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Growth, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Extremism

In the end, if you continue to ask yourself a chain of questions to get to the bottom of what you want, it is growth. Growth is a principle of human nature, when people are growing they are happy, when they are growing they are able to contribute and the cycle of growth and contribution is what drives prosperity in an individual, family, community as well as in society at large.

The mechanism of growth is repentance. Repentance is not a fashionable word for many non-Judeo Christians (and for many Judeo Christians with the wrong understanding of repentance), but it is the only path nonetheless. Perhaps another more fashionable Chinese word for repentance is gaishan 改善. Gaishan literally means to make corrections for the good and generally is an accepted essential life practice in Daoist and Chan Buddhist philosophy. It is also known as self-improvement or self-cultivation (xiuyang - 修养).

Forgiveness is the skill that allows the world to heal. It supports repentance while repentance is in the process and it renews people personally and interpersonally after repentance is finished. Total willingness to forgive the penitent (whether yourself or others) is key to all of us having the room for error needed for imperfect beings like we are to actually improve and grow. Unwillingness to forgive is as damaging as an unwillingness to repent.

Extremism either to hold onto conflict, or to avoid conflict is what destroys the growth cycle. Extremism causes a person to be unwilling to repent of their errors. Extremism in many cases puts on the front of proud unwillingness to change. Extremism also puts on the victim act of playing small in order to convince the world that they are unable to change. It inevitably means they want everyone else around them to silently live with the status quo of their current set of errors. Pride also causes people to fail to forgive others and themselves when repentance and growth has taken place.

In my opinion and in the totality of the observation that I have made over my life these four concepts are perhaps the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts throughout human relationships. The misunderstanding of these concepts is responsible for incalculable human conflict, suffering and grief all of which are avoidable with a proper shift in perspective. Often people suffering the fruits of their misunderstanding of these concepts seek to change the entire world and feel that is necessary to “fix the problems”. Without a proper understanding, even if one could “change the world” one would still be suffering if the same incorrect perspective lens follows a person into the “changed world”. You have to remember that you cannot escape yourself, wherever you go, there you are. If it seems the whole world is messed up, undoubtedly a large portion of that, whether it is pleasant to say, whether it is politically correct lies with you. No one is stuck with a problem long if they do not maintain outputs consistent with creating the problem.

These concepts are actually critical to martial arts and are always included in some form in the philosophy of good martial arts. Furthermore having encountered these concepts in both martial arts and in religion/spirituality I feel strongly that many people might benefit from sharing an “All Origin” perspective about these related concepts.

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