Of course, it’s not easy to back off. A fragile ego exaggerates the effect of criticism and considers it a wound not only to be nursed but also to be returned in kind. Think about the presence of mind needed to avoid such fights—the nerve, the resourcefulness required in the heat of the moment. Are we open to reason and rationality, to being cooperative, to being a good loser (or gracious winner)? Are we willing to concede, apologize, forgive and to exhibit affinity, humility and gratitude?
This is the point: competing over something is one thing. However, when what is at stake in a prizefight is ego, the competition is over a myth, over nothing—a fool’s errand that someone wiser would avoid. A well-managed ego-function doesn’t need protection. Sometimes criticism can be handled judiciously, sometimes not. But when we “win” by offending another’s ego, we can expect a mean grudge match.
Life is a never-ending series of behavioral choices. Those that reflect the best of our imagination, courage and autonomy are game changers that determine not only who we become but also the reach of our usefulness.
If you haven’t enough behavioral skill, or cognitive distance on your immediacy, to manage your ego-function, here’s my advice: Don’t start these fights and don’t get sucked into them. In short, to paraphrase Alexander Pope whose Essay on Criticism is actually a long poem, rash or ignorant individuals get involved in situations that wiser people would avoid.
In sum, an egoistic prizefight is an exercise in foolishness.