When should I fight? Part 3

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If you have made it past your anger and have taken an honest look at your own values and there is still conflict that is unresolved, it may be time to fight.

My experience of the world has been that it pulls us in one of two directions: fight or flight. In higher functioning circles these terms might be renamed aggressive persuasion and compromise, but they come from the same semantic and psychological place. Either we fight for what we want, or we give it up and live to fight another day. I am not, and have never really been a fan of compromise… it has always felt like everyone losing in practice rather than the kind of middle ground for which it is usually advertised. Nor am I quick to go to war (although I have been quick to anger at times). You can probably tell just from the fact that it has taken me 3 posts of asking when to fight before finally getting to the fighting part.

So here we are at the fight. Our conscience is clear, we know what we want and we are not just having an emotional reaction. We have communicated what we want clearly and there is still no change coming on our behalf. What now? Now we just have one final question to answer for ourselves.

What are we willing to pay to get our way?

That is a very important question, because for every cause, right, wrong, or indifferent, their is a cost. When fights occur, everybody loses something. This may be why I somehow hold some tendencies toward negotiation over violence, but dislike compromise. Fighting is costly, and if we are to enter that endeavor, we will pay the price whether we want to or not. Violence does not take IOU’s.

Whether the matter is handled in court, taking up court costs and our time, or through violence, taking the blood of ourselves and perhaps our friends and family as well, the bill will come to us and we will pay. It is as Ghandi says:

And, depending upon the relationship we have, or did have, with those we are fighting, their demise may end up hurting us and our family as well.

The most celebrated political leaders of the last century have largely held non-violent views. The reason for that is that violence and war is costly, and there are often more efficient ways to get things done. It is only when these other options ends that there may be need for fighting. To enter the fight is to admit defeat in the creative endeavor to solve a problem. Our best and brightest did not have to do that often.

I think this is why Jesus did not teach his disciples how to fight. He taught them how to live, love, and to sacrifice their lives for something worthy. He taught:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43–48

So, if your loss of time, energy, money, health, and perhaps your life will do more good for the world and the things you hold dear, then by all means, fight on. But if you are expecting to enjoy the fruits of your labor (have your cake and eat it too), then you may want to keep thinking, keep dreaming, keep praying for another kind of resolution.

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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.