I have been around some bad individuals. I don’t mean bad in the sense of, human beings who lack moral fiber. If anything these men may and in some cases, women may be the most morally in touch individuals walking the planet. As Nietzsche points out, refraining from engaging in an immoral act does not make us stand-up citizens. Knowing that we have the power to engage in an immoral act, get away with it, and choosing to abstain anyway is what makes us moral. I’ve been around those men with the power to commit the ultimate taboos who chose not to.
Ironically, I myself spent a lot of time posturing to be one of these men when I was in fact not. This posturing is easily identifiable, and at times comical when you begin to recognize it. Oddly enough it is also generally a sign of an individual who lacks the ability to handle themselves in very difficult situations. Moreover, some of the toughest acts I have ever experienced have had zero to do with physical prowess or mental toughness. Finally, toughness is a muscle that must be exercised repeatedly as it is an extremely perishable skill.
Posturing is an amazing thing. It’s something we see animals do when encountering a predator. It’s an act we have watched entire armies participate in to scare away an enemy. At times, it is an extremely effective action to ward away danger. In today’s, mostly safe society, this posturing manifests in very comical ways. It is the man at the bar who cannot be bumped into and must convince himself that he is tough enough by calling out anyone who stumbles his way. It’s the person dressing in a scary way, walking in a scary way, or talking in an aggressive way in order to prevent a test of toughness from ever occurring in the first place.
Those individuals posturing the hardest are generally doing so in order to hide certain insecurities. How do I know? I was that individual at the bar who picked fights, dressed scary, and acted tough. Individuals who are confident in themselves and their abilities are not placing themselves into positions where they must posture and demonstrate toughness. There-in-lies the solution to the problem of posturing.
Frequently place yourself in situations where you are able to identify your own capabilities in a certain field. Attempt to advance those capabilities, and place your head on the pillow at night knowing where you stand in the world. Nothing reminds you how tough you actually are not, like getting choked out or punched in the face by men much tougher than you.
One of the greatest displays of toughness I have ever witnessed had zero to do with physical ability or combat prowess. Prior to leaving for a deployment I watched a man say goodbye to his wife and three daughters under the age of 5. I watched all four of these women cry as their husband and father walked away. He was a seasoned “vet” with multiple deployments under his belt. His family knew what they were about to undertake and they were extremely upset about it.
As he walked away I watched his wife put his daughters in the car. Shouts of “Daddy don’t go” sent chills down my spine. I myself had to step aside to regain composure having witnessed the event so that my Marines would not see me thrown off. That man’s ability to walk away from four crying women who loved him more than anything on this earth froze me in place. Do not be confused he was not a cold man. There were more tears pushing down his face than his wife.
That is one of the greatest displays of toughness I have ever witnessed. Truly tough men see actions like that, and feel it rock their core. They know they have witnessed an individual who sets himself a part when it comes to physical, mental, and emotional toughness.
This muscle that aids in the ability to perform difficult acts can atrophy very quickly. I have watched very hard men fall from grace in the realms of physical, mental, and emotional ability. The rent on toughness is due every day. We can only maintain this skill by regularly doing those things that irritate the shit out of us. Those things that every ounce of our body tells us to avoid. Those are the things that maintain toughness. Or we can choose the easy way out.
I’d say posturing is an easy way out of choosing toughness. So is avoidance. Many of us can go our entire lives without experiencing a truly difficult situation. A life without toughness is one of the saddest, most meaningless lives a person can live. Avoid that path at all costs. Challenge yourself and choose to do those things that you dread all day. They will make you appreciate yourself, and what you have a lot more.
I interviewed Greg Everett about the topic of toughness and his book “Tough, Building True Mental, Physical, and Emotional Toughness for Success and Fulfillment.” I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter and I think you would too if you liked this post. Check out the interview by clicking the button below or just buy the book.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.