I dismissed the original Kung Fu Panda when it first came out, but I’ve seen it with new eyes, and partly through the eyes of my children. It’s a delightful movie, not only because of its great animation, top-notch fight choreography, and well-timed humor, but also because it is has unexpected depth. This depth is made manifest the most in the character arc of the cynical kung fu master, Shifu.
Shifu is told that the fabled Dragon Warrior will bring him peace, but that peace only comes after Shifu’s own heartfelt confession of his own faults. When confronted with his fallen student, with the destructive rage and pride of his villainous pupil, Shifu apologizes. He says that he is sorry for his own pride, a pride that blinded him to his student’s faults and allowed those faults them to grow and fester. Shifu had failed him.
This moment is the true lynchpin of the whole narrative, and I found it very moving. It is Shifu’s pride that prevented him from training Po (the Panda of the title), and almost failing yet another student. He realized his mistake with Po, but he still needed to follow that same thread back to where it had revealed itself in a different way.
After his confession, Shifu looks in expectation to see if it will pierce the hardened heart of his student…but it doesn’t. Still, it brings peace.
Psalm 32: 3-4
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
It ends up being a great example of the type of confession that parents should be prepared to make to their own children. We fail them in so many ways everyday. If they end up in a bad place when they are older, like Shifu’s pupil, we must be prepared to take responsibility for our role in creating that festering wound. We should confess our own sins first, and ask for their forgiveness, without any sort of expectation.
It may touch their heart and lead to their own confession. But it might not. And we should not expect immediate results. If no immediate fruit materializes, it’s still a necessary first step in reconciliation, both between you and your child, and between you and God.
And it will be bring peace.