I’m not much of a fighter. When I was a child, my dad taught me that if someone hits you, hit them back but never be the one to throw the first punch. In essence, only fight back when you have to defend yourself. My mom’s message was taken from Luke 6:29 and contradicted Dad’s: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” Her voice resonated the strongest with me and for the better part of my life I’d walk away from any confrontation whether physical or verbal. During my childhood, there was a girl who frequently bullied me. I continually walked away from her but she was relentless. One day, I told my older sister who took up my cause. She grabbed the girl by the hair and told her to leave me alone. She never bothered me again.
With the exception of protecting myself in a domestic violence relationship, I have never engaged in physical conflict in my life. And while my typical style of confrontation was one of silence, I have since become more comfortable with engaging in disputes of a verbal nature. While I refuse to participate in an ugly or hostile discussion, I can now more easily verbally defend what I believe in.
Mankind is often quick and eager to fight. A sense of arrogance and entitlement has lessened one’s ability to be patient, has classified some as unworthy of being treated with respect and dignity, and supports the belief that the self should have what they want even at the expense of others. People also have a lower tolerance level than ever before and in many instances seek every opportunity to incite an argument or fight in an attempt to assert power and dominance over others. None of these are a spiritually valid reason for fighting.
There is a time and place for everything and one needs to know when it is best to follow my Mom’s and Luke’s advice to simply walk away and when one needs to stand up for justice as recommended in Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Keep in mind, that when I speak of fighting, I am in no way referring to physical altercations, the destruction of property, or nasty, hateful verbal assaults or threats of any kind. The key to successfully defending one’s person or position and seeking righteous justice (that is, according to Divine Law) is knowing when it’s appropriate to stand tall and when it’s best to let things be as they are. Having a proper set of communication and negotiating skills is essential as well.
Here are some guidelines:
WHEN TO FIGHT:
You are defending those incapable of protecting themselves.
The issue is serious and will not resolve itself or will escalate if not addressed.
There is severe and real harm being perpetrated against yourself or another.
The offense is in violation of God’s law; it is a moral issue.
To remain silent allows evil to prosper.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Sir Edmund Burke
WHEN TO NOT:
No one is being harmed physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
The only thing bruised is your ego.
You have a personal vendetta against the other party.
You are seeking revenge. Romans 12:19 “beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of god, for it is written, “vengeance is mine, i will repay, says the lord.”
The issue will resolve itself.
There is a serious risk that getting involved will only escalate matters.
The issue will not matter in ten years.
It’s none of my business or the other party can handle it themselves.
There is only a perception of harm, not a real and valid threat.
The issue is not one of a moral nature.
Keep in mind, that humans are known for making mountains out of molehills; for making matters appear far more serious than they are; for seeking to exert dominance over others. If any of these are your motives for getting involved in an exchange of ideas (I hesitate to use the word fight for it’s generally accepted definition of a physical altercation or an extremely heated debate) I strongly advise reassessing the situation and finding an alternative course of action. However, if you reasons are to stand up for what you truly believe is morally right, then by all means pursue your decision to address the issue.
Let me reiterate: in the beginning I stated that “for the better part of my life I’d walk away from any confrontation”. My choice of words accurately reflects my beliefs: life is consistently better when one chooses to not fight. (Did you notice that I listed twice as many reasons to not fight?) Therefore, be discreet: carefully and righteously evaluate each situation before becoming involved. Know when it is in your best interest, as well as the other party’s, to simply let things be as they are. If intervention is essential, carefully choose your attitude and approach, motives and methods for they will certainly determine the outcome and lasting effects of your efforts.
Q: The goal of the righteous is to bring a peaceful and fair resolution to each situation for all those concerned.
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