I had a difficult conversation with a friend a couple of days ago. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I gave her a very satisfactory answer, though I’m unsure what I could have said that would have been better.
“I looked at your blog,” she told me during our conversation. “I just don’t understand how you can be so VIOLENT!” When I asked her what she meant, she referred to this post, and to how I’d looked at the situation and lessons learned. “How can you go through life all day thinking about the world that way?” she asked me. “Like everyone’s out to get you and you have to respond with violence!”
I was really at a loss to put my mindset into terms that made sense to her. See, here’s the thing: I don’t glorify violence. I’m NOT a violent, angry, aggressive person. Far from it, in fact. I’m a mediator (among other things), a writer, a communicator. In an ideal world, I’d like nothing better than to never need a knife for anything more serious than opening a box. I’d love it if I lived in a world where guns were tools used to put food on the table and to enjoy the challenge of marksmanship, and if they were never trained at a human target.
But the truth, as I know only too well, is that we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where the are predators willing to meet their needs – for money, for possessions, for sex and power and lust and other things – by taking what is ours. I know this lesson only too well: I’ve been a victim of rape, assault, home invasion robbery, cyber-stalking. I’ve felt the bite of a knife into the soft skin of my throat. I’ve stared down the barrel of a firearm. I’ve felt unwelcome hands inside my clothes. I’ve tasted terror and powerlessness.
So, it’s not that I choose to go out into the world and do violence. Far from it, I try to spread peace and kindness and compassion as much as possible. I would NEVER initiate violence against an innocent human being.
But if I happen to cross paths with a predator, I’m certainly not about to sit passively and allow myself and my loved ones to be harmed. I do not carry a weapon to harm others; I carry a weapon so that if, god forbid, I cross paths with someone who desires to harm me and my loved ones, I can respond effectively.
There’s an old story about a marketing executive who was asked about his spending. The punch line of the story is that he declared that 50 cents of each dollar he spent on marketing was wasted, but that since it was impossible to tell which 50 cents, he had to keep spending the whole dollar. Similarly, the vast majority of people we encounter each day in our lives absolutely do not mean us any harm. For those of us who live average middle class lives, it might be only one person in a million. If that’s true, it means we could go through life blindly ignoring everyone around us, and 99.9999% of the time we’d be just fine.
But what happens when we hit that one in a million occurrence, that random predator who’s selected US as their victims? Do we simply sit back and allow ourselves to be victimized? Do we fight back – and equip ourselves with the skills, training, and tools to do so effectively? Or do we trust that we’ll have time in that moment to call 911 and that law enforcement will arrive before the bad guy can take whatever it is he wants from us?
I speak from firsthand experience when I say that even five minutes can be an eternity when you’re on the receiving end of predatory violence.
I tried to explain all of this to my friend, but I’m not sure how good of a job I did. This is something I really struggle with, explaining my mindset to people who don’t look at the world the way I do. How do you approach this topic with YOUR friends and family? I feel like this is a real struggle for me, so I welcome your thoughts and comments.