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Gentle and Tough: Learning to Face the World

Updated on May 18, 2015

"One alone is not enough, you need both together." In Mulan II's opening number, Mulan teaches the little girls in her village what she calls Lesson Number One of how to be a warrior. While this direct-to-video sequel may be written off by some has a shameless Disney cash grab (the worst film has to offer), it's a lesson worth sharing. While many parents teach their children to toughen up to prepare themselves for the cruel realities of life, they must not forget to teach them kindness as well so the world will be a little less cruel.

There is nothing wrong with toughening up; the problem is adults dismissing children's problems by telling them to get over it without exploring the matter further. People of all ages may face this dilemma with one or more of their peers as well. Indeed, there are different ways of handling it, as we are all different types of people. In Homestuck, Vriska claims to pick on Tavros to toughen him up, but she ends up killing him instead, which only causes more problems. It may be troll culture, but up until that point, Vriska's constant badgering did result in Tavros standing up for himself, even if it proved fatal. Another example is Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero, in which Jounouchi and Honda (Joey and Tristan) pick on Yugi and take his last puzzle piece away. Yugi understands that they are just doing it to toughen him up. As they had never actually expressed this (unlike Vriska), Jou feels guilty and retrieves the puzzle piece for him. In both cases, the intentions of the so-called bullies are somewhat benign though a little misguided in the execution.

Yugi confronts the bully who beat up Jou and Honda in retaliation for the way they treat Yugi. He gets beaten up for his trouble when he refuses to pay the bully protection money.
Yugi confronts the bully who beat up Jou and Honda in retaliation for the way they treat Yugi. He gets beaten up for his trouble when he refuses to pay the bully protection money. | Source

Emotions may be at odds with logic sometimes, but having emotions is logical.If we experience something negative, we are likely to experiene negative emotions as a result. Some people just bounce back more quickly than others. Everyone has the right to experience their emotions and explore their meaning (although under extreme circumstances this is more of a privilege). Sometimes people skip this step and are too quick to get diagnosed with some condition; while some may actually have a chemical imbalance, others are just looking for a medical answer to their problems. While it is true that many go undiagnosed, parents should not put their children on medications and expect their behavioral problems to go away. This goes for both the bullies and the bullied; just as the victims have the problem of being bullied, the bullies themselves have their own problems they are taking out on others. I'm not saying that bullies should be forgiven by their victims or given a pass by adults; rather, I would just like to point out that everyone is human.

Back to Lesson One. It takes kindness to understand and forgive people, which is just as important as the toughness needed to stand up to them. "Like a rock, I must be hard. Like an oak, I must stand firm...Like a cloud, I am soft. Like bamboo, I bend in the wind." The key word in the first part is "must." On the outside, a warrior is tough by necessity. On the inside, however, a warrior has a more peaceful side. "Creeping slow I'm at peace because I know it's okay to be afraid." Warriors don't show their fear, but they still experience it. To deny it is to be imbalanced. Without balance, victory cannot be attained. While most people aren't literal warriors, they are fighting their own battles every single day. We each are strong yet vulnerable in our own ways, so the lesson remains relevant. The more people who understand this, the brighter the future will be.


In summation, the lesson of yin and yang touches each of us. People are made up of both light and darkness, positive and negative emotions, strengths and weaknesses. We must decide on our own how to balance these aspects of ourselves despite what others may say or try to force upon us. Lesson Number One is relevant to both children and adults and is a way of understanding each other better as we come to understand ourselves. "You have begun."


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is a great way to put it, we all have both light and darkness in us. No matter what happens, it is how we respond to it that makes a difference. Having mental illness is tough, diagnosed or otherwise. Our emotions sometimes take us places that we don't want to go. I recommend to people that they have a full medical evaluation if they are having emotional difficulty before seeing a mental health professional. That way, we get an objective opinion about what might be other causes of the emotional and behavioral issues we are experiencing.