On Aggression.


I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while. The writing of it has come in fits and starts. I’ve had the skeleton written for over a month and the ideas that I wanted to flesh out have been bouncing around in my head for probably six. Over and over again I find that the deeper I think about this subject means the further into the rabbit hole I go and the more I want to refine and tweak my message. However, there’s a point when you just have to stop tweaking and give something wings, and the life of this post has reached that point.

Warning: What you’re about to read will fly in the face of our current culture. It is not the popular opinion. It is not being written to make me popular with the masses. If you’re easily offended, then just stop now and save yourself the aggravation.

When I look around me at my generation and the one coming up behind me, it seems to me that on the whole we’re missing something. There’s just something wrong with the people I that walk past me on the street and it took me quite a while to put my finger on what it was. Finally it came to me; There’s no fire in their eyes. As the saying goes, the building is occupied, but not all of the lights are on. There’s no spring and purpose in their step. The vast majority just seem to be schlepping along as if they didn’t have anywhere important to be or something vital to do… because they don’t.

The big thing that we’re lacking in society today is AGGRESSION. Plain and simple. The only time you see any real aggression is when someone is ranting against those who dare to show a bit of it. Seriously? It’s not a good sign when the most ardent scene of aggression we can find on a regular basis is a “peace protest” against a war/aggression.

Before you get all excited, this isn’t going to be one of those chest-pounding, bro-ism-filled tirades that are popular now but don’t really go anywhere. Instead I’m going to take a look at aggression from a more mature angle and make my case for why it’s still important to ourselves and our society and what we’re in danger of losing.

Aggression – noun – any offensive action, attack, or procedure; an inroad or encroachment.

That’s one of the definitions I found for “Aggression” on dictionary.com, and it was the least slanted one. The other definitions use very strong language to indicate that aggression is a thing to be avoided and shunned, and yet the word itself is merely the description of an action or thought process. Without context, it shouldn’t have a moral value attached to it.

As I said before, I have been doing a lot of observation of our culture and group behaviors in preparation of this post. I’ve also been talking with a lot of men lately on the subject of aggression and being a man. One thing has become abundantly clear to me: We, as a society, have been largely stripped of our aggression.

This isn’t by accident or just something we’ve “lost” along the way. In our society today it’s been taught that aggression is a negative quality, which my search for a neutral definition demonstrated. To speak of the word has harsh, and therefore upsetting, connotations. We now live in a society where we are often told that everyone deserves a trophy for just showing up, not even for trying hard (and thus showing some aggression), let alone actually winning, which would be the fruits of that aggression. In the adult world a huge portion of our society chooses and seeks out ways to live on the dole of the State rather than make their own way. This is the society that rejects aggression.

Aggression used to be a necessary and often positive attribute. Aggression meant that you were more likely to eat instead of starve. Aggression provided security and shelter in a very inhospitable world. Aggression meant that you were more likely to pass your genes on as opposed to letting them die out (probably from being cold and hungry).

Aggression is now frequently decried as a vestigial organ of our emotional capabilities. It’s considered something that lesser people and unenlightened boors partake in. It’s often said, usually by those who have little touch with elements of discomfort, that aggression should be abolished in all senses of the word.

Should we be so quick to discard our aggression? Aggression built cities. Aggression forced societal and scientific advancements. Aggression forced innovation. Aggression BUILT THE VERY SOCIETY THAT DENOUNCES IT NOW! Why is it, then, that aggression is looked at so poorly in today’s society? Because the vocal majority live in the lap of comfort and are happy trading their souls for the continuation of this low-involvement comfort, even at the cost of potentially greater success. They no longer depend on aggression for their survival, so they’ve become lazy. They fear aggression because in the world of competition there are winners and losers, and they’re afraid of where they’d end up with the stratification of Nature’s course. Like crabs in a bucket they fear and try to keep down any that show the aggression of escaping. Where does that bucket of homogeneity-enforcing crabs end up? In the hot water, all on equal footing, and all lost.

