Am I a Coward?

in life •  2 years ago

One night, a few weeks ago, I almost got into a fight.

Provoked and pushed, I chose to walk away. I thought that was the right thing to do. I still think that I did the right thing.

But then, I went home feeling lousy. There was this nagging feeling that I could not shake. A constant voice in my head, whispering: YOU ARE A COWARD.
Is this voice right? Would I have felt better if I did fight? What if I won? What if I lost?

I know it's easy to rationalize the decision. Everybody knows it's just smart not to fight, for almost any reason.
“ fighting is stupid”
" he who needs violence already lost”
" any fight has two losers"
All these neat reasons but no fulfillment. The monkey brain, fostered by thousands of years of evolution, wants to fight! You only run if you don't want to procreate.

Yet for me, the deepest fear is that, if push comes to shove, I would be paralyzed by fear. I worry that I wouldn’t be able to defend the ones dear to me, not mention myself.

Me when provoked to a fight

But I guess in the larger sense I just FEAR. And I think it’s ironic, when I look at the way I designed my life.

I look at my favorite quote:

“ In the midst of the winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer “[Camus].

It reminds me that no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, I shall find a way to cope, to deal, to even thrive: I shall find my inner summer.
It’s reassuring to believe that but do I have any right to?

*“What matters most, is how well you walk through fire” is another quote I try to live by. What matters most is how you deal with the hard not with the easy, with the though not with the breezy. What matters most is who you are in crises, not lounging in your underwear watching Netflix.
But what real fire have I walked through?

I look at my friends. I know there are real reasons to admire them, all of them, for a specific kind of fearlessness that I think I lack. Despite they way this fearlessness manifests for each - and it is very different indeed - there are a lot of intersections that are hard to miss. The most important is a very hard, resolute decision to protect what is theirs. To draw a line that signals:you cross this at your own peril.
think about my hard line and it looks more like a line of sand, easily displaced by a gush of wind.

Do I already have the courage I look for?

I want to be more like them.

I want to be more me too though.

Last year, I was reading a book about a guy in his 30s that decided to join a MMA fighting gym. He set a goal to enlist in a real cage fight in a year. He was an English professor that just said “I’m gonna do that” and a large part of the book was about him trying to answer the obvious question:

WHY would a professor do that?

His conclusion: “It’s the only way for a man to know that he is not a coward”.
I guess it is, for us and our generation that have not seen war and many other atrocities.
I guess that when I look inside, I don't know.

Because the truth is that I would perish and freeze in the winter, whimpering for a help that can not come. That I my feet would burn like coal in the fire and the pain will reduce me to a crying mess. That the burn scars will forever remind me that taking a quote too literal is stupid.

I fear that who I want to be is so far removed from who I am. That I am fake, a counterfeited image, created to protect the truth. A truth that can no longer hide between the mirrors of my own making. That I am not all that. In this huge gulf between who I hope to be and who I still am brews unhappiness, distress and uncertainty.

Trying to build a bridge, however feeble, between these two personas would be a good start. Yet every time I fail, the gulf grows and my desperation deepens.

I can not despair. I can not accept the desperation. I try to rise above myself and be rationale. I remind myself:

  • I am a work in progress.

  • I feel Fear without being a coward.

  • I have a long way to go.

At the end of that night I went to bed defeated. I see it as "lost a battle, won the war" kind of deal. I know there's a tomorrow waiting for me to put another brick on the bridge.

It’s important to never forget that I have that.
That WE have that.

Thank you for reading. As always I am looking forward to your comments: Have you ever been in a fight? What happened? What's your take and impression? Your feedback is half the fun on steemit :)
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After reading of your situation I'm reminded of more than a couple of situations that I have been in where I have been surrounded by 4 or 5 guys bigger than me in a secluded area with nothing to defend myself. In each situation I found myself speechless, knowing I lack the skills of a fighter and other than some elementary school wrestling that in a fight I'm quite the joke, yet for whatever reason I've never had a hand laid on me, whether it is for pity on their part or due to my non emotional non confrontational stare perceiving that I may either have some secret skill or that I am just a madman not to be provoked. I've often thought of learning a martial art or getting the proper training at a gym, but have yet to follow through.


