Petrus and Good Combat

By Paulo Coelho

In 1986, I went for the first and only time on the pilgrimage known as the Way to Santiago, an experience I described in my first book. We had just finished walking up a small hill, a village appeared on the horizon, and it was then that my guide, whom I shall call Petrus (although that was not his name), said to me:

– Look around and let your eyes settle on some point; then concentrate on what I shall say.

I chose the cross of a church I could see in the distance. Petrus began:

– Man must never stop dreaming; dreams nourish the soul, just as food nourishes the body. Often in our existences, we see our dreams come undone and our desires frustrated, but we must continue to dream, otherwise our soul dies. Much blood has flowed on the field which lies before you, and some of the cruelest battles of the Reconquista were fought here. It does not matter who was right, or who had the truth: the important thing is that both sides were engaged in Good Combat.

“Good Combat is that which is fought because our heart demands it. In heroic times, the times of the wandering knights, that was easy, there was much land to conquer and much to be done. Nowadays, however, the world has changed , and Good Combat has been transported to the battlefields within ourselves.

“Good Combat is that which is fought in the name of our dreams. When they explode inside us with all their might – in youth – we have plenty of courage, but haven’t yet learned to fight.

“After much effort, we eventually learn to fight, and by then no longer have the same courage to enter combat. Because of this, we turn against and fight our own selves, and become our own worst enemy. We say our dreams were childish, difficult to carry out, or the fruit of our ignorance of life’s realities. We kill our dreams because we are afraid of engaging in Good Combat.

“The first symptom that we are killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have met in my lifetime always had time for everything. Those who did nothing were always tired, couldn’t cope with the little work they had to do, and complained that the days were too short: in reality, they were scared to engage in Good Combat.

“The second symptom of the death of our dreams are our certainties. Because we do not wish to accept life as a great adventure to be lived, we start to see ourselves as wise, just and correct in the little we demand of our existence. We look beyond the battlements of our everyday lives, hear the sound of clashing lances, smell the sweat and gunpowder, the great falls and warriors’ thirsty glare of victory. But we never notice the joy, the immense Joy dwelling in the hearts of those who fight, because they do not care about victory nor defeat, the important thing is to engage in Good Combat.

“Finally, the third symptom of the death of our dreams is Peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon, with no great demands, certainly nothing greater than we are willing to give. And so we think we are mature, having left behind childish fantasies, and having achieved personal and professional success. But in truth, in our innermost heart, we know that what happened was that we renounced the fight for our dreams, ceased to engage in Good Combat.

“When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we encounter a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams start to rot inside us, and infest every part of our lives.

“We start to become cruel to those around us, and in the end we turn this cruelty upon ourselves. Illnesses and psychoses emerge. That which we sought to avoid in combat – deception and defeat – becomes the only legacy of our cowardice. And one fine day, the dead, rotten dreams make the air difficult to breathe and we begin to long for death, which delivers us from our certainties, from our preoccupations, and from that terrible Sunday afternoon peace.”

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  1. Marie-Christine says:

    Un ami – est comme un oasis en plein desert – un endroit pour prendre refuge et se rassasier.

    a friend is like an oasis in the middle of the desert – a place to take refuge and to satisfy one;s hunger.

    an amigo es como un oasis en el medio del deserto – un sitio para refugiarse y comer.

  2. aditya says:

    Hi Angel !

    yes 1 i understand u’r feeling, how it feels when once again we meet ‘failure’, this is where “do your stuff and be not attached to your goals” as preached by Upansishads ( and crystellised in Gita ) starts becomming meniagful, to start yet another day afresh ! difficult, but perhaps that is the lesson we humans, wols must learn !


    a wol is a loner too, he too is tormented by lonliness at times, but when s/he starts segregating aloneness and lonliness, then the real wol is born. a wol loves company, but while alone, he is not lonely !

    about what to do with others who are not …. on the same wavelenghth; first of all let’s forget about this right and wrong stands, u r doing what appears right to you, they are also doing what appears right to them. a genuine wol cannot have anything else but compassion for those who are not wols, who are downright enemical towards him also, as zesus had shown. having compassion does not mean surrender, it only means in every delaing of a wol there will be compassion for fellow human beings, howver ‘misguided’ they may appear.


    for some reason i am unable to post my views in that discussion about same sex. ( my route to the www says that this page conatins prohibited words ) would someone kindly copy from here and paste it in the relevant discusson.

    “Same sex relationships are fine, even great, till there is no sex involved; if sex gets involved in same sex relationships then that is perversion; harmful to its practiceneres, which does not mean they should be punished, they should be pitied, not punished, at the same time giving it legal status may be a folly. when in doubt, mankind can look at ancient wisedom for guidance. same sex relationships have been in existance since civilisation took its presnet form ( can we safely assume this ), but from relegious point of view it has never been a recommneded path, so for same sex relationships my idea would be to discourage; many a times what we feel like doing may not be the right thing to do ”


  3. Marie says:

    I am glad I had one of that Sunday afternoon.
    I would not be where I am today. On that site.
    I am grateful for that.

