Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that's as critically acclaimed as it is beloved by the fans and it deserves nothing less than the praise and love it's been getting all these years. Whether you're a kid watching it for the first time, or a grown-up re-watching it for the umptieth time, Avatar has lots to offer and you'll find yourself discovering something new each time you revisit it.
Over the course of its three seasons, Avatar has taught us many lessons about life, and the main source of wisdom was undoubtedly Zuko's uncle Iroh. His words of wisdom are a staple of Avatar and the show simply wouldn't be what it is without this lovable old man and his unparalleled wisdom. So, in honor of uncle Iroh, we're taking a look at some of his most inspiring quotes.
10 "IT IS USUALLY BEST TO ADMIT MISTAKES WHEN THEY OCCUR, AND TO SEEK TO RESTORE HONOR."
Prince Zuko was on a quest to restore his honor, but if he had listened to his uncle Iroh earlier he would have known that his way of doing things was wrong. According to the wise words of uncle Iroh, “It is usually best to admit mistakes when they occur, and to seek to restore honor”. Unless you just broke a window and a really large gentleman is threatening to beat you up. In that case, run!
For Zuko though, rather than chasing the Avatar across the world to please his father, Zuko would have been better off if he had acknowledged his mistakes right away and worked towards restoring his honor himself, instead of waiting for his father to do so.
9 "IT IS IMPORTANT TO DRAW WISDOM FROM MANY DIFFERENT PLACES."
In the season two episode “Bitter Work”, Iroh decides to teach Zuko how to use his bending abilities to create lightning. Iroh also gives Zuko an important lesson on keeping an open mind and understanding others, which will help him become wiser. He tells Zuko what the strengths of each four nations are and reminds him that: “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.”
If we work on understanding different cultures, beliefs, philosophies, and ways of life, we enrich our own understanding of the world and become wiser.
8 "IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO LOOK INWARD AND START ASKING YOURSELF THE BIG QUESTION: WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
After his banishment, Zuko was hell-bent on fulfilling his destiny and restoring his honor. In his mind, the only way to do these things was to capture the Avatar. Luckily, Zuko had a voice of reason to guide him and make him realize that his destiny doesn’t have to be to capture the Avatar.
Uncle Iroh often told Zuko that the answers he’s seeking, his destiny, and his honor all need to come from within. Meanwhile, Zuko had only ever been what his father wanted him to be. He thought his father would restore his honor if he captured the Avatar and then he could fulfill his destiny and become the next Fire Lord. But, Iroh wanted Zuko to live life on his own terms. To be the person he wanted to be and do the things he wanted to do. As uncle Iroh put it: “It’s time for you to look inward and start asking yourself the big question: who are you and what do you want?”
7 "SHARING TEA WITH A FASCINATING STRANGER IS ONE OF LIFE’S TRUE DELIGHTS."
Iroh had a hard life. First and foremost, his son was killed in battle, which is enough to break anyone. But, on top of that, his brother stole the throne from him. And now, his nephew, his last hope, walked out on him. Yet, despite all that, he has the will and compassion to sit down and have a conversation with Toph, a girl he’d never met, and even offer some advice.
Iroh’s resilience, strength, and uncanny ability to find happiness everywhere around him is nothing short of impressive. His life hasn't been easy, but it’s taught him to appreciate the little things. When Toph thanks him for the tea and the talk, Iroh simply says: “Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life’s true delights”.
6 "HOPE IS SOMETHING YOU GIVE YOURSELF. THAT IS THE MEANING OF INNER STRENGTH."
Let’s face it, Zuko would have gotten nowhere without the support of his wonderful uncle Iroh. The man has done everything to keep Zuko in high spirits, enlighten him about the things he couldn’t comprehend, set him on a right path, and raise him into an honorable man. When Zuko came close to giving up hope, Iroh made sure he knew just how important hope is.
You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road, and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.
Uncle Iroh knows that positivity yields positive results, whereas self-pity won’t get you anywhere – a lesson we should all try to remember.
5 "SOMETIMES LIFE IS LIKE THIS DARK TUNNEL."
While uncle Iroh is usually dispensing wisdom to his nephew Zuko, in the season two finale, Aang got the chance to be inspired by uncle Iroh. While the two were making their way through the tunnel to the underground prison to rescue Katara and Zuko, Aang took the opportunity to seek some advice.
Iroh gladly shared some of his wisdom with the young Avatar, saying that choosing love and happiness is wise because protection and power are overrated. He also added, quite poetically, that: “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”. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the moment and forget that there’s still a long road ahead. Whether we see it or not, something better is waiting for us.
4 "DESTINY IS A FUNNY THING. YOU NEVER KNOW HOW THINGS ARE GOING TO WORK OUT."
Throughout the show, Zuko went on and on about destiny and honor. When we first meet Zuko, he strongly believes that his destiny is to capture the Avatar, but his uncle Iroh knows that destiny isn’t all that simple.
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.
Of course, Iroh was right. Zuko’s destiny was never to capture the Avatar and once he opened his mind to other possibilities he realized that his true destiny is to help the Avatar. What uncle Iroh was trying to teach Zuko is that nothing is written in stone and that it's up to him to decide what his destiny is.
3 "WHILE IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO BELIEVE IN ONESELF, A LITTLE HELP FROM OTHERS CAN BE A GREAT BLESSING."
Leave it to uncle Iroh to correct his wannabe robber's stance, make him delicious tea, give him career advice, and share some of his infinite wisdom. While in Ba Sing Se, a man attempted to rob uncle Iroh, but he had no idea who he was messing with. Iroh easily took him down, and seeing that the man isn’t exactly the criminal type, decided to offer some help.
He tells the man that he should become a masseuer, and the man is overwhelmed to finally have someone who believes in him. Uncle Iroh tells him that “while it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing”.
2 "PRIDE IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF SHAME, BUT ITS SOURCE. TRUE HUMILITY IS THE ONLY ANTIDOTE TO SHAME."
In the season two episode “Bitter Work”, uncle Iroh sets out to teach Zuko a super-secret awesome Firebending move he invented that not even Azula knows how to perform. However, once Zuko actually attempts to create lightning, he fails over and over again, causing him to get angry. Uncle Iroh then offers some insight.
He tells Zuko that in order to perform this move he has to let go of his feeling of shame in order for his anger to go away. When Zuko retorts that what he feels is pride and not shame, the wise old man has a response to that too: “Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame”. What Iroh is trying to explain to Zuko is that his anger at the world comes from shame. And the reason he's ashamed is that he is too proud. So, in order to let go of one’s anger, one must let go of arrogance and embrace humility.
1 "LIFE HAPPENS WHEREVER YOU ARE, WHETHER YOU MAKE IT OR NOT."
When Prince Zuko arrived in Ba Sing Se, he wasn’t taken by the Earth Kingdom’s charms. Behind its massive walls, Zuko felt trapped, and even compared the city to prison, saying that it’s not the place he wants to make a life in. But his wise uncle was quick to point out the mistake in his reasoning, saying:
Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.
Uncle Iroh knows that life happens around us all the time, everywhere, and that it’s not something that we exclusively make. He’s telling Zuko to make the best of life wherever he is because whether he actually wants to be there or not doesn’t change the fact that life will go on.