People speak of “winners” and “losers.”
Recently many people take the attitude that the only important thing is to win, and make the other guy lose.
People have developed a hard attitude regarding winning and losing, and think nothing of injuring others.
To win in a discussion, to win by physical force, to win through superior knowledge:
There are people intent on winning by all means even with regard to minor matters.
Such people are controlled by the desire to show off their superiority to others, and adopt an arrogant attitude.
On the other hand, there are people who are forced to bow their heads and continually apologize to others.
Such people, if they have to give in to others too much, become depressed, seeing themselves as “losers” or “weak” and “useless” persons.
But to lose at something and concede victory to the other person is not a sign of weakness.
There are many cases when people are able to lose well because they are strong.
A man in his fifties contacted me about a problem:
The company he used to work for went bankrupt and he found work at a new company.
His position was that of a freshman employee, so he found himself taking orders from, and sometimes being sharply reprimanded by, a boss who was twenty years his junior, which he found painful, humiliating, and hard to bear.
Since Japan’s economy has been stagnant for so long, I’m sure many men have had similar experiences to this.
“Why have you put up with it so long?” I asked.
“If I had only myself to worry about, I wouldn’t have, but, you see, I have a child who is still in high school.”
“That shows what a wonderful parent you are, willing to bow your head to someone twenty years younger for the sake of your family. I think that’s a fine thing to do, and it shows how strong-minded you are.”
I encouraged him, and introduced this poem to him as well:
Giving others a wide berth on
The narrow mountain road
The idea is that when traveling on a mountain road so narrow that only one person at a time can pass, two travelers meet, coming from opposite directions.
One has his hands free, but the other is carrying many beautiful flowers.
At such a time, the one who is carrying the flowers is happy to let the other person go first.
If each of them asserts his right to go first, and they collide, the lovely flowers will fall to the ground and be crushed.
That’s why the one is able to say with a smile “Please go first,” in order to safeguard his flowers.
When a difference of opinion leads to a clash or a quarrel threatens, the one who has lovely flowers that he needs to safeguard is the one who can give up stubbornly striving and gracefully give in.
“The fact that you bow your head to a boss who’s much younger than you are does not mean that you are weak or inferior to him.
You’re strong enough to be able to bow your head for the sake of the lovely flowers that are your family.”
When I told him that, he answered in a tear-choked voice,
“It makes me happy to hear you say that.”
To this man, his family was the beautiful bouquet of flowers.
I think we all have precious “flowers” that we want to preserve, and in order to do that, we often find ourselves in situations that require us to exercise patience and endurance.
For example, a person may want very much to acquire some skill, and to do that, he must study the very basics of a field together with people much younger than he is.
Or, a daughter-in-law may have to respond to her mother-inlaw’s harsh criticisms with a smiling face.
In Buddhism, the word for endurance is ninniku, and Shakyamuni Buddha recommends it as one means of planting good seeds.
The person who can bear up under hardship and give in to the other when necessary is a person with a truly strong heart and mind.