If you ever find yourself in emotional turmoil like Zuko, you can always count on Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender for life-changing advice.
Uncle Iroh is the wise, tea-loving uncle of Zuko who dispenses sage advice to anyone who needs it in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Iroh’s a father figure to Prince Zuko, and has always guided Zuko towards walking the right path during his moments of emotional anguish and uncertainty. In some ways, Iroh’s advice to his nephew have made him some kind of life coach for the Internet.
In no way is Iroh perfect: He laid siege to the Earth Kingdom capital Ba Sing Se, and lost his son in the process. However, his redemption arc makes him the right person to look to for guidance. He knows what it’s like to make mistakes, recover from them and emerge as a better person.
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There Is No Judgment
“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Iroh sees the good in others (except for Azula), and holds steadfast in his belief that people like Zuko have a chance to turn their lives around. Despite Zuko betraying him and essentially throwing his teaching back in his face, Iroh never thought poorly of his nephew. The way Iroh delivers his advice is devoid of judgment, making people feel safe enough to be vulnerable and ask him for help.
A lot of his advice comes from a place of compassion and experience. He genuinely wants everyone to be the best possible version of themselves. His teachings come from his experiences and from his spiritual travels. At the end of Book 2, Aang turns to Iroh for some reassurance about choosing Katara instead of letting go of her to fully immerse himself in the Avatar state. Inspired by his own tragic decision to try to conquer Ba Sing Se rather than be with his son, Iroh tells Aang he was wise to choose happiness and love over power and protection. This wisdom helps relieve much of the weight from Aang’s shoulders.
Inspiring Life Philosophies
“Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel: you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place.” (Book 2, Episode 20)
Iroh is inherently a spiritual person, and even left for the Spirit World once he saw that his duties in the mortal world were done. He sees the big picture and understands that we all have a place and role in the universe, that we’re individuals but also interconnected. While teaching his nephew about lightning, Iroh explains that wisdom is drawn from many places and the only way to become whole is to being open and understanding other people.
Perhaps Iroh’s hardest-hitting line is when he asks Zuko an important question: “Who are you, and what do you want?” For kids who grew up watching this show, and for the new generations discovering Avatar for the first time, this is a question many have wrestled with but might not have had the words to talk about it. With so many forces are telling young people to do one thing or another — like family, relationships and their fear of their future — it’s easy to be frustrated and angry at the world. This one question posed by Iroh reaches to the root of Zuko’s turmoil and forces viewers to pause and self-reflect — an extremely powerful moment in a children’s show.
“Destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny.” (Book 3, Episode 12)
Destiny has always been a significant theme in the series, with Aang as the Avatar and Zuko struggling between what he thinks is his destiny and what is right. Iroh believes that destiny isn’t something that is set in stone and that everyone still has a choice in how they shape their lives. It’s why he never lost faith in Zuko and why everyone on the Internet has taken his words to heart. That kind of trust is rare to see these days.
What makes Iroh such an inspirational character is that his advice is enduring. Taken out of the context of a TV show, Iroh’s words remains applicable to everyday life. In a time where everything is thrown into chaos, Iroh is someone that we can all look to as a symbol of hope, for guidance and for a good cup of tea.
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