Doing No Wrong Does Not Equate To Living Right

Is it enough to simply do no wrong?

Years ago, in what seems like a different life altogether, I was dating a woman who was a few years older than me. Our relationship started under unusual circumstances I will not get into, but we were together for the better part of a year. That year taught me a lot about myself and some of my more self destructive relationship patterns involving my attraction to what I will politely call damsels in distress.

After some time together, with various, but extreme ups and downs, she advised me that she was breaking up with me. As is typical of me in these circumstances, regardless of how many times I have found myself in them, I was confused and distraught. I asked her why she was breaking up with me. I was, in my mind at least, her knight in shining armor, after all. “I did nothing wrong,” I told her, awaiting consolation and an explanation. “That’s the problem,” she replied, “You are so concerned with doing nothing wrong, that you simply do nothing at all. That’s no way to live.”

After the initial sting (and denial) had passed, I found that this feedback was actually informative and helpful. I had grown up overly concerned about the negative impact that my actions had on the emotions of those around me. Out of fear for causing others hurt or distress, I chose to not act, to do nothing instead of doing something wrong. She was right. Living as a shield for other people’s pain was no way to live. Doing nothing was not the same as doing good.

In Japanese martial arts, it is said, there are no defensive techniques. All techniques, including parries and blocks are attacks. They are active and life affirming, not passively accepting of the inevitability of death. This was her lesson for me. Live actively, not defensively.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Taikyoku Budo at Kogen Dojo

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