Kung Fu Panda and the Peace of Confession
Fear is the mind-killer, but pride is the soul-killer
It’s easy to dismiss some movies and then see them with new eyes once you watch them with children. Such was the case with Kung Fu Panda. I’m not going to say it’s a masterpiece, but it is delightful. Great animation. Top-notch fight choreography. Some well-timed humor.
But also unexpected depth. This depth is shown in the character arc of the cynical kung fu master, Shifu.
Shifu has been 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, Tai Lung, Shifu apologizes to him. He says that he is sorry for his own pride, a pride that blinded him to his student’s faults and allowed those faults to grow and fester. Shifu had failed him. Tai Lung is the one who is filled with destructive rage and towering pride, but Shifu accepts his own responsibility for the outcome.
This confession is the true lynchpin of the whole narrative, and I found it surprisingly moving. When tasked with training Po, the clumsy and overweight Panda of the title, it was Shifu’s pride that made him feel revulsion at the idea. That pride almost caused him to fail yet another student. Shifu 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. With the villain, Tai Lung.
After his confession, Shifu looks in expectation to see if it will pierce the hardened heart of his student, to see if his own admission of pride will lift the veil over Tai Lung’s own soul…but it doesn’t. Still, the confession brings him peace, even though he expects to die at his former student’s hand. Shifu is not afraid to die, and his soul is now free from the bondage of his pride.
“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.”
Psalm 32: 3-4
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 every day. 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 bring peace.
M.A. Franklin's Bluster and Brine is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.