience, diligence, initiative, and above all, an unwavering curiosity to learn. As Budo, Aikido is truly as ambitious as it is revolutionary. So now to answer the question, should Aikido be effective?

“Yes. Aikido, should be effective. It should be very effective.”


(Please also see: “Aikido: When The Body Moves the Mind“)

 

Aikido: When The Body Moves the Mind

It is an established aim of Aikido that the mind and body should be united so that a person can fully be his best self in whatever he does. The concept is that of cause and effect: The mind desires something and the physical body expresses that desire through action. Imagine a human being having two sides, the mental and the physical. The mental side is the part that thinks and directs, and the physical side is the one that acts and follows the direction.


Photo Credit: Christopher Peddecord. www.dancinphotos.net

Photo Credit: Christopher Peddecord. http://www.dancinphotos.net

The Mind Moves the Body

Usually, when we try doing something for the first time, we can’t really do it well, can we? Remember how you first learned to ride a bike? Or the first time you tried to drive? Remember how it was for you the first time you tried to do any sport? Or, for the martial artists out there, the first time you tried to punch, kick, block? For the Aikidoka, remember the first time you tried to do the rolls? How about the first technique you got to do? Or the first time you held a bokken and did a shomenuchi with it? In all these examples, how was it for you?

For most of us, our first time has been a disappointing failure.

It is arrogant to believe anything can be done well the first time. Although we may think we understand the movement, (in fact, we have replayed the sequence in our minds over and over again!) when we get to the actual doing, our bodies do not seem to listen to us. We move awkwardly and clumsily as opposed to the grace and deft we have pictured ourselves to be capable of doing. The first time is frustrating, indeed.

And so we train. We train to unify what our mind has set out to do and what we are actually doing. The mind is moving the body. The mind is the arbiter of control, and the body is the faculty of action. Whatever constructs we have built within our minds will be reflected in our actions on and off the mats. In teaching Aikido skills, more important than the steps of different techniques is the reconfiguration of how we think.

As O’Sensei said: “I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind”.

In order for training to be fruitful, one has to rid himself of mental distractions that limit the movement of the body. It is here where the application and practice of the budo concept of Fudoshin becomes important. Once the mind is corrected, the body will be able to move in harmony with its intentions. Following this basic concept, Aikido therefore begins with correctly training the mind so as to correctly train the body. Otherwise, training becomes a futile routine.


endo12

Ikkyo. Seishiro Endo Shihan, 8th Dan.

Musubi: Moving as One

In the course of the physical interaction between tori and uke, Aikido techniques are done most efficiently when the tori and uke move as one. At the moment of the initial contact, there is a joining or unifying inherent in Aikido movement that is accomplished.  The point of contact becomes the point of communication, becoming the link that connects tori and uke together. It is here that Musubi is established.

Musubi is to tie together.

There is no other in Aikido, and at the initiation of the movement, the goal of training is to transform duality into oneness. Musubi training is training in uniting opposing forces through connection and circular movements. Musubi is not trained by pushing and pulling. Instead, it can be trained by skillfully attracting and drawing in the energy of the uke’s attack, uniting with the uke through a point (or points) of contact, maintaining this unity, and through circular and spherical movement, moving together as one.

It is important to always be aware of this point of communication and to not lose it: the centers of tori and uke are joined together through the interplay of energies at the point of contact. It is with the joined centers that duality is extinguished and the two bodies become one. When both tori and uke are truly unified, there can never be a separation of intention as well as their physical action. In unity, Aikido then becomes effortless.


When The Body Moves the Mind

In doing any particular Aikido movement, tori and uke should always move as one unit. During a technique, there is an ongoing interplay of energies running between the tori and uke from their centers through the point of contact. In order to maintain musubi and continue moving together as one, tori should move in such a way that that there is no resistance, until the technique is completed.

changeResistance is an indicator of duality.

Resistance signals a disruption in the movement. Forcing the technique through resistance is not Aikido. There should be no clashing in Aikido. Resistance is therefore a sign of separation, and a call to reestablish unity -an opportunity for henkawaza.

Henkawaza is simply defined as changing from one technique to another. It is what you do when you “failed” to complete the initial technique because of resistance, hence doing another technique to address this “problem”. Realistically, henkawaza happens all the time, especially when dealing with very responsive and well-trained ukes.  However as the Aikidoka matures in both skill and knowledge, opportunities for henkawaza happen less and less.