Getting into a fight and being responsible for the outcome of it is another thing. There is a proverb that I do not remember correctly but the free translation would be 'you hit a piece of s*it but you are sued for hitting a man'.


great saying!


:) if you look like someone who people should not mess with...hehe. but yes, we all want to learn some martial art [ i recommend actually MMA or BOX ] but getting a mastery that will be comfortable in a fight...come on :)
Glad you were alright and maybe try to avoid those situations in the future?!


ha! yes, I'm much more aware of my surroundings and who might be occupying those areas!

I've been in many fights since young, in clubs, schools, bars. The common places actually. If you've never ever been in a fight, I'll suggest you try it once. Get a feel of the adrenaline rush for that moment. Its a mixture of many feelings, don't worry about the outcome of the fight. Unless you picked a fight with Connor McGregor, then you should worry about it. In most cases I guess the worse that can happen is a blackout if it all goes bad. Sometimes an incident like this, and a stupid way to approach it, can change a person. If you happen to win the fight, who knows you might become a big bully with that confidence boost. And if you lose it, at least you overcome your fear in the beginning and fought like a man. Its good enough


it needs only "one inch" to talk with Peter in person...

I disagree that it is always smart not to fight. It depends on the fight. Even if provoked for some random reason, it is no good fighting. You can fight for the right reason and with a reasonable expectation of success. Or if you simply don't have a choice. No good fighting either for a lost cause or just to say you kicked a guys ass because he provoked you.


There was an old joke

An man is standing at the pearly gates and St. Peter addresses him: "All you need to have done is one good deed, and we will allow you passage into heaven"

The man says that he once stopped at an intersection and saw a motorcycle gang harassing a young woman.

He got out of his car, walked up to one of the bikers and told him that abusing and harassing a woman is a cowardly act and that he would not tolerate it in his presence.

St. Peter asks, “ When did that happen?”

The man says, “Oh, about five minutes ago.”


that;s the thing " reasonable expectation" means nothing. at any point you;ll be fighting a stranger who you know nothing about ;maybe he has a knife, maybe he's crazy...if forced, ok but otherwise. meh.


that is why you should have a chainsaw in your car.

It matters a lot what was the cause you almost got into a fight. Some causes are worth fighting for (hell, even die for), even though most of them aren't.

Are you a coward? Have you been defeated? Depends ont he standard of measurement.

The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. ―Steve Jobs

You obviously thought you were right and wanted to change the other person's opinion about something that you were willing to fight for it. By SJ's standards, maybe you're a coward.

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. ― Mahatma Gandhi

By MG's standards, you are the brave one for choosing not to blind the world. :)

Years ago I was in a chess club in Oxford, and the leader/captain/boss of the 4th team was a driver in Thames Valley Police. He told me once, I'm not sure why, that the bravest, and the hardest, thing to do is often to walk away. Perhaps he even said mostly.

Look at it like you made a courageous decision. Bravo!


great story!
thanks for stopping by and commenting!!!

You are definitely not a coward. Was the fight 100% necessary? Was the risk of injury death or jail worth the reward? You are not a coward. You are an adult. Your brain has fully developed to better weigh risk vs reward. You are a good guy. What if you the other guy in the hospital over something avoidable? What if he had kids?did his kids deserve to suffer over the incident? You are not a coward. You are a human being. And a pretty good one at that.


The whole thing was really petty actually. But yeah...the GUT feel does not always listens to the rationale mind :)
thanks a lot!

I've never been in a fight in my life, never had to deal with that decision. I think i would also run away. That's the smartest move.

I look at my friends. I know there are real reasons to admire them, all of them, for a specific kind of fearlessness that I think I lack.

I'm sure your friends admire you for reasons that maybe u are not aware of


I did not run away, i mostly "backed" away :)

But yes. thank you for the kind words!

I've been in one physical fight ever. I was in the 3rd grade and a bigger,older kid was messing with my little sister. Here's what I think. We all have a fight or flight instinct. It's not good or bad, brave or cowardice. It is simply the intrinsic need to survive. Your unwillingness to fight back is not cowardice because on the next level is to think: Is this fight worth it? But when it gets right down to it - when it really matters - your adrenaline will kick in and, BAM!, you'll have the strength to lift cars and defend yourself and those you love.

