Suppose you wanted to become tougher and suppose too that you believed that you could only do so by training. Suppose, thirdly, that such training would consist of “tests of characters”–events that, putting pressure on you, come your way and require your right response–and of contests. Not quite a game and not quite battle but resembling both in different respects, contests are such as to be sought out and engaged in.
Set aside tests of character for now. Contests would range from easier to harder. What would be the logical order of contests?
1.) Withstanding vs. Giving in
2.) Charging vs. Freezing up
3.) Persevering vs. Giving up
4.) Grace or composure under pressure vs. Collapsing or Caving in
The first thought is that most people, when in any real life contest, tend to give in, freeze up, give up, or cave in. This we want to avoid. The second thought is that it’s usually easier to withstand pain (1) than it is to go on the offensive (2). Harder than the single attack (2) is perseverance once things have gotten messy or out of hand (3). The hardest would be to be able to be “grace under pressure” (Ernest Hemingway) (4) when the world is conspiring, as it were, to make you collapse or cave in.
Therefore, we could imagine a progression whereby the practitioner begins by learning to withstand and then proceeds to the harder, more vigorous contests. What we would be looking for would not be the development of callousness or coldness but greater composure, elan, vibrancy, and cheerfulness. Not greater strain or greater distance but greater ease and fitness.