The Best Fighter is Never Angry
In the face of contrast, conflict, or opposition, anger is an unskillful reaction. Anger can be brash, knee-jerk, explosive, and destructive. It can come in short bursts, or it can ruminate and linger over years. As big as it can be outside, there is likely fear, sadness, or pain hidden just below the surface inside. Anger is rarely skillful, it does far more harm than good, and it is often followed by regret, shame, and guilt afterwards.
In the conversation of a fight, everyone wants to win – either that or run, and avoid the fight all together. In a real fight, you may win, but you must also endure risk and injury. In an argument, you may win, but your blood pressure and body tension take a toll. You may assert your view and dominate a space, but at what impact to others and your environment. Then of course you could just avoid the conflict all together and continue to endure your conditions. Whether we choose to fight or flee, neither are very skillful.
Calm Brings Clarity
What is the answer then? Of course there is no singular approach to all our troubles and there is no master key to life. Perhaps the daoist dance of yin and yang that we call taiji can give insight. If we remain calm and grounded in our breath and body, we can clearly see that any given scenario only allows for three potential outcomes: yin, yang, or neutral – retreat, advance, or neutralize.
Retreat is not an escape, nor is it a passive aggressive silent treatment. Sometimes retreating is as simple as shifting weight or turning on a heel. A retreat is more of a ‘yield’ and ‘receive’ than it is a ‘run’ or a ‘hide.’ It is natural to coil back before you spring forward. Stepping back is not surrender and resting is not quitting. Retreat is a chance to control the tempo and manage the pace of an exchange. Retreat creates space for grace in the face of calamity.
Advance is not aggressive, nor is it entitled, forceful, or oppressive. Sometimes a bold step is necessary in life and sometimes a strong stance is appropriate for the circumstance. When these instances arise, calm is critical. There is a fine line between assertive and aggressive, between firm and forceful, between protective and destructive. In these high stress scenarios, one must be calm, clear, and present if they are to be appropriate and effective. Angered advance in these tender times can be overly emotional, impulsive, irrational, or even violent – none of which are productive.
Neutral doesn’t mean idle, nor does it mean aloof, uninvolved, or uninterested. On the contrary, neutral is a position of presence and power. A place of harmony and balance. Without a side or bias, the bigger picture is clear and apparent. To be neutral allows one to neutralize; this speaks to one’s capacity to consume, process, resolve and dissolve trouble. Neutral is the resolution of debts and the forgiveness of trespassing. In the context of a fight, this is an ideal win win win win scenario. I win, you win, everything around us wins, and we all continue to win over time. Anger will scare off these subtle potentials. These ideal outcomes can only arise amidst calm.
What we resist persists and what we escape will chase. Right and wrong will always be relative, and conflict will always be current. Every instance is unique, but familiar, as life tends to cycle back to patterned problems that continue to play out until we grow and evolve. Both fight and flight are easy pitfalls, and all they really do is delay peace and progress. If anything, these impulsive reactions only make matters worse, pushing resolve further and further away. So in the face of a fight, stay calm and observant – after all, you only have three options. Good luck.