“Be Better”: Life Lessons from Kratos, God of War

As you may have guessed from the title of the article, I recently finished playing Santa Monica Studio’s new God of War game. If you haven’t played it, go do so. If you don’t have a PS4, go get one- just for this game. It’s fantastic in every way and you will enjoy it. However, because this is a self-improvement site and not a gaming blog, I’ll stop the fanboying and actually write something productive.

Without getting into spoiler territory, the game concerns a journey undertaken by Kratos and his son, boy Atreus. Kratos, being a Spartan (and also the Greek god of war) is understandably a harsh father, and through the course of the game, there are a number of excellent lessons that he teaches his son. Many of these actually remind me of things I was taught by my own father. I’ve collected the best of those teachings here, and I’ll expand on the quotes as needed.

“Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed.”

Kratos may be channeling the spirit of Sylvia Plath (or Rick Sanchez, for that matter) here, but that doesn’t diminish the sentiment. This quote is a pithy way of expressing a thought held in the Buddhist tradition- attachment is the root of all suffering. If we are attached to our expectations, we are inevitably going to cause ourselves to suffer when those expectations do not meet reality. Rather, we should do as Kratos says and expect little.

“We will fight it.” “Why?” “Because you are afraid of it.”

Here, the God of War is teaching his son the lesson that fear exists to be met and conquered. Too often, we allow our fears, real or imagined, to dictate how we choose to live our lives. Fear of rejection, fear of insufficiency, fear of failure- all of these fears exist to maintain our current state of homeostasis. However, change is necessary, and change is scary- but running from what scares us is no way to live. We must choose to go in the direction of the thing we fear, because so often what we really want is right behind it.

“We win because we are determined. Disciplined. Not because we feel ourselves superior.”

In this lesson, Kratos is attempting to prevent the emergence of hubris and malignant egocentrism in his son. As it is said, pride comes before the fall- and what better way to prevent a fall than to avoid the pride in the first place? Take it from Kratos- success comes from cultivating the skills and mindset needed to persevere, not from the assumption of superiority. Don’t think you’re better- prove it.

“Do not allow yourself to feel for them. They will not feel for you.”

In life, we may meet those who would seek to do us harm or see us fall. Oftentimes, those types of people are not above using pity as a weapon of manipulation. The weak want nothing more than to be validated by the strong. When you find that someone is the cause of their own problems and seeks to drag you down with them, you will have to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of feeling superior by pitying them. Do not confuse kindness for weakness, and do not let yourself offer a hand only to be pulled down.

“Don’t be sorry. Be better.”

This is my favorite quote in the game. If only all people treated apologies this way, the world would be a much better place. Understand that failure is an inevitable part of the learning process- and failure, especially when it comes to those people that we fail, is never easy. However, think of how much better all involved would feel if instead of pleading for forgiveness, you simply said, “I’m sorry- it won’t happen again.” Learn from your mistakes and you will not make the same ones twice.

There is an important corollary here- a person who continues to apologize to you for the same thing, without changing the behavior, likely does not care about the fact that it bothers you, nor do they likely care to improve. Often, they are only sorry because they got caught doing said thing. When you would seek an apology, instead ask what Kratos asks- be better.

I hope you enjoyed these bits of wisdom- do yourself the favor and play God of War, you won’t be disappointed (expectations be damned).

For more inspirational quotes, check this out:

Words of a Wanderer: Anthony Bourdain’s Best Quotes

8 Self Improvement Quotes to Achieve Mastery

Garrett Dailey

Garrett Dailey is a formerly homeless D.I.Y. philosopher who believes that one cannot understand the universe without first understanding themselves. To that end, he has committed to a lifelong journey to become the best version of himself, and in the process, create a community for others who wish to do the same. May we all be led from ignorance to the truth. Pros aion Aletheia aionios.

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