Interesting. I believe that someone can refuse a fight without being a coward. However rationalizing it after the fact will not change what happened. Adversity such as that when I backed away from many fights when I was younger was the warning sign I needed in life to let me know I knew I was unprepared. Much like headaches are a symptom of dehydration, fear is one of unpreparedness. There will always be fear, but more manageable with training.
Mike Tyson can refuse to fight someone and he will most likely have little fear during the episode and have no needed rationalization after the fact, because preparation. Hope this helps, just kinda hit home with me personally.


"hit home" :)) was that en purpose?
Yes, I do get your point, but it's hard to be prepared for something like is maybe a syndrome of lack of confidence?
That being said, Tyson and pro fighters are usually very very hard to drag into a fight because they might kill you!
Thank you for reading!!


Hit home means I felt an emotional connection to your plight. I think lack of confidence may be it. I used to be very scared of fighting anyone because I didn't want to hurt them or be hurt, not even the pain, just the unknown. Now, and for a while now, I realize that the way you avoid fights determines whether you have more fights in the future. I haven't been in a fight in over 12 years now, and the two times I would've, I made the aggressor back down. I didn't cower, I showed confidence that I was ready for what was coming and stood in the pocket. All witnesses to that knew after that I wasn't a pushover. Don't allow yourself to be a pushover, or more will try to exploit that.

Tell you what fellas - the comments conversation has been as good as the post itself. I recognize quite a few of the names in the thread and the verbiage is enlightening as also.

Bottom line: Fear is the most powerful human emotion. We all feel it to some extent or the other.

Raz - I'm guessing you are in your twenties. Because your story sounds like my thoughts and feelings back then. In my 30s the feeling of regret so to speak for not fighting someone hasn't really happened. I believe because I handle the situations differently now.

However, learning how to defend yourself is more about confidence that you are prepared as someone else mentioned as opposed to using it as a green light to hit that guy who is starting with you.


I do agree i'm always impressed with the comments here. Really good discussion indeed.
I'm 31 but probably a bit immature :D and yes, learning how to fight is about confidence. also learning to walk way...


All good man - 38 years old here, it wasn't till a few years ago I got more comfortable in my own skin.
Ironically I almost got into a fight at the club in Vegas this weekend, some douche tried to start a problem to which I just said - "it's vegas man, we are all family right now." He didn't know what to say/do so it just ended there. Although I really did want to hit

I think it is brave to look like a coward in the eyes of your provoker.


thank you. yes

I follow only the first 2 minutes of this guide....

My coach in martial arts said: you can take knife or gun from your opponent, but if you can run then better run for your life. Best fight is the one never happened. Feelings you are describing are absolutely normal. Sometimes it is useful to take some training, not for next fights of course, but just to get back self confidence and calm down. First and best is to stop thinking about it, it wasn't Opympic Games.


i like this. thanks!

Pick your fights wisely.

There is no shame in walking away from a fight you cannot possibly win.

Even if you could win, the fight is already a loss - a loss for peace.

If you have to fight to defend yourself, because running is not an option, you must be ready to win at all costs. That can, but does not necessarily have to, mean that you will have to kill your opponent, if only to save your own life. I do not wish to kill. So I make sure not to get into stupid fights over nothing. By running away from trouble, I may have saved a few lives already.

I understand your concerns, but because I have been "lucky" in a sense, I got in a situation I could not run away from. I proved my "valor", disarmed and unmasked my opponent and was accepted as "warrior" in my "tribe" - I since no longer have such doubts about the difference between my self-image and the way others may perceive me.

A long time ago, every man went through such an initiation ritual. Every man had to prove himself only once. This is not so any more. The rituals exist no longer - except if getting your driver's licence counts. That is why we often feel we are a generation of sissies and cowards today.

Life in general is "boring" in the sense that there are no boars, lions, wolves or dragons to be slain, or princesses to be wedded and bedded left.

Walk your own way, you will need all your courage for that alone.

sometimes it takes a greater strength to humble yourself enough to walk away - when it's the aggressor seeking domination that's actually the coward on the inside, trying to compensate for insecurities... ;-)


I don't want to get into the real situation but almost everyone present said that it reeked of very unattractive insecurity so yes, you are pretty much on point here, rok :)
Thank you for your comment.