There are many ways to hurt. But few hurt as much as sharp comments and judgments. Especially when they are experienced family or with close friends.
If we walk down the street dressed in a “gi” because maybe we’re in a break during a seminar, we don’t care if we meet some -curious or amused- gazes of passers-by.
It is different when our choice to practice is not understood within our close relationships.
Misunderstanding has many facets. Some superficial, others, such as derision or denigration that hurt: nobody likes not being accepted.
In our experience with our families of origin, it has not been easy to share the reasons for our choice. It took time to show that this growth path helped to give a better version of those Sara and Andrea that our families were used to recognize.
More precisely, there was also the fear that our essence as Christians could be somehow destabilized. That the values within which we had lived could somehow be lost.
The dialogue, in itself very simple, was not easy. But over the years it led to different outcomes, some unexpected. There are those who have understood, there are those who have approached oriental disciplines and now practice them with passion, there are those who do not enter into discussion about that subject, keeping themselves in a neutral area where at least there is respect for each other’s positions.
Misunderstanding hurts. But it is also a moment of blessed truth. It is an opportunity to understand that we often relate more to labels than to the people who are buried by them.
This is a challenge, also and above all for the one misunderstood.
If my consistency in dressing as a Japanese a few times a week; if my dedicating time to my personal growth is hastily labeled “ridiculous”, what do I communicate about who I am? About what I do?
What are my reasons?
Returning to our experience: if some relatives feared that the practice of Aikido could weaken our spiritual life and values, where was the problem? In their distorted view of us? In their distorted view of Christianity? Or Aikido? Or maybe even our being Christians appeared as a formal adherence to a list of values and not as something more alive, real, experienced?
In seeking comparison and dialogue, together with the reasons for a choice, the areas in which our person is called to make a qualitative leap come to light. Just as the temptations to let go, take a step back and settle for a quiet life, stuck with labels, arises.
These moments hurt because people who are closest to us tell us, in a way, that they don’t know us. And viceversa.
And in the end, that’s exactly how it is. The fear of probing the asymmetries in relationships and the inevitable instinctive terror of abandonment trigger reaction mechanisms. To bring the other person back into the routine, the most used mechanism is the verbal attack.
In this case, anyone who practices a discipline in which balance and adaptation are constantly studied has the duty to cut the escalation, seeking in sharing that new terrain on which to progress in the deeper discovery of oneself and of the other.
It’s not simple and it takes time. But over time, really proving to yourself that you are a better version than before, maybe more attentive, maybe more sincere, maybe more…serene makes it credible and possible to invite these people to share something about our own world. Maybe an evening with classmates. Maybe attending a training, taking a look to a test together. Exactly how the willingness to share and learn more about their world can and must arise.
Certainly taht’s the point: beautiful things in the long run unite and don’t divide but they all have a price to pay. And it’s usually worth it.
Disclaimer: Picture by Belinda Fewings from Unsplash