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  • Writer's picturePSBN David

The Macho Warrior

This is a continuation of sorts of last month’s post, The Peaceful Warrior. In this post, I’m going to explore into when a “Peaceful Warrior” takes it too far and their ego gets brought into it. Right from the beginning, keep in mind that this is not meant to say all men are like this. In fact, few are (although they do tend to be quite loud about it). Think of this as more of a caricature rather than an actual person, let alone the majority. It’s a cautionary tale, meant to point out areas for self-reflection. That aside:

There are many factors that go into this. While I’m not a psychologist, I would wager that most, if not all, of these factors come down to your cultural upbringing. In particular, the idea that men should be the strong, breadwinner of the house.

Let’s take my previous example of someone who wants to learn martial arts so they will be better equipped to defend loved ones if they need to, but we’ll add some nuance to them. Now, our Peaceful Warrior has been raised so that a man’s value, or at least as he perceives, is largely based off of his success. You can be view this as his ability to be as close to “on top” as he is able. Commonly, from a Western viewpoint, this is shown as physical strength, tall, wealthy, and sometimes intelligent. These factors aren’t in a vacuum, however. It’s all on a scale, comparing one man to another. To be better than someone else, you usually have to have an edge on all of these factors.

Why do men feel this pressure to be so competitive? Again, without pretending to be a psychologist, I would say a good portion comes down to the desire to attract a life partner, as well as deriving much of their self-worth out of this. If you’ve grown up hearing that, unless you act this particular way, you will be alone and worthless to society, you will go to great lengths to try to excel in as many of these factors as you can.

And this is where our Peaceful Warrior has been transformed. I’ll be focusing on the martial arts/physical strength side of the character, as that is what I have the most experience with (and to keep this from becoming an academic paper). Now our character’s more pure desire to defend has been tainted with the addendum “… so women will find me more attractive” or “… so other men will think highly of me.” This in itself wouldn’t necessarily be harmful – this would be like arguing that someone isn’t being altruistic if they feel good about themselves after doing something nice. The issue comes up in how this affects our character’s interactions with others.

The writing is already on the wall at this point, as I imagine many people are filling in the blanks on this character with someone they’ve met personally. This is the person who always has to one-up the other person in class. The person who always acts a little bit differently (or openly hostile) towards women in the class. This person is a part of the reason why there are Women’s-Only self-defense/martial arts classes.

Now the common reaction to this behaviour from others seems to be not too far off from name-calling. Calling someone a jerk or throwing around “toxic masculinity” isn’t really conductive to helping that person to recognize or alter that behaviour. Remember where the roots of this behaviour go. Just as telling a depressed person “you should just be happy” is completely missing the point, so is just calling our character a jerk. Granted, this can be very hard to do as their behaviour often comes out as hostile actions towards other people.

Ultimately, this change has to come from them through introspection. I’ve gone over a bit of this previously in my post about Ego vs. Learning. This is also a fairly major shift in thinking for some, depending on their upbringing. Trying to shift where you derive self-worth is no small feat.

Again, I would like to note that this character is a caricature. People will often have a subset of this, only coming out in a specific circumstance. As an example, they may particularly pride themselves in sparring, rather than remembering forms, so you would only see this come out when they’re sparring.

We’re all flawed humans and, with enough insight, we can see shadows of these behaviours within ourselves and others. Recognize it and try to remember where it comes from before you try to “solve” it, especially in others. Think of how you react to a stranger trying to change a similar core value in yourself. Sometimes we need the right person to point out a flaw in the right way before we’ll see it.

Be kind and look deeper, even in the face of hostility.

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