Instead I propose that aggression is still and probably always will be a valuable element of the human (and especially male) psyche. The American society is simply the latest example of a great civilization built upon strength, innovation, and yes, aggression. Those ideals pushed us from a group of frontier colonies to the greatest superpower the world has ever seen. And like other great civilizations before it, this American society is starting to crumble and decline from within as it rests upon its laurels and forgets the qualities that made it great.

I am calling on you to go against the grain and the “party line”. Rather than sheepishly hide from aggression or snipe at the go-getters from the safety of the herd, I ask you instead to become comfortable with aggression. Socrates said that “an unexamined life is not worth living” and to deny the aggressive part of your nature is to leave a deep part of your being unexamined. Developing a comfort with your aggression can take your life beyond that of the herds and to a level that you (though perhaps are afraid to admit) desire.

Aggression is what sets you apart from the rest. Without it you’re one of many and ruled by the herd, fearing to stand out. While we all seem to want the benefits of being noticed (better jobs, mates, better social position) if asked it seems to be that society wants us to do that without showing any aggression. Something’s not jiving here, and in the back of your mind you know it.

There’s a reason for your confusion. To live like that in today’s society is to try to reconcile two totally opposite goals. On one hand you have the internal drive (aggression is still a part of our nature) to achieve success. On the other you have a society that tells you not to rock the boat. They say to bottle up your emotions (unless they’re some of the “acceptable” emotions). You’re told at every turn that you’re no better than anyone else, and you also damn well better not try to be.

For those who are going to respond to me and say that standing toe-to-toe with a competitor and looking to advance one’s position in the workplace, for example, aren’t the same thing, I ask you to look more clearly at what’s going on. In brute aggression there’s the enforcing of one’s will over the situation or your opponent. In advancing in the workplace, socially, or getting a date with a desirable person you are taking your wants, bringing your skill-set and expertise to the table, and imposing them over the current status to achieve a change in situation. Sounds like the same thing to me.

Aggression teaches focused application. Blind aggression is a sin, but focused aggression is a world changer. Too often aggression is described as simply rampaging acts of terror, war, and influence. This is something to be avoided and abolished as it is a useless waste of resources and lacking in judgment and righteousness. Just as a skilled swordsman prefers a slim, agile blade to a meat cleaver, I consider blind aggression to be an affront to an educated mind.

Focused aggression, on the other hand, is the fuel of change. Well thought-out, planned aggression is a rare surprise in today’s world, whether it’s demonstrated as a fast ten-year-old darting into in to grab a ball, or a focused, concise military strike. The results of it can be astonishingly effective and much can be accomplished with relatively little unintended collateral consequences.

By abolishing the use of blind, rampaging aggression and stepping back to consider before using it judiciously much can be accomplished. This learning of restraint until the appropriate time of action, and then taking massive, effective action, is an important step for success.

Aggression is impetus for improvement. Without aggression, everyone is second place. Do you know what second place is? Not the winner. If you as a person give up your competitive desire to come out on top and be the winner, then you are saying that you don’t want to have a role in the control of your own life. You’re saying that you are happy with taking whatever the winner or life gives you. In my book that’s no way to live your life and enjoy it.

Aggression is clarity. The cards are on the table and action is clear. Do you notice how there is so much ambiguity now in our society? Everyone seems so afraid to make a stand on an issue and take clear action within the public eye. To do so is the utmost of honesty in my mind, yet it is often deemed offensive and frowned upon. Most people would rather slither around like worms and avoid the glare of the spotlight, so they speak out of both sides of their mouths and filter their message for their audience.

Aggression is passion. What are you truly passionate about? What activity, vocation, person, or cause forces, when you think of it, an increase in your heart rate and a swelling of your emotions? What topic can you talk about for hours, forcing your friends (or anyone else that sits still long enough) to listen to you as you go on and on about it, speaking quickly and with rapid flinging of your hands? What drives you out of the warmth of your bed in the morning and keeps you up late at night with your eyes stinging in the lamplight? That’s passion.

