Most of the time I try to avoid situations where my winning means someone or something else has to lose. I’ve never been into that sort of competition, I don’t enjoy it much. But there are times when winning is about overcoming challenges, where ‘win’ equates to survival, and there are situations where, for the sake of justice, someone else really does need to lose. Often it helps to know which of these you are up against.
There are plenty of things I haven’t fought over. I won’t compete for attention and affection. I won’t fight someone over what they want, even when perhaps I should. I certainly won’t fight just for the sake of point scoring. I have to be sure of my cause.
It’s all too easy to start fights and open conflict, but if you don’t have the stomach to see it through to the end, it’s not a clever thing to do. It helps to know your own limits before you open fire. Starting fights you can’t finish just brings harm upon you.
As is so often the case for me, I’m writing from a place of steep learning curve. I have learned, lately, how important it is to know that I can fight, that I have the right to fight in self defence. Without the belief that you can fight it’s almost impossible to do anything. I find belief in a just cause is more important for keeping me going than belief that I can win. But I am increasingly aware that defeat comes primarily from losing the will to fight – where there is life, there is hope, and the person who refuses to give up cannot ever truly be defeated. They can be stopped, restrained or killed, but they cannot have the fight taken from their soul. That’s a powerful truth to carry.
Facing external conflict when you are also internally conflicted is very hard indeed. Unsure of your rights, or unsure that you are justified, it’s very hard to put up any kind of resistance. Dealing with the inner conflict first is essential. I have no idea what it’s like to go into a conflict knowing that you are morally wrong. I assume this must happen to some people. Or do they in fact convince themselves that they are justified, so that they can proceed with clear conscience? Is it more important to them to be seen as right, than to actually be right? For me, that’s a measure of someone having no honour, and no integrity.
There are fights we should walk away from, conflicts rooted in trivia that do not deserve our attention. There are fights we cannot afford to lose – fights for social justice, for fairness, for sustainability. There are times when we all need to draw on powerful warrior archetypes to help us through. I think of Cuchulainn at the ford, holding the line that must be held, and later, when hope of survival is gone, binding himself to a rock so that he doesn’t have to give up. An unconquerable hero, who fights to the end. Not a traditional notion of ‘win’ but it is the undefeated spirit that inspires me.