Sensitivity to connection and to resistance of uke is therefore important during the execution of any movement. Otherwise, the tendency to force a technique increases.

These changes in the interplay of energies are usually subtle, and can only be felt through softness and sensitivity. Depending on the feeling, the body then moves the mind to adapt with any and all circumstances that arise in any particular movement. Sensitivity to tactile inputs in training as well as other sensory data is critical to developing good Aikido.


Our bodies have afferent (sensory) and efferent (motor) nerves that provide inputs and outputs to and from the brain respectively. When the mind moves the body, it is when efferent nerve fibers efficiently address the instruction from the mind and manifest these to actual physical movement . In instances when the body moves the mind, by way of afferent nerve fibers through different sensory inputs, the body feeds the mind with real-time information about the physical circumstances of the movement currently being done. The mind can then reconstruct the initial action-decision to adapt with the changes that may have occurred based on the information it has received.

This interplay of motor output and sensory input in the Aikidoka initiates the dynamics of the-mind-moving-the-body-and-the body-moving-the-mind (MB-BM) cycle. In any given technique, this cycle is repeated indefinitely until the movement is completed. It also goes without saying that the Aikidoka is making and acting on one decision after another at a very fast, almost instantaneous rate throughout any particular movement. It is only with continuous training that these skills are honed.

This ability to decide and act almost instantaneously is sometimes coined as intuition, the hallmark of mastery.

(Please also see: “Aikido: Kata is NOT Waza“)

“Freedom is the Absolute Prerequisite to Peace” by André Cognard, 8th Dan Hanshi

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 12.10.31 PM

Andre Cognard Shihan, 8th Dan Hanshi; Tenchinage.

(See this article in original French)

An individual’s freedom is the absolute prerequisite to peace .

Everyone’s duty is to be free. Freedom is the prerequisite to identity and to it’s uniqueness. By acting freely, a subject participates in the expansion of the universe by it’s complexification. Identity is the universe’s utmost division and an individual’s task is to make it live. But individual’s freedom is hindered by invisible bonds of loyalty. These obligations arise from our need to belong to diverse entities, comprised in undifferentiated group consciousnesses.

This is the price of incarnate life.

To receive a body, you adopt two family histories and through them, the history of ancestral consciousness and its cultural and clanic subdivisions, as well as the history of human consciousness as a whole. Upon incarnation each individual is burdened with this collective history.

It is the conflict between our duty to be free and our obligations of loyalty towards the groups, that creates an internal conflict, a true identity schism. To be objectified, the conflict is projected between the subject and others. Objectified in the relationship, it can be changed. The evolution and harmonization of the internal conflict will occur if the re-enactment of the relational experience leads to peace. Change is therefore made ​​possible through our actions. This is the meaning of the way and of practice: our karma consists of our actions.

To understand our need to be free and our need for relationships, we must understand that conscience is only what it contains and all it contains. Internal conflict is a pillar of conscience itself. It is structural. This implies that change cannot occur in conscience itself. The conscience can only change by integrating novelty and novelty comes from otherness. One changes only in the other.

andre_cognardThis means that peace is only possible when the subject has freed himself from his obligations of loyalty to ancestral consciousnesses to whom he owes language, culture, and myth. And also to the collective human consciousness to whom he owes symbols and, through them, the ability to integrate novelty and therefore change.

There is a only one way to free oneself and that is to accomplish our spiritual duty which is always composed of two antagonistic elements:

  •  Liberating the human group out of the self, by embracing our own freedom and respecting that of others.
  •  Liberating the expanding universe within the self by removing all obstacles to our own freedom.

The two are inseparable because they both determine universal harmony which in turn determines peace. Peace is the sign of spiritual accomplishment. Aikido must lean towards this concept that I have named “effective harmony.”


This article was submitted exclusively to Aikido no Sekai by Andre Cognard Shihan. All rights reserved. You can also submit Aikido or Peace related articles to Aikido no Sekai via email: aikidonosekai@gmail.com.

Andre Cognard HanshiAndré Cognard Saiko Shihan, 8th Dan Hanshi

In 1973, He met Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan in Paris and since then, devoted his life to Aikido. In 1982 he founded the Academie Autonomous Aikido (now Autonomous Academie d’Aikido Kobayashi Hirokazu), now represented in France by more than 100 dojos.

