Men of Honor?
I have written many times about the difference in being a true warrior as apposed to merely being someone who is trained to fight or skilled at fighting. There is a difference in being a soldier and in truly being a warrior. This is not to say that soldiers are not warriors, but the fact that someone is enlisted in the military and receives a paycheck from the government does not automatically make this person a warrior. It may make him (or her) a fighter, but that is simply a fighter; it takes much more than martial skills to be a true warrior.
Think, feel, and act like a warrior.
Set yourself apart from the rest of
society by your personal excellence.
Forrest E. Morgan
If we examine history, we can find many good examples which illustrate what I mean. Let’s look at Hector and Achilles from the Trojan War. Most people consider both of these men great warriors, but were they really? There is a great difference between these two. While it is obviously true that both of these men were skilled in the art of war and were proficient in their martial arts skills, they were very different men. If you were to see them both on the battlefield, you may be inclined to argue that there was no difference in them; they were both able to bring a world of hurt down on their enemy.
So what made them different? The answer lies internally. The difference in the two men is what sets the true warrior apart from the mere fighter. Think about what motivated each of these men. Let’s examine Achilles’ motivation first.
Achilles was motivated by fame and fortune. He trained and fought for his own personal gain. The reason that he and his men participated in the Trojan War was to preserve his name as a “great warrior” throughout history. This was not necessarily out of the normal for men during this time period; many men desired to obtain fame and fortune by their exploits on the field of battle. Achilles was no different. He greatly desired to be known as a larger-than-life figure, and he achieved his goal, as you well know. But fame and fortune were not the only factors which drove Achilles to use his martial skills.
The superior man seeks what is right;
the inferior one, what is profitable.
Achilles also was moved by his emotions. After his cousin fell in battle, the enraged Achilles took his anger out on Hector. This was purely an emotional action, void of any rational thought. He simply did not care about the facts, about whether or not his cousin’s death was just, or the circumstances surrounding his death. All he cared about was his own feelings, feelings which led him to act out of selfishness and revenge, not rational thought.
Remember to preserve a calm soul amid difficulties.
To summarize the factors which motivated Achilles’ actions:
1) He was motivated by fame and fortune
2) He was motivated by his emotions
3) He was motivated by revenge
The common denominator in these three factors can be boiled down to one word – selfishness. Achilles was narcissistic. He cared little about anything other than his own desires. He wanted glory. He reveled in being thought of as the greatest warrior of his time. He spoke of honor, but his view of honor was warped. It is indisputable that he was a skilled fighter, but are these the characteristics of a true warrior?
Now let’s take a look at Hector. Hector acted from rational thought in all of his actions. He was not motivated by what was best for himself, but was concerned about what was best for his country and his people. He scolded his brother for putting his own desires ahead of everything else, thus putting his countrymen at risk, and ultimately destroying them. Even in battle, Hector never lost sight of true honor, allowing his enemy to take care of their dead and injured.
The superior man does not give up good conduct
because the inferior man rails against him.
When Hector’s brother was about to be killed, he intervened and did what was right, instead of what was expected from the protocol of the day. When Achilles sought Hector out for his revenge, with one command, Hector could have had Achilles killed without risking his life, but he met the situation with honor. Even in the face of insults and threats from Achilles, Hector kept a rational head and tried to make a pact of honor for the victor to respect his fallen opponent, a noble act that Achilles blatantly refused, ultimately disgracing himself in his tactless display of Hector’s body.
The man of principle never forgets what he is,
because of what others are.
The differences between these two men demonstrate the differences between a true warrior and the mere fighter. It is the internal differences which matter in the end. The difference between Hector and Achilles boils down to honor and intention. Hector had true honor and acted with integrity and pure intention, whereas Achilles acted from a place of selfishness, rage and unbridled emotion. Before his death, Achilles seem to see the error in his ways, but we really don’t know if he was acting from a place of honor when he saved Hector’s cousin or if he was acting from a place of selfish desire.
For when moral value is considered,
the concern is not the actions,
which are seen, but rather with
their inner principles, which are not seen.
It is the character that makes someone a true warrior, not simply his martial arts skills. Martial arts/fighting skills are merely one component of the warrior lifestyle, not the be-all end-all. The true warrior acts from a place of wisdom, honor and integrity. He rationally thinks about this words and actions, before he speaks or acts. He control his emotions, instead of allowing his emotions to control him.
While Achilles saw the error in his ways, it wasn’t until after his rage had subsided and he had taken the life of an honorable man that he saw his error. He allowed his anger and emotions to control his actions instead of his rational mind. His actions were not concerned with what was right, but only with what he desired during the present moment.
Although Achilles bested Hector in one on one combat, Hector was the better man and the true warrior. There is a difference in a fighter and a warrior. There is a difference in doing what’s right and in doing whatever you feel like doing. There is a difference in real honor and in perceived honor. The difference originates from within the human spirit and is a conscious decision. Achilles was a great fighter; Hector was a true warrior.
The glory of great men must always be measured
against the means they have used to acquire it.