When should I fight? Part 2

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If you are already past the point of anger and still dealing with conflict, then it is time to put away the fists and dial back the dialogue into the language of values. To be fair, this is, in part, an attempt to distance ourselves from the tension and objectify the problem – which is more possible in some cases than others. As an example of the absurdity that proves the rule, let us look at one of the most volatile places on the planet: the Little League Baseball Bleachers.

Can you imagine a parent standing up and shouting,

Coach, you need to put my son Derek in because building his confidence in playing sports is more important to me than whether the team wins or loses.”?

Or how about,

Come on Ref! Can’t you just give him that run? My kid is the only one on the team who hasn’t made it to home plate yet!”?

I doubt referees ever hear

That was a really tough call to make. Keep up the good work!”.

Why? Because although we don’t usually say the things above, we usually are thinking or feeling them at some level. We talk about the importance of fair play, but most of us have values that sometimes contradict and even overshadow fairness, justice, and our sense of right and wrong. We are not machines. Having other values does not have to be wrong. Where we get into trouble is when we have them by deny it to others and even to ourselves. This denial creates a tension and dissonance in ourselves similar to the feeling we might have in debate class if the teacher asked us to switch sides with our opponent and argue their case instead of our own. It’s hard and sometimes there is something inside us that wants us to lose, because the deeper truth is that, while we may believe the words we are saying, there are other words we are not saying that we believe even more. So, by not saying what is truly important to us, we are only sabotaging ourselves.

Of course, we may be keeping those values quiet because, although they represent our true desires, they are either socially unacceptable or something we are ashamed to say out loud. The letter from James in the New Testament has some powerful words to move from anger into speaking the truth to ourselves and to one another. He writes:

”What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:1–12

”Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

It is those hidden desires that get us into trouble every time. God knows they are there, and if we take the time to look, we will see them there as well. James tells us that we can find healing and forgiveness between one another if we are willing to confess the truth of what is really going on inside us. But, if we have not yet come to the true values and desires within us, we will not find that resolution… and if we are not yet at peace within ourselves, it is not yet time to fight.

When should I fight? Part 1

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When should I fight? Part 1

This question is inspired by a blog post from Kevin Parido, a friend of mine and fellow writer.

I deeply desire to fight for the right things. I want to fight for the good, the right and whole things. I want fight the battle that needs to be fought not skirmishes that help no one.

But I need to be led to where the real battle lies.

We all know what it is to be angry. Some of us feel that emotion more often and at a deeper level than others. Your vision takes on a reddish tinge, your muscles contract, your heart races and your blood pressure rises. You are spoiling for a fight. Even if you never raise your fists, your verbal filters fall and your very communication takes on weaponized qualities. Men and women alike fall under the curse of our fight or flight instinct.

Anger is one of the easiest ways to manipulate people though. Stress is induced to push them into fight or flight mode in which flight (fear) causes them to run away from you while fight (anger) makes them run toward you. Scaring people can be used to try to herd people into a certain place or attitude, but it is unfocused and messy. Anger, on the other hand, is attractional and focused, so you can pinpoint the exact spot you want them to be and make them come there. Don’t believe me? Take a moment to watch this: (Warning! Violent content below!)

Ok, so that is a bit extreme and fictionall, but it makes the point. Kevin was able to lead Larry and Marv on through a series of painful experiences (literally lead them) through their anger. At any time, they could have turned away and gone home or picked another place to rob, or gone out for a pizza. Instead anger clouded their vision, leading them right to the next painful experience Kevin had prepared for them. Two grown men were outsmarted by a grade school kid because Kevin conquered the fight or flight instinct and they did not.

It is not just in fictional movies though. Leading through anger is one of the primary foundations of bullfighting.

The bull is lead to his death because the matador conquers his fight or flight response and the bull does not.

James 1:19–20 says this:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

It is a warning to avoid anger. So when should we fight? Not when the only reason is that we are angry.

All Hallows Eve

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I found my last bed

in the place of the first

lesser my heartbeat

greater my thirst

only my pain can realize

        the silent fear

        that lingers here

among a dozen wetted eyes

and hearts doubled over

to see yellow skin

my last fleshly covering

a sad soul within

whose mate in tears resides beside

        my rock and love

        my precious dove

in whom I hope my fate abides

yet she refers me

toward other things

with halos of light

and feathery wings

but I cannot see the light from here

        with eyes gone grey

        fading away

and filled with cold and bitter tears

for fear and regret

all these chains that I’ve earned

in those toiling days

whose dreams I burned

with tunnel vision and selfish pride

        my fate I chose

        the thorny rose

whose beauty at last has bled me dry

leaving naught but a shell

that cannot receive

a blessing that’s blocked

by anger and grief

but I may have one final gift

        my heart to give

        to one who lives

long after this soul passes through the rift

may he love her with care

for better, for worse

and learn from my death

lest he fall to the curse

that still lingers here within the air

        with brutal eyes

        on new love lies

and fixes them with unmerciful stare

so my final act

will not be a cry

for mercy or peace

I simply will die

an example to a foolish world

        to which I belong

        a son of its song

        its promises lies

        when everyone dies

but lives like their lives cannot be unfurled

so breathe like it matters

live without regret

and love while you live

and never forget.