“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win…. If fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight.” ~ Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
We are often told to pick our battles, because constant fighting will wear us out before we even near victory.
Yet, we find ourselves bickering, complaining, toiling, arguing, and fighting without realizing that we’re in the thick of it until we’re too deeply involved and tangled up in a hot mess.
Our egos are wired to want to win, to need to win. But sometimes, winning is backing off and calling it a day. It has taken me much time, defeat, and maturity to arrive at this point.
I used to be the debate queen in school; I delighted in quick wit, clever jests, the delivery of remarkable insults, arguments filled to the brim with supporting evidence, and provocative questions richly laced with sarcasm. Being on my team was a thrilling experience. The excitement before a debate day would keep me up at night. It was sick, but there was gratifying reward. Like a fine game of darts, each shot targeted bulls-eye.
It used to take a bit of guts to speak out. It used to take a bit of knowledge and preparation to make an informed statement. The digital age has given us many things—a platform to share our voices is one—but not all opinions are equally valid. It’s easy to get tangled in noise. There’s nothing more foolish than toiling your intellect with certain people. Filling a dark hole with gold is perhaps not the brightest idea, after all.
Winning the war necessitates the alignment of a series of highly correlated elements: the right person (target), the right way (tactics), at exactly the right moment (timing). I’m not a fortune teller, so describing “the right person” is beyond my mortal skills. However, here below I have listed five people who are definitely not the right people to battle with. I have been foolish enough to check every single one off the list. So this piece is the takeaway from it all, what I’ve exchanged with battle-scars.
Here are the five battles best to White Flag, and just walk away from:
- Battles with Haters
There’s a critical difference between “confidence” and “competence.” Haters are often hella confident, in all the wrong ways, and all the wrong places. The first thing we must accept and acknowledge is that we are not for everyone, nor do we need everyone. So we mustn’t look to please everyone. That’s unattainable.”Haters gonna hate.” Case in point: Taylor Swift got sued for stealing this line. Haters are a diseased segment of the population that spews out dark criticism—the type that can be crippling—especially to those who care too much. Haters live on that, because the accumulation of a lifetime’s worth of jealousy, pain, and ego is no formula to produce light.Haters attack you—not for what you produce—which they don’t have the capacity to understand, but for attention. So, battling with haters will only make them stronger and happier, at the cost of our time, our energy, our intellect, and our art. Art is our best and sometimes only option, for survival and success. We can’t trade that in, not to haters, not under any circumstance. So the best response becomes to cultivate a sense of indifference. To shun the the haters.In a 2012 interview with the Rolling Stone magazine, John Mayer confessed of his gambling addiction with people’s opinions of him.”When someone says, ‘I don’t like that guy,’ I like to sit down and talk to him, and make sure he’s not misunderstanding me, and sometimes you can save it. So it only makes sense that I would scale that up to a million. And as soon as I’d get it back to even, I started making big bets again. What I didn’t realize was that one of the best things you can do is walk away. I’ve arrived at something that I wish I’d known a long time ago, which is that I have to let people not respect me.” Take it from a master (of people’s hate) – you can’t please everyone.“You merely need to matter to a few. The dangerous addiction is to keep expanding the audience until we find people who hate our work. And then our reflex is to listen to those people, to the haters, to the exclusion of those we sought to serve in the first place… The only choice you have if you want to continue is to ignore those who don’t get the joke. Part of your hard work is to shun the non-believers, and to focus on the audience of your choice.” ~ Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
- Battles with Narcissists
If you can’t be sure if someone’s a narcissist, he/she probably is. But here are some signs to look out for. Filed under “Life: things I wish I had known sooner.” It would have saved me a lot of grief, because I’m gullible as f*ck. Arguing with narcissists is like arguing with haters—it only serves to feed their ego. They feed on our need to obtain validation from them, and from that, derive a sick sense of satisfaction. However, unlike haters, narcissists are harder to spot with an untrained eye. Narcissists are the most charming and best-looking monsters we will ever encounter. The ones with the slick opening lines to get our attention; the ones that are the life of the party; the ones that push all our buttons—because frankly, most of our buttons are in the same place—society conditioned us this way. Fighting with narcissists is futile, because they will not attempt to hear us out, or understand us. It’s not about us—we are only as good as the attention we give them—and that is the oxygen that keeps their light burning. It’s about them, and when it’s not about them, it won’t be long until the light goes out. Narcissists are clever manipulators. They’re not crazy; we’re the madman—we’re the fools.
- Battles with Closed-Minded People (CMP)
CMPs are narrow-minded people with little potential for further enlightenment. Battles with CMPs are a one way path to a dead-end. You’ll have sacrificed all your might for nothing. Most of us have been taught to “be the bigger person.” Well, CMPs are usually never these. CMPs are not just limited in their ways of thinking—they are fixed in their ways of thinking, which render them firmly unreceptive to new ideas or arguments. Worse, they are among the most opinionated and defensive people you may encounter. Impossible to win this one. They will continue to war for hours, even after we have walked away. History has shown us, time and time again, the cost of going to war with people who have a degree of resistance, almost of a different creed. At the psyche level, you just can’t win this, and most wars, are a battle of the minds.
- Battles with Do Nothing People (DNP)
Time is money. I’ve always been confounded by people who, for the lack of a better term, do nothing. Like a deer in headlights, I freeze in my tracks for a few seconds, astonished at their existence, and just move on, because life. DNPs are unemployed, uninteresting, with no goals, no desires, no drive—but not without a mouth. It would be easier if they said nothing, too. But precisely because they do nothing, they have the room to say a lot. DNPs have all the time in the world to war with you. They will toil with your ideas, deviate them, and shoot them back at you. They are rich in a limited resource we never can have enough of. They will wear us out; it is inevitable, it is mathematics. DNPs are energy-leeching enigmas. If we have any concept of self-efficacy at all, we would cut our losses and walk away.
- Battles with your mother.
It takes real awareness and self-compassion to realize the folly of fighting with your mother. Yet, it is perhaps one of the more difficult fights to resist and bow out of. I know this because when I lived with my mother, not a day escaped in peace. Now that we live apart, my white flag comes announced, “I didn’t come here to fight with you.” It works, sometimes. Fighting with my mother was like civil war. Even if you win, you walk away losing, and you continue to bleed, and the pain comes back to haunt you. Then, you spend the rest of your yoga practice focusing on your Root Chakra, and the rest of your whines accompanying your explanations of why you are the way you are. Because the irony is, we’ve damaged so much of our “root,” “base,” “security,” and “grounding,” by our own doing.Fighting with our mothers is the worst way to self-harm, because it harms her, too. Battling with our mothers is a competition to see who hurts more…and there’s no end to that downward spiral. What I’ve learned, is that despite our differences, our mothers want only the best for us. There’s maternal instinct to protect, and we must recognize that they never intend to do harm to us. The truth is, if we really are living the life we claim to be—in the world we live in now—most of our actions scare our mothers. If we are even remotely wild or fearless, most of our actions will scare many people.Our mothers operate out of love—the unconditional kind, and possibly the only unconditional kind we will ever encounter in our lives. Our mothers also operate out of fear. I’m not advocating that we listen to them all the time, but it’s best to stop fighting with them.
Life is a balance, so I mostly categorize things into two. There are things that we can control, and things we cannot control. We don’t have control over those who come into our lives, but we can decide with whom to interact, and with whom we jump into the boxing ring. This is a choice that gives us leverage, and raises the bar. Frankly, it’s the only way to fare well and possibly arrive at peace after all.
Author: Xiren Wang
Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s Own