Confute means to “prove (a person or an assertion) to be wrong.” This action may be the core of what many would refer to as “drive.” Some of the most “successful” people the world has ever known have been driven to success in the effort to confute someone else’s opinion of them. Their desire to prove others wrong is like rocket fuel; it propels them to greatness. However, there is a serious flaw in the logic.
Think of doping in sports. The purpose of doping is performance enhancement. When people use performance enhancing drugs, they tend to outperform their competition. The problem first and foremost is that it’s cheating. Secondly, it has more negative health consequences over the long-term. There’s potential increased risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots, higher cholesterol levels, hair loss, acne, an enlarged prostate and/or abnormal liver function.
When people are driven to prove others wrong, anger is the key ingredient to the fuel that’s driving them. It’s synthetic. It’s not a natural or organic process, and therefore the long-term consequences perhaps outweigh the benefits of the so-called success. If someone finds “greatness” but is unable to let go of the anger that got them to their destination, their success is only a perception. Perhaps it comes with fame and fortune, but when so much is determined by how others feel about us, and our desires to be perceived as “better than” or the “best” – is that really a recipe for contentment? No amount of glory is worth the emptiness of a vengeful spirit.
Soldiers are trained for war – for active duty. They train to be put into the worst situations and do so selflessly in order to protect. Statistically, total strangers and ideas make up more than 99% for whom they are fighting. Such a small percentage is for their own families, friends and loved ones – the people they actually know personally. That’s heroic! In society, we are often fighting for ourselves and do so without much heroism. We are fighting to get more – more money, more status, more power, more material things. Yes, we do so to provide for those we know and love. However, we are constantly at war with this idea of what it means to be successful.
Such internal struggles blind us to the idea that we are really searching for peace. The peace of piece of mind. We fight so we can “relax” and “enjoy” life, but we rarely do so. We often rest only to regain the energy we need to fight another day. Life is complicated. Life is a struggle. But choosing war and wanting war for the sake of thinking it’s the only way to gain piece of mind is perhaps missing the mark of what it means to find peace. Peace is not achieved through war. War is the reaction to a reality without peace. There’s wisdom in choosing to not engage in warfare for the sake of validating an inability to be at peace. In these moments, may we learn to first question the core of our unrest.
Life is not lived on a Pass/Fail grading scale. However, many of us feel the need to end each day with such extreme weighted grades. The day was either success or failure. That’s absolute thinking and life is far more relative than absolute. That’s why the grading scale goes from A+ all the way down to F. Both success and failure have wiggle room. We also don’t often allow ourselves the luxury of marking periods; a duration of time to reflect back on a periods in our lives to gather up enough data to make informed decisions about how we are doing. Moreover, we often overlook the beauty of getting a C.
The slogan “Life is Good” really means to appreciate the notion that balance is what we need. Life’s grading scale: C is good, B is better, A is best, A+ is stellar, D is not great, E is worse, F is rock bottom. In reality, are our days either “stellar” or “rock bottom?” Likely not, yet we likely know people who devote their energy to such extremes. How draining it must be to live only knowing extreme highs and lows. There’s no balance. Life teeters! Teetering gives us perspective to know the difference between what we want to push ourselves towards, and what we want to move away from. That’s balance! When life is good, we have the energy to push for excellence. Energy comes from knowing the value of balance.
What do we have to do today? Live and be where we are. That’s it! Everything else we experience is put upon us by our expectations and desires for outcomes to situations we cannot control. That informs how we feel about what’s happening. As we know, when how we feel is at the mercy of either what’s happened or what happens next, that doesn’t bode well for feeling good.
To be means to exist. It doesn’t mean thinking about how or why we exist. There is no suffering to existence, because there is no feeling. To feel is to be aware of our existence. Suffering comes from our devotion to how we feel about what’s already happened or fearing the worst about what hasn’t happened yet.
Anger is neither armor nor umbrella. If it were, it would be armor made of bubble wrap or an umbrella made of sponge. Ineffective. Anger can only be used effectively as a weapon against us. But that too is ineffective if we already know that using anger to combat anger is fruitless. Self-control is impenetrable. Our self-control may anger others, but that’s outside our sphere of influence and not worth our time.
The next time you are on the receiving end of an unexpected behavior by another person, be it a co-worker, neighbor, stranger, or even some family members, may you remember this: They have been them longer than they have known you.
Then ask yourself: Was their behavior a reaction to something I did or said? Was my unexpected behavior the initiate?
Perhaps means “to express uncertainty or possibility.” What’s interesting here is that uncertainty is defined as something “unpredictable, unreliable, precarious or risky,” while possibility is defined as something “that may happen, the fact of being possible or likely.” There’s contradiction in the definition; one that creates balance. A balance that can only be achieved by questioning and reflecting on multiple potential outcomes. It’s a word that’s both optimist and pessimist, and somehow also neither. It’s a fulcrum. A fulcrum offers support to separate the work from the effort. Perhaps that’s a good metaphor for the purpose of self-reflection. Perhaps self-reflection offers clarity to our purpose.