Toughness Trained Through Harder and Harder Contests

Our Predicament

We are forever holding back. We are always backing down. Every day we stand aside, give in, crumple up, let fall. Has panic settled in? This is meekness. Look around you and you will find it–so dour, so damp, so commonplace–almost everywhere.

The Desirability of Toughness

Suppose, like me, you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Then you would want to know not how to be free of fear but rather able to cheerfully do the right thing, time and again, under pressure.

Toughness Training: Contests!

To become tougher, we will need to throw ourselves into harder and harder contests. They may look like this:

  • Contest 1. Standing for/standing up for vs. Backing down from
  • Contest 2. Withstanding (i.e., standing with) vs. Breaking down
  • Contest 3. Press on vs. Giving up, in
  • Contest 4. Facing up to vs. Turning away from
  • Contest 5. Reaching out to, for vs. Holding back from

Varying from easiest to hardest, each contest would pit an articulable fear I have against a good I wish to pursue. Take Contest 1. I may have the fear of standing up to a treacherous friend (a man who has cheated on his longtime partner), yet I recognize that the Good enjoins me to confront him in order to persuade him to fess up to his partner. Or, to take an easier example still, I may be afraid of telling the hiking guide that we have missed the turn (perhaps I saw a sign that he missed), yet I know that doing so will ensure that our group will return to the right path and make it to our destination by lunchtime.

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