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Apathy As Strength (And How It Can Also Be a Weakness)

Updated: 2 days ago

An angry zombie with a dragon face.

Indifference in the Face of Pain: A Different Kind of Strength

Strength isn't just about muscling through hardship or carrying on stoically in the face of rejection. It's also about finding a quiet resilience within ourselves, a stillness amidst the storm. It's the apathy that can describes in the face of an aggressive cat's claws, or calmness that may wash over you when someone knocks at your door while driving.

This isn't only emotional numbness. It's a conscious choice not to be consumed by the pain, the fear, or the anger. And it's a choice that we can train ourselves to do through discipline. It's acknowledging the situation, recognizing the potential for conflicted feelings, but choosing not to let it dictate your response, thanks to your free will. It's a deep understanding that some things are simply out of our control, and our energy is better spent on moving forward than on futile resistance.

Deem it a wiser investment of your mental resources. The choice to care or not is a choice regardless of our willpower to care or not. There exists a multi-layered system of the self. The fact that we feel something does not mean that this feeling is true nor that we should act upon it just because it is present. Apathy, therefore, also holds a cognitive function, which depends on how we relate, if at all, to things and beings, including our very feelings.

And with this apathy we can also begin teaching ourselves how to act independently of our own willpower, depending on reasoning mostly if not entirely: We can simply know what there is to be done by understanding logic, without the need for unnecessary attachments which hinder a more realistic perception of reality.

This internal strength isn't always flashy or grandiose. It doesn't require feats of physical prowess or public displays of stoicism. Sometimes, it's simply about breathing through the pain, accepting reality, and finding a quiet peace within the chaos. It's about understanding that life is full of unexpected claws and knocks, but we can choose how to react to them.

Enduring much pain offers a glimpse into this kind of strength, whether physical or mental. Not escaping from it when it isn't dangerous, and acknowledging its presence, trains our skill to not let it control nor dictate our lives. And slowly, unnecessary suffering becomes accepted as granted, allowing us to be misrable less, and handle our business in life, more.

Whether directly or indirectly, apathy's a conscious decision not to be consumed by the negativity, whether it exists in you or not, whether it will exist more or less. This, in itself, is a testament to one's inner resilience, a quiet strength that allows you to navigate the storms of life with a sense of calm and composure.

As you can understand, not all strength has to be displayed in vanity. Sometimes it is "expressed" the most when it is hidden; when it does not need to be shown to the world. Those who are inclined to show it far more than others, may be the weaker ones themselves, when they might be compensating for their own lack of certain qualities.

So, while physical and emotional strength are undoubtedly valuable, let's not forget the silent roar of serenity, of choosing not to react, of finding peace in the midst of the storm, internal or external. This, too, although underrated in this day and age of prestige bias, is one that deserves recognition and appreciation.

The Paradox of Apathy: Strength or Surrender?

Do you see now, why apathy is a form of strength? However, it's a paradoxical force, acting like a shield against painful experiences, yet potentially stifling collective growth. In the face of a cat's relentless gnawing, it's apathy that numbed the agony, allowing one to endure the pain without lashing out. On the individual scale it's a temporary immunity to the emotional storm that could have easily swept one away without it. And it's also one that can be extended through training the mind to develop an iron will through the practice of asceticism (for an example).

But this strength, while effective in individual moments, carries a hidden cost. Apathy can become the root of collective stagnation, that has the power to hinder collective understanding and even reject profound minds as "insane". When applied to broader societal issues, it morphs from resilience of pain into a lack of desire to learn, a surrender of power that leaves us paralyzed and vulnerable to mistakes whose possibility masterminds can decrease.

And when we are too apathetic to learn from our own mistakes, we can doom ourselves to repeat them again.

Was Plato right when he said...?

"Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil"

While ignornace by itself is incapable of malicious intent (for intent stems from desire and values can't "feel" desires), it does capable of great many evils. And it is a good way to make people stay ignorant, and thus apathetic, of many horrible events, through the social engineering of hedonism as a granted human feature and not as a specific philosophy.

After all it's easier to completely disregard the deaths of people in lesser known territories worldwide when you're busy gambling your hard earned money on contemporary virtual casinos. And as such, apathy can easily become a tool that can be used against the populace, while bigger entities such as very large corporations go on their way unhindered by public protests. This apathy is also beneficial to those who choose to lie low; After all it's far easier for justice to be unserved when public interest has little to no realization of one's criminal activities. In the case of murderers who get away, that might also include murder.

And it is easy to get killed when you're oblivious to what's going on (or what is about to go on).

Knowledge is therefore power because it gives you more clarity of actions to choose from, and why to choose them. (like the choice to not go to a certain slum where a certain death might exist). Remain apathetic to what you should do and you can pay in accordance to your ignorance.


Apathy, then, is a double-edged sword. It can be a source of strength, a temporary shield against the slings and arrows of life, allowing us to navigate the storm with a certain quietude. But when wielded indiscriminately, it can become a form of weakness, an unconscious abdication of our responsibility to ourselves and each other, leading us to commit evil acts out of ignorance. Evil acts such as domestic violence, corruption and other criminal activities that surely cause more harm than good.

As such apathy is both a strength and a potentially-great source for unintended evil. It is a virtue when endurance is required or desired, and a liability when more knowledge is needed in the name of morality. In contemporary settings there are also several, specific reasons for apathy.

The answer to when apathy is a strength or weakness lies therefore in its context. The key, then, is to wield this tool wisely like a swordsman, recognizing its potential for both virtue and harm, and choosing to use it with intention and the awareness of potential implications.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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