"The discipline of purification can and must cease only with our life, therefore be not discouraged by infirmities; our perfection consists in struggling against them..." - St. Francis de Sales; Introduction to the Devout Life, pg. 15
I want to share something with you that the young people today would call, "real-talk". I want to share a secret with you that warriors will admit if they are honest. What is this secret? It is the secret of struggle. What do I mean? Allow me to elaborate:
The secret is that all warriors struggle. Struggle with what? Just about everything. We struggle to treat people the right way, to do the things we ought, and to live as we ought to live. Warriors and protectors are real people. Just like you. They are not perfect.
Tell me if this is something you have been guilty of in your own life: looking at others and failing to realize they are human just like you. You see other people and they appear perfect. Perfect kids, perfect marriage, perfect body, etc. What is most often the case, is that this same person looks back at you and says similar things.
Warriors understand this. Warriors understand that we all struggle. A real warrior is honest with himself and knows that his heart needs purification. However, warriors and protectors are those who have made a choice to struggle against their own depravity and lowliness.
A warrior does not always do everything he ought, nor think everything he ought, nor say all that he ought. But a warrior has decided that to struggle against his own infirmity is noble. This is what St. Francis is talking about - the struggle against one's own nature of laziness, apathy, indifference, cowardice, and vice.
If you want to radically upgrade your life, I believe there is nothing better than to choose to become a warrior. To live that life and embrace all that comes with it. However, what this actually entails is diligent self-work that doesn't often come to mind. Being a warrior isn't about being Rambo or owning 1000 guns; the real warrior path is one of struggle. Struggle against your own self. Defiance against your own weaknesses and selfish nature.
If you are facing challenges in your life, embrace them. They are the furnace that will forge your character; that will purify your heart. If you intentionally allow these challenges to become a forge, your heart can be purified and strengthened. They are opportunities for cleansing, another chance to ascend the ladder of perfection.
Newsflash: all warriors know that ultimate perfection is impossible. But that is precisely the point - the tasks' impossibility is the very thing that makes striving for perfection noble.
This attitude of waging war against your own imperfections and infirmities is an attitude of defiance. My mentor, John Viol Shihan, impressed upon me the importance of defiance as that of a virtue. How is defiance a virtue? Let me provide you with two examples:
If you are ever in a situation that requires you to use violence to protect yourself or others, your body and spirit may want to quit before the threat has been neutralized. If you have forged the attitude of defiance in the furnace of discipline beforehand, you just might be able to say in those moments, "I refuse to quit! I will not have my life snuffed out against my will. And if I must go, then the threat is going with me." This is a healthy attitude and one that you can see would be very beneficial in such a moment.
Now it's time to get very real. Here is the truth: your entire life is ultimately like this. One day, you will die. Your entire life is ultimately leading you to a point where decay and degeneration claims you. Faced with this brutal reality, you have two choices: to cower before this fate, or to defiantly embrace this fate and struggle for perfection anyway.
A warrior doesn't do this perfectly. A warrior makes mistakes. You make mistakes. But if you have embraced the warrior path a bit more closely, you will re-focus and re-dedicate yourself each day to self-purification and mortification.
You may be asking yourself, "Why? Why go through all this purification and mortification and discipline? What is the point?" I believe there is a higher purpose to life outside of ourselves but even if you don't; a life where you master your passions and emotions is still more enjoyable and happy than one where you are ruled by your passions and emotions.
Perhaps this will illustrate it more effectively: Who do you believe is happier in life? The person who can control their emotions on most days, or the drug addict who refuses to control themselves? The addict feels as if he, in fact, cannot control himself, and that the addiction has taken over. Do you think this makes you feel powerful or demeaned? Especially contrasted with the man who can see a thing that he desires but calmly says, "No thanks, I don't need that right now."
Therefore my friend, I beseech you to embrace your struggle. Be honest with yourself - has the modern American culture of "pretend your problems don't exist", "Everything you do is ok", "You are amazing no matter what you do" really been working for you? It didn't work for me. Why? Because I knew I was lying to myself. I knew I was a fraud. Everything I do is not ok, I'm not amazing no matter what I do and my problems most certainly do exist, whether I acknowledge them or not.
A warrior is someone who understands that this method of modern denial and avoidance is a lie. It is dangerous and self-destructive. Obviously, a protector seeks to avoid violence at all costs. The fight never entered into at all is the best fight. However, when the enemy has presented itself, and the threat is imminent, avoidance may not be possible. And denial of the threat's existence is surely detrimental.
If a General denied that the enemy forces were marshalling even when he was staring at them march towards him, he would be deemed a fool. Likewise, when your own threat is staring you in the face and engulfing you (i.e.: your own weaknesses. You know what they are - I want you to imagine one of them as an enemy, marching against you to destroy your life) it is not the time for denial. It is time to attack.
This is what St. Francis was saying, attack your infirmities. Acknowledge that they exist, prepare for battle, and then go wage war against them. Just like any battle, there will be casualties. There will be days the enemy has you up against the ropes, but you fight on anyway. There will be other days you beat the enemy back and gain a massive victory. If you are diligent, there will come a time when the enemy makes fewer and fewer advances and when he does, you more easily defeat him than you did when you first set out to fight. This is when you know that you are making progress at self-purification.
I leave you with this: the purification I am speaking of involves to purify your heart, mind, will, desires, and body - total purification. This should be your quest. Here is another example to illustrate what I mean:
Recently, an acquaintance of mine asked on Facebook, "What message would you like to send to all of the MEN on the planet, if you could only send one?" Many people gave very stereotypical answers of "be strong, take the lead, be yourself" etc. I went a different route. I said:
"Sexual purity is the foundation of self-control and self-control is the foundation of power and the ability to make sound judgements. Go to any lengths necessary to preserve your sexual purity."
Interestingly, no men 'liked' that comment. 4 women did, and 1 commented their extreme approval. I'll leave you to ponder why that may be.
The point I am making is that purification extends to all areas of your life. And purification allows you to gain control over your life. Without purity of heart, it is almost impossible to make sound judgements, and to avoid becoming a slave to passions and impulses. Yes this is a constant struggle, and no I am not perfect. But a warrior struggles anyway. You should struggle anyway.
I desire for you to embrace your struggles and infirmities, to wage war against yourself, to purify your heart and to never cease this process until death claims you.
Live in the battleground my fellow warrior,
Alexander Lanshe Sensei
"Deliver me, O Lord, from cowardice and faint-heartedness" - King David
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National Speaker, author, blogger, and life-long student of warrior arts and science.