Why it’s better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in a war


Kevin Mangelschots

One of the famous Chinese sayings goes as follows, “it’s better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in a war.”

And while most of us have probably heard this quote somewhere before, the depth of its meaning can escape us at times.

Let me explain the meaning of this and how it can be applied to our lives.

Reasons why it is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war

Image of a samurai warrior statue in a garden.

  • When push comes to shove, it is better to be competent and to be able to defend yourself

    It is better to be capable of violence, so you can use it when needed, rather than being incapable of using it.

    It is in no way shape or form virtuous to be incapable of aggression and defending yourself.

  • Furthermore, it is better to try to live peacefully but to be capable of fighting if necessary

    It promotes living peacefully whenever possible, but having the capacity to fight when the situation calls for it.

  • Nobody likes weak, incompetent people

    Everyone starts off as weak, and there’s no shame in that. But deliberately staying weak without attempting to improve is shameful.

    One of our major goals in life should be to become competent and resilient. To take up as much responsibility as we humanly can.

  • Establishes a good moral code to live by

    Sign saying right to the right and wrong to the left with a blue background.

    It is a good moral code to be peaceful whenever possible.

    It also indicates that you’ve mastered aggression and have it under your voluntary control, which you can then use in the form of assertiveness to defend yourself whenever it is required.

  • Teaches self-control

    Being capable of hurting other people is an ability that comes with great responsibility. That’s why having the capacity to be violent, but deciding to not misuse it, requires an enormous amount of self-control.

    And in life, self-control can be one of the hardest skills to master, but also one of the most rewarding ones. We can learn to moderate our emotions by controlling our thoughts.

What does, “it's better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war” mean?

A statue of a warrior standing in the garden.

Better to be prepared

The meaning behind the “it’s better to be a warrior in a garden” quote is that it is much better to learn how to prepare yourself physically and mentally when you’re currently in a calm and easygoing situation/environment.

This way, you can then potentially defend yourself in a violent and brutal encounter in the future.

It means that you should prepare yourself for the worst, even when you’re currently in an outstanding situation. Because you never know when you will put these skills to use.

Hone your skills in peaceful times

That’s why you should hone your skills in peaceful times, in case the unexpected happens. If the trouble happens to catch you unprepared, then it is much harder to react appropriately.

Live peacefully whenever possible

A little girl making a peace sign while smiling.

It also means that it is perfectly appropriate, and even desirable, to live a peaceful, calm existence.

But when the time comes to defend oneself, you should be prepared to violently defend yourself if the situation calls for it.

Practice self-control

It is a statement of self-control. It means that someone has the capacity for violence, that one is capable and strong. Yet, voluntarily chooses to control and restrain this violence to lead a peaceful and serene life. But it also means that he/she is ready to defend at a moment’s notice.

It conveys that you should be prepared, or that you’ll die if you’re not. In some situations, this can be taken literally. In other situations, it means that if you’re not prepared, you fail. And while failure can be perfect and useful as a tool to learn, sometimes the stakes are too high to casually fail.

It’s better to be capable

How experience, knowledge, ability, attitude, and behavior lead to competence, written with blue letters on a tissue paper.

It’s better to be capable and have the necessary skills to defend oneself and not have to use them, rather than not having the capacity to defend oneself.

Both the farmer and the warrior can be seen as opposites of the same coin. While a farmer nurtures and cultivates life, the warrior defends life but is also able to take it away.

A code of honor

It can be seen as a code of honor for the warriors to live by. Translated to our modern life, they can still be considered rules to live life by.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Where does the “warrior in a garden” quote originate from?

“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.” is a rewording of a famous Chinese saying.

This means that the Warrior in a garden quote’s origin tracks back to China.


We can conclude that it’s better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in a war. Or at least I know that I would rather be a warrior in a garden than vice versa.

It is better to be competent, to have the ability to defend yourself and hopefully not have to use it, rather than being incapable of defending yourself at all.

You can never know when push comes to shove, as there are some despicable people out there. And that’s exactly why you should prepare yourself for when the situation happens to call for it.

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