Worthy Opponents

We don’t pay enough respect to our opposition. In general terms, I think most people would be better off if their default reaction to adversity was respect rather than anger or hatred.

Anger is a response. Base and biological. It’s not worth basing a philosophy around.

Hatred is just long-term anger. It’s anger that crystallizes, metastasizes. Anger is to hatred what “the pain of getting a nail through your hand” is to “never pulling it out for the rest of your life.”

Anger and hatred don’t teach you anything substantial. The only conclusions that anger and hatred can lead you to are “avoid” or “destroy.” There’s no nuance, no true wisdom contained therein.

But respect – that’s a choice. A belief. An important one.

My father was a fighter. Strong as an ox, but more importantly, quick like a fox. When my friends and I were late teenagers, 16-17 and at the peak of both our physical ability and our desire to prove it, my dad used to let us all take turns trying to land a hit on him. Dozens tried. No one could touch him before he put them on their backsides. Then one day, one managed to. Got a hit right across the bridge of his nose.

I froze. I expected my dad to be furious. I expected his stung pride and bruised ego would make him angry and he’d lash out, scream at us, something. That’s not what happened at all – he laughed. Then he shook the guy’s hand, told him it had been years since anyone could tag him, and spent the rest of the day sparring with him.

My father reacted with respect. Hatred and anger make you weaker. If that had been a real fight with something on the line, anger would have made him sloppy and predictable. The simple truth is that as good of a fighter as my dad was, anyone capable of hitting him was also someone worth studying. Worth learning from; hence, the afternoon of sparring.

This isn’t just about fists. It’s anything in life. If you think of yourself as strong, capable, competent, smart, and adaptable (and I hope you do!), then anything capable of giving you trouble must also be something with considerable power. Weak problems won’t trouble you. Only worthy opposition will give you any pause at all.

So if something hinders you or troubles you, then it’s worth studying. Learning from. Respecting. Life will give you many opponents – and not all of them will be other people. Anger and hatred will make you sloppy and predictable, and you’ll lose. But respect will open the door to learning, and then you will become even greater than you already are. And you will overcome even the worthiest of opponents.

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