Now imagine that there’s something stopping you from pursuing your passion. I bet you don’t have to work hard to imagine that because you can see what’s limiting you from greater heights of this passion right now. That’s competition. Whether it’s a person, thing, life circumstance, or whatever doesn’t matter. It’s you and life in a dead race with your passion sitting at the end line. If you want it, you’re going to have to embrace aggression. Otherwise you might as well go ahead and kiss your passions good-bye and look forward to a gray life.

Everyone thinks that Mother Theresa was such a sweet woman, and I’m sure she was. I’m also pretty sure that her picture isn’t in the dictionary next to the definition for “aggression”. But remember that she also had a deep passion for helping those children, and she went after opportunities to help them with the aggression of a hungry pitbull on a steak. She was in constant competition for their lives against a plethora of challenges and yet every day she was out there proactively doing her best work for her passion. That, my friends, is aggression in its finest form.

I’m tired. I’m tired of looking around and seeing my fellow men settling, or even worse simply holding their hands out in expectation, for what life hands them. I’m tired of hearing the bullshit excuses about “what people will think”, or “it’s not fair”. I’m tired of seeing the primal quality of success, the very reason that humans have continued to improve themselves far beyond any other species of animal, discarded and shunned as something unneeded or harmful. I’m tired of men who are afraid to embrace the aggression in their nature and earn the success that they’re capable of.

Get the tools to hone and use your aggression to build the life of your dreams. Sign up on the right and get started today!

Pings on On Aggression.

May 12, 2011
December 12, 2011

Comments on On Aggression. Leave a Comment

November 8, 2010

Elliott @ 2:29 pm #

Great post Isaac! It seems that all of our denying and pushing against our most primal nature is a recipe for its manifestation in a myriad of dysfunctional behaviors.

Instead of denouncing our so-called negative characteristics such as aggression, we may be better served by simply “being with” our aggression; looking at it, and becoming familiar with its origins and expressions.

Keep up the great work man!

Noah @ 5:20 pm #

Well said. I believe that you are right about the confusion. It is hard to imagine success or progress without aggression. Even Ghandi aggressively confronted the Brittish Empire. He did it non-violently… but aggressively none the less.

Trevor Lea-Smith @ 11:11 pm #

In the context of this post, and actual life, aggression and success is our most natural state. As Elliott says this leads to a “manifestation of a myriad of dysfunctional behaviors”. Denying what makes us excel is a recipe for a life bereft of happiness and instead, full of mediocre ramblings and unfulfilled dreams. We must embrace and live with our nature, not deny and revile it. A TRUE man sees who he is and who he isn’t, and he aggressively shores up what he isn’t and builds upon the positive aspect of who he is.

Trevor Lea-Smith @ 11:29 pm #

In the first sentence I meant to say “As Elliott says denying this state leads to ” “a manifestation…etc”

November 9, 2010

mom @ 1:37 am #

Well said Isaac, on an often misunderstood and taboo topic. Love MOM.

Isaac @ 12:56 pm #

Thanks for weighing in, all, and I believe you’re all correct.

Whether it’s physical conflict, advancing ourselves or our family, gender roles, or religious beliefs, I feel there’s a core in all of us. That core belief system and our reaction to our life is the one thing that is truly ours. When we try to deny what we are with blanket changes in behavior simply because others say to do it, then our subconscious thoughts start manifesting themselves in other ways, none of which do we want.


PS I need to get one of those cool avatar thingies like Elliot.

March 9, 2012

Jack @ 6:31 pm #

This is the single best article that I’ve read on the internet, and at 39 yo, I’ve read a lot of articles on the internet!

Isaac @ 7:14 pm #


That’s HIGH praise! Thank you so much, and I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!

It’s really humbling to have someone write something like that. I’m just a guy who makes mistakes and tries to learn from them, like everyone else. The only real difference is that I happen to put my stuff out in public.


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