  4. Savita Vega says:

    I just came home from a funeral, or at least from the visitation. The real funeral is tomorrow. (I’ll miss it.) It was my uncle who passed away. There were many photos of him there – in albums, in frames, also in a video presentation which played continuously, over and over, at the back of the room. There was a certain point, when I was standing by myself, gazing of a photo of him when he was very young, perhaps eight or nine, and in my mind I said to him – to that little boy who he once had been – I said, “Tell me this: Did you do all the things you meant to do? Did you pursue your dreams?” I wondered, if that little boy could step out of that photo and stand now beside his own casket, what would he have to say to himself? Would he be proud? Or disappointed? Would he feel satisfied? Or would he feel cheated?

    Then that, of course, caused me to reflect upon my own life – to take account of it, in a sense, to take responsibility. Because I realized, in that moment, that if that little boy could step out of that photo frame and into the room where we stood, it is doubtful (at least I think it is doubtful) that he would look to anyone else in that room but that old man in the casket – himself at the end of his life. He wouldn’t turn an accusing finger at those other people, milling about, and sitting in the pews. No. He would walk directly up to that casket and demand account of himself: “Why did you fail to follow the dreams I laid out? If I, as a child, was brave enough to dream them, why weren’t you, as a man, courageous enough to carry them out?”

    I don’t know what kind of life my uncle lived in that respect. I don’t know if he followed his dreams of not; I didn’t know him that well. But what I do know is that I don’t want to have an encounter like that when I die! Such an interview would be far more stressful than any rendering of accounts with God or St. Peter!

    Thank you, Paulo Coelho, for these wise words. They came just at the right moment too – just when I was ready. Not just ready to hear them, but hopefully also to assimilate them into my life.

    Savita Vega

  5. Fernanda Signato Marques says:

    Que a capacidade de sonhar esteja com todos aqueles que lerem esse texto tí£o lindo… E que essa capacidade se espalhe para todas as pessoas do mundo através das boas energias.
    Que assim seja e assim será!

  6. Tania says:

    It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are throughly alive .There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good ,and we must hunger after them – George Eliot
    I love this quote and yours to Paulo it reminds o us all as Jessica says “to live life to the fullest :-) ” Blessings Tania

  7. […] here: In 1986, I went for the first and only time on the pilgrimage known as the Way to Santiago, an […]

  8. Mirela Baron says:

    Yes,I don`t like peacefull sunday afternoon!!!
    I love adventure, even if is not confortable and sommetimes danger…but to live intensive is meeaning to dream and speek manny times like a child .And I take the risk to hear from my husband or my mother that I am a full,that I make plans that cann not be realised and I accept to sharre it with them because I love them .
    I think somme dreams wannt to be realised ,sommeother needs time…

    I will not give up my dream to be your disciple with 40 years!(if God wannt!)

    Mirela(the woman in elevator)

  9. Christian says:

    As with everything penned (or typed in this case) by you, this text made me think of the life I’ve lived, and the life I hope to live. I am still quite young, but there are days that can make feel quite old… Those days go away when I read this. My hopes and dreams resurface from the hiding place all the stress and tiring repitive work forced it to. So thank you.

    – Christian

  10. Monika says:

    What shall a warrior do with people next to him, who had renounced their dreams, give up fighting and became cruel to others (also to the warrior)?
    Escape them? Fight them? Try to show them, they are wrong?

  11. Alexandra says:

    wow.Really ,that thing explains many other things in my life.I have periods of great despair,so I search the Sunday afternoon peace.But you are right.Pretending you dont care not change any thing.The problem are still there.We have to try a new approach,for going on,and is our utmost duty to fight till the very end.I have promised to myself not long ago that I never give up,no matter what.I will fight,with my strenght,trying to use lot of mind.I think sometimes the key lies in seeing things from a different point of view.any.being open minded,not taking patterns as a rule to be followed.maybe is not good for our personality.might be “ingegnio”?

  12. Miguel Angel says:

    Querido Paulo;

    Siempre que leo este texto me veo reflejado, pero es tan duro sacar fuerzas después de haber luchado duramente hasta entregarlo todo.

    Ahora en estos momentos en los que mi lucha se ha trasladado a mi interior, intentando vivir cada dí­a y no caer en la muerte, se me hace tan duro luchar por mis sueños cuando lo que hago es luchar por mi vida.

    De mi tremenda fuerza y empuje dignos de ser admirados no ha quedado nada, han sido mermados hasta ser destruidos en la lucha, y lo peor son las heridas, hay heridas que hacen muy difí­cil la lucha con la fuerza necesaria para cumplir los sueños, me siento a veces como Frodo “The lord of the rings” con una herida que nunca terminara de sanar.

