Most of us do not know how to fight. Sadly, most of us think we do know. We are proud of our wit, our sarcasm, our humor at the expense of others. If not, then we act as if we are in control – proudly and falsely saying that we would not ‘stoop to that level” – while stuffing our desire to blast someone. Obviously – these are all or nothing statements. MOST – where do I get those statistics? The point is that if we do not know how to fight then perhaps we should stop fighting.
I have been fighting all of my life. My siblings would probably say that I started at around six months old – and have not relented in sixty-five years. Surrender is a word that is foreign to my persona. I understand the word intellectually – but the concept seems to bounce off my forehead. Surrender has on occasion found its way into my head – but has always been rejected by my heart.
My father was a fighter. That persona served him well as a firefighter – not so much as a parent. He was all or nothing. But who can blame him – he grew up in abject poverty during the depression and then Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and he went off to war. With this as his life experience he married and had children. What might we expect? He was a fighter. He raised himself out of poverty, gained the dignity and honor of responsibility, and fought anyone who even implied a threat.
I am like that – without the excuses of poverty and war. I have been quick to engage. No issue was too small for my attention. My father tried to teach me how to fight. He taught me WWII combat techniques. “Kick them in their privates and then punch them in the throat before they have a chance to gasp.” Then he added, “…but you never fight for fun. Fighting is serious and you must not lose. Anything goes in a fight.” I look back today and realize that he meant that if someone is breaking into your home and threatening your family with certain death then you must stand up and fight. When I was young I would fight you if you shot me with a rubber band in sophomore choir.
My history of physical altercations stopped with my last bar fight at age twenty-nine. A great revelation struck me – why not just hit them with some sophisticated sarcasm? That should do it. Yes – I went from being a brute to being a real ass.
By age nineteen I knew that fighting was a centerpiece of my life. And I knew that I was wrong. My solution was to tighten the rules, set some boundaries, limit the cause. Of course, I never told anyone else the rules – so they had no idea when they crossed the line. Why would I tell them – if they don’t know the rules then I have the advantage – they don’t know they are about to have their face smashed – and he who strikes first always has the advantage. This only makes sense if one is inclined to fighting. Otherwise it sounds pretty nutty.
In my early thirties I came to realize that I was in constant conflict with the world around me. I had already done some counseling in my twenties – I had tried biofeedback and hypnosis. I tried church, even to the point of asking Jesus for some help. That went nowhere. Jesus and I struggled, perhaps because he is such a difficult person. He and I had a different set of rules to play by. The past thirty-five years I have worked hard to moderate, to compromise, to work with others. The problem is that I was never able to completely surrender. Surrender does not exist in my heart. I get it. I understand the idea.
I understand the paradox of surrender. Many times we can only win by surrendering – by accepting that we do not govern anyone but ourselves. Just this morning I was in conflict with someone that is more important to me than anyone I have ever known. Yet I felt the old resistance to surrender – it was not about what was right – it was just about defending my position – regardless of right or wrong. I struggle to let go.
People say things like “Let go and let God”. What can that possibly mean? Hitler is slaughtering the Jews – let it go, leave it to God. Brutish self-centered, self-serving men subject their children to poverty so they can have their adult toys. Let it go – God will take care of it. Gandhi and Martin Luther King promoted civil disobedience. Stand up for self but do it in a nonviolent manner. Where is the satisfaction in defense of self if we cannot crush the other? I hope the reader can see that I get it – that I understand the idea – that I know that fighting is immature and irresponsible.
Communications experts talk about the difference between being assertive and aggressive. They point out the pitfalls of being passive or passive-aggressive. All intellectual gibberish. Over time I have invested much of my personal self and my personal money in the pursuit of sanity – a life that does not include hard conflict with others.
I am close. I can feel the wind of life without conflict. The brass ring is within reach. But I am afraid. What if I let go and the world does not turn in the direction I want? Yes, I believe today that those who fight the most are those who are actually driven by fear – the fear of what might happen if they let go.
I must let go of the fear. I must stop fighting.