Aristotle, who is rated as one of the best but few philosophers of all times, was quoted as saying: “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self”. As we know, academics would spend years studying works of philosophers as this just to interpret its meaning. As for this quote though, upon a brief reflection, it is quite self-explanatory.
Perhaps the challenge would be with the individual’s honesty and objectivity to kindly accept its precise expression. It is very true that one of man’s biggest struggle is over the self. Often, it is easy to project light on the deeds and ills of others than those of oneself. This is mostly the case because it is much easier to talk about another man’s weakness instead of one’s own.
It is also much easier to dwell on the weakness of the others than to admit one’s weakness because it is uncomfortable. To make it worse, especially for this generation, concepts and ideas have been crafted at every corner to help man deal with self-imposed discomfort. Concepts such as self-love and positive thinking have deceived man into a shameless mud of egotism, self-centeredness and narcissism.
The victory over the self is self-liberation and self-acceptance. It is also freedom from the suffering of one’s own perception. It clears the mental fog, which often clouds clear judgment and assessment of one’s own character and deeds. It creates self-awareness of a high standard and that eventually translates into every other life aspect and in their interaction with others.
The victory over the self is also the embodiment of what makes true leadership. It cannot stand hypocrisy or double standards. This is because a person who has achieved that victory is what he or she is in private, as he is in the public eye. He or she would do as they say – not only to portray an exemplary character or to impress but because it is the standards that he/she lives by.
Just as much as a good thing is hard to do, the struggle towards the victory over the self is evidently even the hardest. If it were that easy, we would not be talking of evils such as corruption, theft, greed and many other social ills. It requires a certain level of emotional maturity, good temperament and vulnerability. It requires a high level of authenticity, honesty and frankness – firstly not to others but oneself.
It may be the toughest but the best and its results are permanent. There is no doubt that we have witnessed such victory over the self.
We have seen ex-convicts whose lives have been transformed and what could have been the end of their productive life eventually resulted in great men and women. As much as their stories may be interestingly different, the one underlying aspect is homogeneous.
The core of their transformation was always the result of the war with themselves and the battlefield was between their ears.
Unfortunately, this is the war we are all facing today – either knowingly or unknowingly.
The forces against us, as much as they seem to be from outside, are much more from within. Our focus should be on the domination and ownership of the battlefield – the mind. It has been won and it can be won even easier when we start questioning everything, including our own beliefs, values, behaviours and even our existence.
For once, the victory over the self is ascertained – all other battles become naturally irrelevant.
By Karlos The Great
OSHIMWENYO is published every Friday in the New Era newspaper with contributions from Karlos Naimwhaka.