In February 1998, upon the recommendation of  Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan, along with five of his students, he founded the Kokusai Aikido Kenshukai Kobayashi Ryu Ha. Hirokazu Kobayashi Soshu awarded Andre Cognard the degree of hachidan (8th dan), along with the title of Saiko Shihan of Aikido Kokusai Kenshukai (or the first of Shihan). Currently, he holds the title of Hanshi conferred by Dai Nippon Butokukai. Published in French, he is author to many books about Aikido and the martial arts.

 

(Please also see: “8 Tips to Making Peace a Habit“)

Aikido: Philosophy and Movement

Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei

Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei

How do you train? In Aikido the training pattern usually follows the same sequence: The teacher demonstrates a technique, and we try to do this technique in pairs, training the steps over and over again until the teacher signals for us to stop, and then he proceeds to demonstrate the next technique. This cycle is continued until the kokyudosa at the end of the class. Then we go home and that’s that.

Sometimes after this sequence there may be some other training exercises like tanninzugake or jiyuwaza training that can be done. But this is the usual pattern isn’t it? Warm-up, Aiki Taiso, pair work (with or without weapons), the optional jiyuwaza/tanninzugake, and kokyudosa at the end. All Aikido dojos, regardless of “style”, follow this training pattern, don’t they?

Lately I have been reflecting on the direction Aikido is taking, considering the current training regimen we are adapting.

Aikido is a balance of philosophy and martial movement.

Movement not based on philosophy or philosophy not applicable to movement is not Aikido. All Aikido movement follow a structure based on principles, and all principles follow a structure derived from movement. Both movement and philosophy can stand alone, but for these to be Aikido, I have come to realize that one should not be without the other. O’Sensei said that Aikido is 50% Bu (practice of martial movement) and 50%  Bun (philosophy, deep learning). Our bu enlightens our bun, and our bun enlightens our bu.

I like to think of it this way:
100% Philosophy and Principles in 100% Movement  makes 100% Aikido.

I know O’Sensei is more of the mathematician. I propose this equation to emphasize the importance of both. The philosophy of Aikido is a stand-alone, and the martial movements/techniques of Aikido is a stand-alone as well. But apart from each other, it is never Aikido, nor is it partially Aikido. I have come to think that there should be a deliberate 100% philosophical rationale behind our movements and that the philosophy should also be 100% applicable to movement or techniques for it to be Aikido. This way, there is unity in mind and body, in our will and in what we do.

It is like the 2 sides of the coin. If you look at just one of either side, you can say it is a quarter (for example), but for that discoid piece of metal to be a quarter and have any real value, the faces of the two sides should have been pressed onto the coin. It is never really a quarter if only one side has a face while the other is left blank.

zen in motionOne without the other is not Aikido, or at least doesn’t really have any real value. Our actions and our intentions should manifest each other. Do we integrate the philosophy in our movements? Or the movements in our philosophy? Rather, can we integrate these given our training methods?

This is something we should think about and apply. Aikido is not just a martial art but a philosophy in itself expressed in martial movement. It is Zen in motion and the motion in Zen. It is Mu in motion and the motion in Mu. It is the universe in motion and the motion of the universe.

Aikido is the expression of peace through movement, a coming together in love.

 

(Please also see: “Mushin: The Mind without Mind“)

Musings on Psychology: the Onion, the Book, and the Window

Would you prefer to be compared to an onion? A book ? Or a window?

I have been brushing up on a few basic Psychology 101 comparisons regarding people and their psyche. We can be compared to onions, books or windows. I am assuming, of course, that most of us are familiar with these tools but for the sake of those who are not, let me review them anyway.


  • The Onion

People and situations are compared to onions because of its layers. When we look at the structure of the onion, it is comprised of layers. On the outside and surface of the onion we see what the elements have done to it.

We see dry flaky skins or skins with a healthy looking shine to them. When we choose onions for cooking, we choose them based on what we see outside. We look for good color, unblemished or uncut and well hydrated surfaces. Ever notice that the flaky onions in the grocery boxes where we can pick and choose are the ones mostly left behind? But sometimes, even an onion with a flaky dry exterior still has a perfectly flavorful and totally usable interior. (These onions are a misleading lot!) Anyway, a person is sometimes compared to an onion because of its layers. The more we get to know a person or a situation, the more we peel away from the surface of that which we see, towards the heart of the matter, which we don’t often see.

Red onionsMy officemates know nothing about my contributions to this blog, or the things I do on
the mats, for Aikido and peace work. They are my co-workers. We work well together, I like them and they like me, but they can only see what I choose for them to know and see. That’ s all. I could safely estimate they probably know only a very small aspect of who I am, even if they know I can be trusted and depended on all the time, anytime. That’s the way I like it. But the closer we grow together, another aspect of our person and character are revealed. And another layer of our onions is peeled away as we move through our job together.

