Psychological Self-Tools - Online Self-Help Book

Sometimes We Must Fight, But Let's Know When

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

With conflict being the center of attention recently, it's critical to clarify what place fighting has in our world.

What is there to fight against? When is it necessary to set limits? How do you establish such boundaries? And, is fighting ever justified to enforce life-affirming stands?

stop fighting signI propose that there's quite little to fight against in life. To strongly stand for something, with real understanding that allows others to keep their dignity while not having to fight, is the hallmark of the consummate warrior throughout history.

Similarly, the most superb attorneys may rarely enter courtrooms, given their record of performance and the even-handed jurisprudence they practice between battling parties. Unfortunately, this goal of peaceable solutions often has not been attainable throughout history.

One of our most astute presidents, Thomas Jefferson, observed, "War is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer." In other words, war is not only hell, but also an all-losing proposition.

Pardon me for describing the emperor's new clothes as no clothes at all, but what's there really to fight against in life? Notice how worthwhile it is to do battle with any aspect of day-today reality. Not very! Then, how constructive is it to fight people, such as your spouse, employer, children, or parents? Hurtful nonsense!

What about fighting assignments or daily responsibilities? Awfully painful, and it just waits for you anyway! How about your past, economic conditions, the weather, or anything else you have no direct control over - want to fight? You've got to be joking! Do you really want to continually fight your feelings or body? Complete absurdity at its best!

As supported by the whole bloody chronicle of our species, in regard to conflict between individuals, families, peoples, nations and religions, fighting simply hasn't worked terribly well for anyone. It's inescapable that little productive ever results from fighting.

However, this doesn't mean that we simply cower, go helpless, excuse abuse and passively roll over to die. Konrad Adenauer put it most strikingly: "An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured." Clearly, if we value anything, like our continued existence, such devouring is unacceptable, and not negotiable, either.

So when is it necessary to set limits? The broadest answer might be whenever you deeply care and it's important enough to do so. More specifically, whenever you are willing to take a stand for responsible behavior, and/or against irresponsible actions. Certainly a situation where life, liberty and the creation of happiness is denied or jeopardized by anyone qualifies as a worthy ground for making your stand.

The rights of your fist stop at my nose! Individuals and countries most assuredly have rights, and they also have responsibilities to our civilization. It's all a matter of where you draw the line. Consider which values have priority to you and your integrity in a society where you are proud to live. Let these values be where you draw the line. This will keep you on good terms with both that person in the mirror and society.

Once you've made your assertive stands in life clear, how do you establish limits to protect them effectively? The three crucial steps to set healthy, realistic boundaries are:

  • Responsibly and directly state your feelings, thoughts and intentions to the party infringing upon you, another person, or legitimate freedom; explicitly request what you equitably need handled or corrected;
  •  

  • Outline the consequences that you fully intend to make happen, and when, if the party's actions aren't appropriately remedied;
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  • Follow through with these consequences to reclaim your jeopardized life, liberty, happiness or stands for responsible living; and thereby create what justice and humanity you realistically can.

Is fighting really necessary to enforce rightful stands? I'd like to say "no," but given the present level of emotional functioning of our species, I must sadly, yet fiercely reply, "Sometimes, yes it is necessary."

To push someone who has been standing on your feet, and won't voluntarily budge, is a vital necessity. Thus, fighting the bully who keeps sadistically hitting and hurting you, is at times essential. Fighting is necessary under the following two conditions:

  • When life, liberty, creation of happiness and responsible behavior are seriously compromised, and/or
  •  

  • When even greater harm would ensue if assertive, self-defense measures weren't taken.

Under such circumstances, the alternative to protecting vital interests is to acquiesce to injury. And this would only reinforce irresponsible aggression and make a mockery of our life, world and true purposes.

Some well-intentioned and spiritually attuned peacemakers might say that there is a Higher Source that forbids killing and violence, and thus it is never justified. Then again, I don't imagine that anyone is here to be steamrollered, bullied, mistreated or disrespected, either! The "Supreme Commander," or God I know, doesn't have any difficulty with enforcing such life-protective positions. Booting out the evil is called for to take a stand in the light.

 

You and I have the right to enforce realistic, appropriate limits, with corresponding consequences - yes, even the hard consequences that include fighting as a last resort. As God be my witness, each individual may humanly claim their legitimate needs and birthrights of life, liberty, creation of happiness and receiving responsible, respectable treatment.

Facing the natural brutality that life brings at times, Charles V offered the notion of making an "iron hand in a velvet glove" as his motto. Consider taking this attitude for yourself and our world, and let no one tread on you or me! May we see the day when such enforcement of limits is no longer needed, and we can live as the true peacemakers that God intends us to be.

 




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