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Standing up for "Principle" -Part 3: When Should You Fight?

Chapter: 3.03
(Section 3: Why can't we be Friends?)
Copyright Michael Bronson 1997, 1999, and 2000

Many lives have been needlessly destroyed because of violated rights and principles. Although you should never let people walk all over you, there is a right and a wrong way to handle violated rights. This chapter will show you the difference.

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When determining whether you should fight for a principle, you must consider your motivation. What is the real reason you want to pursue it? I think if we are honest with ourselves, we would have to admit our motivation is often pride. Our egos have been bruised and we want to get back at the offender. Our human nature has a hard time accepting the fact that our offender will go unpunished. It grinds us to think the offender is getting away with his abuse. If this is your motivation, don’t pursue it. In most situations, if you clear your head of the emotions, you’ll find there is usually very little substance worth fighting over.

The first thing you should do if your rights have been violated is to clear your head of the emotions. It is very dangerous to prepare your response when your emotions are running high. Usually, the more you dwell on an offense, the angrier you will become. Therefore, if possible, you should not allow yourself to think about the situation for a week or two. After you calm down, you should be more capable of preparing a response based on facts and not feelings. Once your emotions are under control, you should go over the following checklist:

1) Is there any actual damage? A bruised ego does not constitute actual damage.

2) Is there a need to defend myself? Is there any disciplinary or legal action being taken against you?

3) How important is the actual issue in question? In the grand scheme of things, will this violation have a profound effect on civilization?

4) Is any action necessary to prevent this from happening again? This is an important question. Was this situation simply an isolated incident or will this happen again if you don’t do something to stop it?

5) Realistically, what will my actions really accomplish? You must be realistic about what you expect to accomplish. An unfortunate fact of life is the courts and grievance systems seldom provide the relief you are looking for.

6) What would it cost to pursue it? This is another important question. This is one area most people do not carefully calculate. Most people don’t consider the hidden cost on your time, emotions, and creativity.

All things considered, defense should be the primary consideration when determining a response. You should defend yourself against punitive action being taken against you, and you should defend yourself against future violations.

There are a couple rules you should keep in mind when you are going to confront someone. First, for the sake of efficiency, don’t invest more time, money, and hassle than necessary to obtain your goal. For example, if you were a businessman, you would not build a part for $50 at one factory when you could build the exact same part for $20 someplace else. Someone once said, "Don’t bite when a growl will do."

Second, always try to leave yourself the ability to increase the pressure further, if needed. You want to be able to take further steps in case they try to retaliate. Having them know you could do more against them is usually enough to keep them from retaliating. An effective way of doing this is to fire a shot across their bow. If a military ship wants to get the attention of a ship in violation, they would fire a cannon ball or missile across the bow of the ship. This warning shot does not harm the other ship, but it definitely gets their attention. It lets them know you desire a peaceful solution, but are willing and ready to take action, if necessary.

Third, if you feel it's necessary to aggressively pursue a problem, be very careful about boxing the offender into a corner with no way of escape. If you have ever backed a raccoon or an angry dog into a corner, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If there is no way of escape, except through you, the animal will try going through you. If the animal has no other option and feels like it has nothing to lose, it will attack you viciously.

Chad dove to the ground as bullets raced over his head. "We’re being overrun!" Chad yelled to his captain. "There’s no way out. They’ve got us surrounded." Grabbing the radio, the captain radioed in another air strike. The first air strike, which struck 100 yards away, didn’t stop the Vietcong’s advancement. These American troops were clearly outnumbered and were quickly losing ground. It was obvious death was eminent. The captain decided if he and his men aren’t going to live, neither would the Vietcong. Therefore, he called in a massive air strike on his own position.

As gruesome as this may sound, this scenario took place many times in the Vietnam War. "Desperate times call for desperate measures." The point is this; if you push a person to a point where he feels he has nothing to lose, he may self-destruct, taking you with him.

As I mentioned before, I believe defense is a good reason to "fight for a principle." Sometimes you have to take a stand to keep people from walking all over you. It is sad to see how some people allowed others to use them as floor mats. I believe if God intended for us to be used as floor mats, we would have been born with the word "Welcome" printed on our foreheads.

Nevertheless, it takes great wisdom to know when to take a stand and how you are to do it. If you do take a stand, your goal should not be to "put the offender in his place." As tempting as it is, your goal is not to punish them for their transgression. You just want to keep it from happening again.

"Do you want corn?" the prisoner food server asked Jack. "Yea," Jack responded. A spoon full of corn was placed on his plate. Jack moved down the serving line and was asked, "Do you want potatoes?" Again, Jack said, "Yea." Dale, another prisoner food server, scooped up a large pile of potatoes and splattered it all over Jack’s plate and shirt. Dale smiled and gave Jack a knowing smirk.

Jack had just arrived at the prison the previous day, and he understood he was being shown the pecking order in that system. Prisoner Dale had just put Jack in a very difficult position. If Jack reached over and punched Dale, he would have been locked up. Since this incident took place over 50 years ago, Jack would have been thrown into the hole for several months. Yet, if he did nothing, he would have sent the message he will not stand up for himself.

Jack leaned forward with a firm, confident, but unthreatening smile and said, "Try that again." This was a brilliant move. Without fighting, Jack had clearly conveyed to Dale he was not going to allow others to walk all over him.

Most aggressors know their threats will usually go unchallenged, so it is easy for them to make threats. In this situation, however, Dale (the food server) is now faced with certain retaliation. He has to either bite the bullet or back down. Dale decided it was best to back down. I have found this tacit to be incredibly effective in resolving many confrontations. The object of this approach is to "keep the ball in their court." Put them into a situation where they have to make the next move. Force them to make the tough decision of "going to war."

Many years ago I had a boss who had a unique way of controlling his employees. He knew how to put people off balance in order to gain the psychological advantage in a situation. For example, when he would call you into his office for a "talk," he would look you square in the eyes with a mean stare. This would continue until you looked away. For whatever reason, being the first person to "look away" creates some type of pecking order. Since my former boss was a weight lifter and wore his muscle shirt for these "talks," many of his employees were intimidated and "put in their place" psychologically.

One day I had the illustrious privilege of being called into his office. When I walked in, I was greeted with his stare and muscle shirt. When I sat down he was still staring at me. To throw him off balance, I had decided I was going to have him look away first. Instead of staring back at him (which would have only inflamed the situation), I did something he did not expect. With a smile on my face and a non-threatening look in my eyes, I kept constant eye contact with him. I did not look at him in a way that was challenging, rather I looked at him as if I was eagerly waiting to hear what he was going to say. As a result, he looked away first, which threw him completely off balance.


Other Chapters in this Section

Standing up for Principle -1:  Wasted Energy
Standing up for Principle -2:  A Destroyed Attitude
Standing up for Principle -3:  When should you fight?
Standing up for Principle -4:  Focus on your True Objective
Forgiving your Offenders
Johnny Lingo's Eight Cow Wife
Church Splits
There are no Winners in War
Taking Sides in a Conflict
Being Stuck on the Wrong Side of a Conflict
Comparing Abortion and Slavery
American Abortion Counter
World-Wide Abortion Counter
Did you know ...?

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