    Las sobrecargas de stress me han dejado en una posición tan difí­cil que cada vez que saco ha relucir mi fuerza de voluntad, acabo mas herido. Mis nervios no pueden seguir el ritmo de mis sueños y es tan duro. Yo solo acepto mi realidad y trato de ir adelante siempre, aunque sea casi imperceptible el avance, ya que los retrocesos empiezan en el momento en que uno se para.

    Si me caigo me levanto inmediatamente ya que si no creo que nunca me levantare, he ganado pequeñas batallas, pero todaví­a me queda para no tener que luchar por mi vida dí­a a dí­a.

    Se hizo conmigo un gran trabajo, que creo que dados los resultados no ha satisfecho a nadie, a no ser que el resultado buscado fuese destruirme, aniquilarme, cosa que nos se produjo por un único hecho “Yo ame a Dios sobre todas las cosas, hasta sobre mi propia voluntad por eso hoy escribo esto por el enorme amor a Dios”.

    Querido Paulo, yo estoy muy agradecido con usted por devolverme a la lucha al buen combate, y a luchar por mis sueños, creo que mi gran lucha será recuperar por la gracia de Dios mi empuje mi fuerza de voluntad, tan débil hoy. Una vez recuperada mis fuerzas podré luchar por mis sueños.

    ¡¡¡Un fuerte abrazo y gracias!!!


    Dear Paulo;

    Whenever I read this text, I reflected, but it’s so hard to draw strength after having fought hard to give it everything.

    Now in these times that my fight has been moved to my inside, trying to live each day and avoid the death, I make it so hard to fight for my dreams when I do is fight for my life.

    My tremendous strength and drive worthy of admiration was not anything, have been reduced to be destroyed in the fighting, and the worst are the wounds, there are wounds that make it very difficult to fight with the strength necessary to achieve the dreams, me I feel sometimes like Frodo “The Lord of the Rings” with a wound that never healed finish.

    The overload of stress I have left in a difficult position so that every time my bag has raised strong will, but I just hurt. My nerves can not keep up with my dreams and it is so hard. I just accept my reality and I try to always go forward, albeit almost imperceptible progress since the start setbacks at the time that one stops.

    If I fall I get up immediately because if I do not think I ever levantare, I’ve won small battles, but still remains for me to avoid having to fight for my life every day.

    It was a great job with me, which I think given the results failed to satisfy anybody, unless the outcome was destroyed, annihilated, something that we came by a single fact “I love God above all things, up on my own free will that is why today I write this for the enormous love for God. ”

    Dear Paulo, I am very grateful to you for back to the fight the good fight, and fight for my dreams, I believe that my big fight will be recovered by the grace of God I push my will power, so weak today. Once recovered my strength I can fight for my dreams.

    A big hug and thanks!

  13. tinni t. says:

    i have a dream. i wish to go rota jacobea with my °-°… and that you show us you favourite places there.
    love & love

  14. Tina says:

    Thelma it´s absolutely true what you are saying. Thanks and hvala (thanks in bosnian, croatian and serbian language) to Jessicas comments and good examples of fear and the meaning of life. You see my boyfriends mother knows a how to see which fear a person has, so the person if he or she is very scared can “heal” and revert to a more healthy life without bothering fear, for example not being afraid of the dark any more. She can also heal hernia.

    There is nothing to be afraid of if you believe in the Light,

  15. THELMA says:

    Thank you Paulo Coelho, for the lesson above, I will remember it the rest of my life, although I am already in a …peaceful Sunday afternoon!
    I would like also to add, that it is not only ourselves who ‘kill’ our dreams, but also those ‘dear loving people’ who are the nearest to us! Because since they … are not Warriors of Light, they do not understand or realize the importance of dreaming in our lives. They do not know that LOVE is freedom. They want us in the golden cages! In the .. safety of Peace!. Even our parents, friends , brothers, lovers, husbands, wives, children, fear change, freedom, novelties. They consider ‘dreaming’ or acting in a non-conventional way, as a .. treason to their rights. Suppression is the way to kill personal freedom, inspiration and liberty. The ‘creation’ of slaves takes place everyday, still.

  16. Heart says:

    You chose to concentrate on the cross of a church. Did your reflections about failing to follow one’s dream follow that image?

    Some dreams cannot be fulfilled by ourselves, but has to do with what somebody else give us. For instance my dream of a Persian gold ring. If I go and buy it myself, it wouldn’t be a sign of love, as any gift should be. I was always sorry to see at Christmas, if a child made a wish, and the wish didn’t come true. I believe parents can create great trust in life, if they help fulfill children s many wishes. And in relationships too, we should try to show in thousand little ways, expressions for our love of each other.

    And now, I’m going to read, and check out what Jessica is sharing today :)