Most people will live their life without ever truly living. They may experience all of the normal feelings and events a lifetime will hold, but normalcy becomes the goal for most. Only a minority will ever truly grab life by the reins to become the masters of their own destiny. While some will succumb to oppression without ever fighting back, others will be lured into apathy through the affluence of the culture in which they live. For those people, a love of comfort has a sort of sedation affect, and lulls them into a false sense of security. In the words of Pink Floyd, they become “comfortably numb”.
In Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, he states the “It is far more important to resist apathy than anarchy or despotism for apathy can give rise, almost indifferently, to either one.” I travel to East Africa quite often, and every time I return to the United States, I lose a little more faith in the people here. We are truly a country with limitless opportunities. In Kenya, school is not free and school fees are about three times the average monthly wage. Somehow, parents have made a way for 9 out of ten children in Kenya to be able to attend school. The sacrifices made are unfathomable for most of us.
Here in the US, where school is free for all, 7,000 students drop out of high school daily. University students not only demand their school be paid for, but many are also demanding that failing grades be done away with. Our society, as a whole, will continually turn down anything which requires sacrifice and seek an easier option. Unfortunately, we have substituted “stuff” for the word opportunity. By that measure, if I have acquired as much stuff as you have, then I have been equally successful, and therefore have been given equal opportunity to succeed. If I don’t have as much as you do, then I must not have been given equal opportunity to succeed, and someone owes me more stuff. When we become dependent on someone else to supply us with our “success”, we become their slave. We no longer have the power to command our own future, or to positively impact those around us. We shackle ourselves, and future generations to the will and agenda of others.
At the age of 32, I had accomplished many things in my life. I had a college degree, I was married with 4 children, I had been a successful high school teacher, was now home schooling two of my children, and my husband and I did overseas mission work. My firstborn and my husband began taking martial arts classes, and they began working on the rest of the family to join. My daughter said that she would go if I would go with her. I could have easily said no. But as my husband and I talked, I was reminded that when our children were born, that we committed to being extremely purposeful in our parenting. I decided that I needed to set an example for my children. We wanted to teach them that life is about pursuing good things, and consistently equipping yourself to master your circumstances.
I knew that accepting the invitation to join the martial arts class meant that I would pursue earning my Black Belt. It would be all or nothing, and I would expect nothing less from my children. I consider receiving that Black Belt as one of the most important successes in my life. The journey was wrought with frustration, pain, failure, and seriously intense moments of gut-checking. It was this experience that taught me what I was truly made of, and what I had in me that I could offer to others to positively impact their lives. We had plenty of opportunities to quit, and could have been justified in doing so considering some of the circumstances, but we did not. We finished that part of the journey as a family. We did not become a slave to our circumstances, or give other power over journey or the outcome.
This last year has been one of the most difficult years of my life since marriage. We experienced heartache, loss, illness, and injury. My martial arts experience taught me that I have the power to do hard things. When I thought I couldn’t do one more push-up…I could. When I couldn’t go one more round…yes, I could. When I couldn’t bear to watch my children work through their pain and weakness…I could. When I couldn’t allow them to experience the consequences of their actions, knowing it would make them better…I absolutely could. When real life stepped in and tried to wipe us out…it didn’t. No one has that power, because we didn’t give it to them. No one else is responsible for how we deal with our circumstances; only we can master them. When we could lie down, we chose to stand up once again.
For our culture, apathy ensures tyranny. For an induvial, apathy renders its victims helpless. It gives power to the greedy, and weakens the already weak. Every day you have a choice. Will you master your circumstances, or become a slave to the will of others?
Coach M. Manis