I’ve made no bones about it – one of my biggest struggles is with self-control. Confirmed by an emotional intelligence test I took (I strongly recommend that if you can take such an exam and work through the results with an expert, do so), self-control is an area with which I mightily struggle. It extends to all areas of my life – I say things without thinking, I make spur of the moment actions I later regret, and I avoid drinking because I fear what kind of person I might become. Most of all, I see it in my anger. Like many men, I have rage issues, and when they come out I have to go back and repair the damage I’ve done. It’s kind of like I’m both Vash and the Bernardelli Insurance girls, making the damage and filling out the claims afterwards.
But more than those Trigun characters, I resonate most soundly with someone entirely different when it comes to this vice. Nausicaa, the protagonist princess of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, has anger issues as well. What makes her a much-admired and fiery heroine also has its drawbacks – she is apt to violence, and when the right trigger comes along, Nausicaa’s inner gunpowder is sparked and she goes off. In this particular case, it’s a tragic situation: the death of her father at the hands of an invading kingdom.
In the aftermath, Nausicaa shows her skill, easily defeating the soldiers and nearly killing them.* We might call her choice worthy, as her victims committed regicide, certainly an executable offense, in addition the emotional pain it caused Nausicaa. She seemingly has the right to take their lives, and would be fulfilling to do so. But, that’s not how Nausicaa feels:
Nausicaa is confronted with a tough choice when her father dies. She can avenge his death in her rage, or she can let the killers live. Lord Yupa, a Gandalf-like figure if there ever was one, is the one who prevents her from murdering her father’s executioners. She later cries to Yupa in realization that in her fury, she was about to cause even more death than had already occurred.
Despite her skill with weaponry and her pummeling of the troops, Nausicaa is a pacifist at heart. She wants to believe in the peace instilled in her by her culture and her family. She doesn’t want to become like the very people who took her father’s life.
At heart, I’m a pacifist, too. I believe that Christ brought peace to this violent soul. I know my past. I know my proclivity toward evil. I know of what I’m capable. But my heart longs for something more, something better. And yet, I don’t always do what I want.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
My lack of self-control runs deep within me. It’s been nestled there and added to and nurtured through genetics, culture, upbringing, media, and my own choices. At times, I move forward before falling back. And in those falls, I sometimes feel utter despair. Like Paul, I wonder, why do I do the things I don’t want to do?
Nausicaa has a choice in the film. She is beloved, and she is strong – Nausicaa could lead the valley into a battle against its foes. But she ultimately chooses the route of love, and in doing so, she brings peace again to the valley. I sometimes choose the same, but in reality, I all too often make the wrong choice. Perhaps my anger runs deeper than Nausicaa’s. Perhaps Nausicaa is just a fictional character and has to have her arc resolved in two hours rather than over 20 years.
Thankfully, although my transformation is slower, I see changes happening in my life. I know I’m moving forward, and I know this also – that the more I trust Christ, the more I seek him through trying to make the right decisions, through choosing love over selfishness and grace over bitterness, by reading scripture and spending time in prayer, the more I get closer to becoming the man I want to be. I may never get there, not in this life, but I’m encouraged by seeing fruit in my life, and I remember this: the point isn’t perfection or even that moment of tranquility and surpassing beauty in triumph, as Nausicaa experiences. The point is that “where sin runs in [His] grace runs deeper.” I will never fully control myself, and that is okay because this body and this life is not mine anyway; it has already been surrendered.
* I think it’s usually believed that Nausicaa actually kills the soldiers, but upon my closer inspection of the scene, and taking into account her talk to Yupa afterward, I don’t think she actually killed any of the soldiers.
Note: Unrelated, but check out this cool glider based on Nausicaa’s transport.