In Peace and Conflict Studies, one of the approaches to difficult people and situations is by understanding the model presented by the onion. We have to keep opening up the layers to be able to dig deep into a person’s motivations and intentions or a problem’s underlying causes so that we will be able to deal with them comprehensively and competently.

  • The Book

pagesIn the book model, however, we have no layers. We have pages. There is the top and outer cover, which may or may not be indicative of its contents; and there are pages upon pages to be read and understood before you finally get to the end of the story or the book and finally have a firm grasp of the data contained within its pages. The further you progress in the leafing and reading through the book, the more comprehensive your understanding. You have to be patient and keep on reading until the very end.

  • The Window

And then there is Johari’s window. The window is another tool and another theory towards understanding yourself and others. It is divided into four parts.

windowThese four parts are:

1. The Known Self
(you and everybody else know who this is, for example: everybody knows who likes to wear leopard print leggings)

2. The Hidden Self
(Only you know about this aspect of yourself, it is your secret self, for example: the kind who likes to dance to Wham’s Buttercup song in the shower)

3. The Blind Self
(The person the others know and see, but you don’t, or maybe you deny it, refuse to acknowledge its existence, for example, your self body image is fat but others know you are voluptuously deliciously curvy)

4. The Unknown Self
(The self you and others still don’t know about but might discover later on: enter the PhDs, the analysts, hypnotist, psychic and medium)

These three are just some of the most common tools we employ to try to box and classify people and situations in our quest for more understanding, so we are able to work with them. Have you ever consciously applied any of these tools towards yourself, something or someone?


 I have a beef with these tools. I don’t want to be compared to an onion, even if its approach seems effective. Neither do I want to be compared to reading a book, even if it fosters patience and tolerance. And I don’t want to be compared to anybody’s window. Or be an onion on a book framed by a window. Nah.

It is good to remember that we have these tools on hand to try to gain an understanding and maintain harmony and peace among ourselves and the world around us. Psychology gives us a workable platform to deal with the known and the unknown of a person’s psyche. (Did you know that in some schools there exists two Psychology programs? One is the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the other is the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. )

But, I believe we can never be totally and accurately analyzed. Yes, some agencies might be able to draw up a psychological profile on us, but we are people. We evolve everyday. The human spirit cannot be contained or quartered into sections of a peel, a page or a windowpane.

If I had the choice, I would choose William’s comparisons.

the clover tooWilliam Shakespeare compared Juliet to the sun rising in the East, and Romeo to a rose. And then, William Wordsworth compares Lucy to a “violet by a mossy stone, half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky”

I digress. But, what I’d really like to know is where our Bills belong. In the science of psychology, or in the art? And yet, they are poets, not psychologists or profilers. They’re very eloquent to fully capture in verse how being human is totally complicated, very prismatic and ever fascinating. I believe they can capture the human spirit much more easily than an onion/ book /window model can.

So, what are you going to compare yourself to? An onion? A book? Or a window?
(A sunrise? A violet? A rose? or a star?)

I am a Christian and I Choose Not to Judge

I am a Christian and I do not believe it is right to judge others. Throughout most of human history, the world has been a battlefield. Religion plays a big part in motivating people to take arms against another, killing each other in the “name of God”. These wars led to countless deaths and human suffering- children orphaned, women widowed, and homes and countries destroyed. After all the anguish religion has caused, I wonder if this is really what God wanted. In my walk with God, I have come to believe otherwise.


The Christ I Know

I was born into a devout Christian family. Since a very young age, I was raised to be God-fearing. I was an obedient child. I would go with my parents to Church every Sunday. I involved myself in the children’s choir of our church; and we would sing hymns in front of the congregation as worship to God. I joined church camps and tried to live a holy life as I was told. I was baptized when I was 15, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Then I became an adolescent. I was a victim of peer pressure. I began to doubt God. At this point in my life, I began to see what the world has to offer and I was seduced. I began to give in to a hedonistic lifestyle: I began drinking and smoking. I did drugs. I did not go to church anymore. I started living a life of sin and began fornicating with the pleasures of the world. Of course my conservative Christian family was aghast. But I did not care. I enjoyed myself. Pleasures of the flesh are indeed very pleasurable.

