Forgetting Your Strength
Sometimes in life, when we come face-to-face with the violence of this world, and we want nothing more than peace, we are temporarily changed in a way that goes unnoticed. Frightened, injured, and saddened, we find ourselves haunted by the badness of the world, as if it were hiding in the shadows cast by every object, occupying all the corners, crevices, and undersurfaces around us. We look at all that is wrong, and we wonder how we were ever so naive as to see the world as such a perfect and beautiful thing, as we did on our best days.
This is the primary potency of badness — of violence, evil, and hate. It does not defeat; it deceives. It puts us into a trance wherein we forget ourselves. It draws all of our attention, and we forget to remember what is most important: We are strong.
Even now in the throes of sadness and fright, does one leg not follow the other? Has your heart missed a beat, or have your lungs ceased to work? Does your blood run any less warm or red? Show me where you have been defeated as you feel you have. Can you not see a bright ray of optimism shining through the cloud of your sadness even now? The badness never beat you; it only convinced you for a moment that it had.
You have overcome so much more than this: Would you drown in a puddle after having crossed the sea? Would you, who grew to the person you are now in the face of years of such hardship, find yourself incapable of waving away this single night? The diamond is most resistant to pressure because it was created by pressure, and it is hardship that made you who you are.
What is heavy but that which we have difficulty lifting? If we move just as effortlessly and unswervingly through a bad world as a good one, what is truly bad? You have resisted the badness and either escaped from it or conquered it. If it hides in the shadows, it was you who forced it there.
You sometimes see a child in a shallow pool of water who flails and screams for fear that they will drown, until someone tells them that they need only stand, and upon doing so they find their head projects well out of the water. The diamond has mistaken itself for mush. The giant has mistaken itself for a runt. Deceived though you are, fail you cannot. Weakness isn’t allowed to the strong any more than strength is allowed to the weak. You have no choice; you will be strong again. I ask only that you stand up out of this shallow pool of sadness today rather than tomorrow.
A bully doesn’t overcome by strength but by fear. All battles are won by resignation on one side. The evils of this world did not win the fight, except by making you feel that you cannot fight. Look to your enemy, and tell me truthfully, would you switch your personhood with theirs? Would you prefer to wake up as them tomorrow? If not, then you have already won. Ugliness resents beauty, ignorance resents intelligence, anger resents happiness, deceit resents honesty, cowardice resents bravery, and hate resents love. Whatever attacks, attacks from a position of weakness. Whatever attacks does so because it is so feeble in its inferiority that it feels it must defend against offenses that were only ever imagined.
All things are constantly improving, both in your life and in the world at large. Though badness ebbs and flows, coming in waves, some smaller and some larger, the tide of evil is ever receding from our shores. The dark clouds come and go, but the sun has never stopped shining.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons