What Is Strength?



Indulge me for a moment if you will. I’m going to digress from talk of training, of Jiu Jitsu, of shooting, of boxing and knives and so on.

I want to talk about my personal views on morality, of tribe, and of strength.

I will understand if we don’t see eye to eye on all of this, but laying things out in writing is a good exercise for me on multiple levels.

There is much talk about “masculinity” , of strength, of weakness, of the current state of the evolution of our society and what it means and how that makes people feel. Sometimes a commercial or event strikes it up but deeper than that its a larger discussion I feel has been going on for some time. I can’t possibly speak to all of it, nor would I try to, but I think I have a little something to say.

Those that would try to rid us of conflict, of aggression, of violence and all the attendant features of a full rounded human experience may have good intention (at least some of them) but they hurt their own cause. It is the ability to confront that saves us. It is a well matured and healthy ability to confront that moves our social groups meter on acceptable or even admired behavior.

I hear these stories of men behaving badly, of abuse, of racism, of victimization. And I hear tell stories of other men saying nothing, of a “bro code” it’s been called. I would object strongly to this characterization and of people grouping these people with not just all men but with actual strong persons.

This notion of a code or silent agreement is nothing more than a thin excuse for cowardice.  These people are afraid of conflict. They shy away from the risk of being ostracized from their groups, so they won’t be the first to move. They are followers, weak, timid, insecure, unable to stand up for others any more than they can stand up for themselves. This weakness is a plague on civilized society.  They are the people that say nothing when someone spouts off racism, or sexism, or breaks the moral code. So long as there are no leaders among them there will be nothing to stop the worst impulses from gaining ground.

The people in my life, my support group, my friends, my tribe, they are well cultivated and chosen confidants. How do you suppose they would respond if in “locker room talk” I said I was cheating on my wife? How would they treat me if I was spewing toxicity? What if I was falling into a gambling problem or found myself abusing drugs? You had better believe silent consent is not an option. Feel free to ask them if I have ever challenged them. If I have stood by for bullshit.

Strength, to me, may include being willing to be an individual when the group says otherwise. Yes, strong men cry, when they mean it.  And strong women surround me in my daily life. My wife’s courage when she decided to go to school working and raising a child, when she steps out onto the mat to compete at a tournament. My sister starting her own business. My friends taking charge of their lives, creating new families, breaking from the social norms, or stepping into uncertainty ready for the challenge. I’m surrounded by strength. I look across the mat and see my friend going HARD, he’s wearing a cut down padded vest. Why? Cause he had fucking chemo and there’s a port in his chest. These are the people who’s opinions I’ll value.

This sort of group dynamic, where we identify strength with strong moral character, where we stand up for one another and ourselves, where we feel empowered to challenge each other and enforce social standards is the type of environment I feel we need to promote in society. We should challenge each others ideas, we should bring forth reason and rationality with open minds and love in our hearts. The only people that can thrive in that proving ground are the strong. The weak will follow our example.

Shawn Lupka

Antifragile Training


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