I often hear people encourage each other to never give up, to stay in the fight and give it your all! While this no doubt comes from a well-meaning place, in actuality I think it is terrible advice. Of course, there are times when we must endure the myriad of difficulties we face in life, not throwing in the towel until we've given everything we have. But I would also highlight that there are times when the best thing is to walk away, to regroup and live to fight another day.
We live in a society that worships the hero, adores the champion, and shits out all the digested has-beens to be flushed into the abyss of yesterday. I think our obsession with determination is a reflection of our own fear of being made irrelevant. When I was fighting, I was terrified of losing. I took on so much pressure that I would sometimes overwork myself to the point of injury. I couldn't stand to even think about losing. It wasn't defeat that scared me, it was a deep down, unconscious fear that I would be exposed as weak or worthless.
This same fear carried over into my work life, and as my psychologist once pointed out, is probably the reason I had a lot of success in my career. Getting promotions and all that. Working long hours and not settling for any "B" grades. I was determined to succeed. Meanwhile, my mental and emotional health degraded.
Every veteran warrior of life understands the value of knowing when to quit. In the past this is something that I struggled with. But over the years I've come to see more clearly. To thoughtlessly throw yourself at something is the mark of an amateur, or one who does not value their own life force. To stay in a fight at the cost of your own life is a tragic loss, even if it results in a temporary win.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu remarked about the general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, referring to him as the jewel of the kingdom. This is one who is rooted in a certainty of purpose, who is not swayed by whispers from people who stay on the sidelines, or from the whispers of her own fearful mind.
Knowing when to quit is a sign of maturity. It signifies that a person is in touch with a sense of dignity that extends beyond momentary circumstance. This is my wish for you. To stand tall whether advancing or withdrawing. To rest in the certainty of purpose, to know that you have more to offer than your wins and losses of the moment. Life is a continuum, a wave of ups and downs. No one can remain unblemished here. The picture of a perfect person, a superhero come to save the people, is damaging and ought to be discarded by any of us who hope to make an actual impact here.