After about 5 years of living this life of pleasure-seeking, I was hit by tragedy. I was betrayed by people whom I trusted. I did not know what to do, or who I should run to. My pride “forbade” me to pray. So instead of looking up, I started to act out my hate. Looking back, this was the worst decision I have made. I pushed myself to despair. I was living in a downward spiral. Everything was disgusting. I thought to myself: Love is a lie; I can only trust myself, F*** you. I learned that pleasures did not bring me Joy.

regretI was surrounded by people but I was alone.

One day, I thought of ending it all. I was alone in my room. I was crying because of the deep, lancinating pain of my heart. I call it God’s grace when at that moment, I started to pray. All I said was: “God are you there?”. I do not know why, so I will call it grace as well, but I looked for my Bible and opened it. You see, before all this, I was a hardcore church goer, so my Bible is filled with highlighted verses, complete with notes about scripture. When I opened my Bible, I was drawn to one verse in particular:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

It felt like heaven opened up and poured mercy and love over me. I broke into tears and started praying out of remorse. I thought to myself: “What have I done?” I started to pour my anger and grief out to God in prayer. That day changed my life. I started praying again. I did not go to church, I just prayed. I was a prayerful non-church goer for a year.

I was steadily allowing myself to be fixed. Then after a little over a year, I went back to church. I was a changed man. This time of my life made me understand the Love of God and the Peace of Christ. This experience made me understand that worship is not in singing the hymns or going to church.

God looks at the heart.

Worship is having a contrite heart before the Lord. It is knowing God, His love, His mercy and His forgiveness; and living a life of gratitude for all that He has done. It is an outpouring of love and thanksgiving from my heart and soul to the Lord who is always good.


Exclusive Christianity

Christianity is indeed exclusive. We believe there is a heaven and a hell; there will come a day that people will be judged by God. Some people think this is a doctrine that discriminates and condemns non-Christians. But I think about it this way: Christians believe in God as the one true God, and that the Bible is His inerrant word. This belief is a statement of faith. What the Bible says is God-breathed, it is the very Word of God. And God is the ultimate truth. And Jesus said in the Bible: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“(John 14:6)

mahatma-gandhi-quotes-5Now for Christians, those who are not in Christ are not yet in the truth. As I said, it is very exclusive. However this doesn’t mean that those who are not in Christ are incapable of doing good. Just read the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We become each other’s neighbor for as long as we show compassion.

For Christians, we have been tasked by Christ to spread His truth and His love all over the world. There will be people who will not receive Christ and there will be those who will. Exclusivity is GOD valuing free will. God, respecting the will of His created, gave man the freedom to choose to follow Him or not.

ForgivenChristianity as a faith is exclusive, and I also believe that our compassion and love for mankind should be all-inclusive and not borne out of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. In Christianity, I remind myself that we are all sinners before the Lord; that there is no one righteous (see Roman’s Road). I believe in the Jesus who healed the gentile sick, and reached out to the nobodies, the lepers, the outcasts, the prostitutes, and thieves. I believe in the Christ who said:

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

As a Christian, I believe in a final judgment. But I am not the Judge, God is. I will not act as if I am. Instead, I choose to follow Christ’s example.


The Nonviolent Christ and A Love that Endures

God's LoveJesus is the image of reconciliation, non-violence, forgiveness and peace. He preached love and peace wherever he went. He taught us the love of God. He came in love to give love and He came in peace to give peace. I have come to view the cross, the symbol of reconciliation, this way: The vertical line symbolizes the reconciliation of man and God, and the horizontal line is God’s intention that we reconcile with each other. This reminds me of Jesus’ commandment: to love God and love each other.

Above, I said that I did not go to church for over a year and just prayed. Looking back, the reason I did not go to church was because of fear, fear of being judged by other Christians. You see, I know what it feels like to be judged by others. It hurts. Didn’t the Bible say: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged?” (Matt 7:1)

I am a sinner, forgiven by grace. I have experienced the mercy of God first hand, and I have seen how He loves me just as I am. And so instead I will show my Christianity through compassion. God is love and Jesus personified Love. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He never shunned anyone who came to Him. As a Christian, I believe that the way to peace is the way to love. As a Christian, nothing can separate me from the Love of God.

God pours out His love to His people, and from the spring that flows out of His heart, we have access to an endless supply of compassion for everyone. This way, Love endures and never runs out.

God is Love. The way of God is the way of Love.

(Please also see: “8 Tips to Making Peace a Habit“)