Post by Mark Shipsey
For many if not most of us, just reading that word releases a flow of mental images like John Wayne, Rosie the Riveter, The Marlboro Man , Rocky, or maybe the flag-raising Marines at Iwo Jima.
After The Revolutionary War this country laid low, humbly taking care of its own business and developing an independent country. But after the War of 1812, there was little doubt that America was going to be a force with which the whole world would have to reckon. On the eve of the First World War, this country was still reeling from the Civil War and wanted little to do with world politics. Believe it or not, there was public outcry that we had no business entering the Second World War. By this time on the international stage, America and Americans were seen as larger than life both literally and figuratively and we were goaded into that war. We had become a nation of hard working, free thinking, boisterous, opinionated, bootstrapping tough guys. And we loved it, still do. The problem with that self-image on an individual basis is that we cannot overcome every challenge or obstacle in life by kicking the crap out of it.
If you don’t know me, please understand that I have never taken Martial Arts training of any kind and while I would like you to think I was a black belt in 15 different disciplines, I only watch those movies for the hysterical overdubs. I have, however, been sifting through a philosophical concept for the past couple of years taught in Judo. Yes, I’m being serious.In Japan, Judo means “the gentle way.” The basic concept being that one can create imbalance in his foe or attacker by using their own momentum rather than punishing attack techniques. NOT the American way.
My best bud Carl and I could – and have – talked for extraordinary durations about the provocative things our dad’s said to us; you know what I mean, things like “Don’t make me pull this car over,” or “You better stop crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about!” I could go on but you get the point. We have been taught to be SO posture forward that we tip over EASILY! I used to get on a rant at the drop of a hat! (I don’t know what that idiom means – it doesn’t make sense to me but you get the point) That feisty posture has become part of the American way and at times borders on bullying.
As I grapple with the gentle way, I am finding that one of the best ways to face a problem might actually be to use its own dynamic momentum to preserve my balance. Other times I have to plow right through the heart of it. Here are two examples: I want to watch the ballgame but I probably should mow the lawn. I am already rested, this is just laziness. The issue at hand is my desire to self-comfort at the expense of the greater good. My action – energize myself to do the right thing and command my way to act accordingly. Second scenario – I’m in a meeting with the boss and a coworker. The coworker is posturing to gain prominence by putting my efforts down and it’s getting personal not professional. Instead of fighting fire with fire, I maintain confident eye contact with our boss who then sees clearly as the coworker is exposed by his own agenda as I patiently wait for him to shut up. His self-seeking momentum has flung him into the light of truth because I provided the space.
The gentle way is often a counterintuitive way but very powerful. That is the main reason for its effectiveness. As my attacker lurches toward me I step to the side and use my strength and cunning to assist his momentum, except my added strength sends the attack harmlessly to the ground. Don’t confuse it with passive-aggressive behavior, which is inactivity with a purpose of controlling another with a hidden (usually hostile) agenda.
When you are faced with a challenge or obstacle this week, don’t hide – look right at it and decide if it requires force from you. You might see your own opportunity to grapple with the gentle way.
Have you ever considered the Gentle Way? It might be right for your situation.