From Manslayer to Wanderer: Kenshin and the Spirit Fruit of Self-Control
I’ve had a lot of really bad moments in my life – times when I acted like a complete fool. Maybe my very worst happened late one night, after a long evening of arguing on and off with my wife. At it’s climax, I was so mad that I took her glass of water and threw it at the wall.
Except it wasn’t water – it was chocolate milk.
I literally spent days and weeks cleaning up that transgression, both literally and metaphorically.
It was a moment I’m deeply ashamed of, but it was not an action I couldn’t see coming. Even as a kid, I would get frustrated and throw a remote across my bedroom or slam my fist into my 386 processor (so slow!). My mom, with her broken English, would yell at me, “You need-a patience!” But perhaps more accurately, I needed (and still need) self-control.
Kenshin Himura is an excellent example of a character who battles similar struggles. One of the charms for the first-time viewer of Rurouni Kenshin is in the juxtaposition of Kenshin’s silly side and his seriousness in battle. But we as viewers don’t realize the side he’s actually hiding, until Hajime Saito comes to town, and we see what Kenshin has been trying to control all along, the Battousai – a cold-blooded, manslayer.
The wonderful Kyoto Arc then is not just a journey for Kenshin to defeat his physical enemy, Shishio, but also a personal journey into becoming a better man and keeping the manslayer side of himself in check. We don’t get much of a sense of Kenshin’s internal thoughts, but he must have remembered again and again the story of Tomoe and himself, and this must have strengthened him and encouraged him to change.
We, too, can change, even if we have major difficulties in self-control – whether it’s with anger like me, or with overeating, drug-use, cutting, or whatever addiction or struggle we might be dealing with. But we could be destined for failure if we try to find the answer within ourselves. Like Kenshin, our motivation and strength must come from a different source.
“Self-Control” is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is this person of the triune God that does the work within us. For me, as I love in response to God’s love, I find myself exhibiting more and more of the Spirit fruits, even one as difficult for me to show as self-control.
It’s in Jesus that we see a perfect image of this fruit. A passionate figure, He wasn’t attuned to the idea of always staying on even keel. Sometimes he expressed great anger, particular in the face of hypocrisy. But at other times, he held his emotions back and calmly spoke to individuals that would frustrate even the most patient of us. He had perfect self-control.
As usual, the answer begins and ends in Christ – as we remember his great love for us, we’ll open ourselves for the Spirit to do His work in changing us to be like Him.
Come back next Wednesday as I wrap up the “Fruits of the Spirit” series!
Other Posts in the Fruits of the Spirit Series:
Love: Honda Tohru (Fruits Basket)
Joy: Sasami Jurai (Tenchi Muyo!)
Peace: Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke)
Patience: Alicia Florence (ARIA)
Kindness: Vash the Stampede (Trigun)
Goodness: Sawako Kuronuma (Kimi ni Todoke)
Faithfulness: Kamina (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)
Gentleness: Andromeda Shun (Saint Seiya)
Note: I think Kenshin’s struggle with his Battousai side is a wonderful metaphor for the explosive anger that many Asian (and Asian-American) men have. When Saito claims that he will always be a manslayer, it’s reminiscent of this idea that Asian men are just angry people who can never change – I’ve seen this resignation in home after home. But raging and even violent men can change – it all begins with a response from the heart.