“The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.” Napoleon Hill.
I had a nice discussion with a friend on Twitter last evening about how we deal with conflict. She said that she was a “pacifist” and did all that she could to avoid a confrontation at all times. Suddenly I felt the need to preach to her about the importance of standing up for herself. Then I wondered why I had done that.
I remembered that, as a very young child, maybe five or six years old, I found myself determined to avoid the fights that the other boys got involved in. I distinctly remember having a revelation on the playground one day. “I must be a pacifist,” I thought.
I don’t know where I had heard that term. It was the late sixties and the Vietnam War was raging on the evening news here in the States about every night. Clearly I had heard and understood what that term meant, at least in a basic way.
So why did I feel the need to “straighten out” my friend last night. Am I no longer the “pacifist” of my childhood?
What I remember about my thoughts and feelings as a child was not a philosophical position on the use of force. I remember being afraid of getting hurt. That fear made me a “pacifist.”
Later on in life that habit of letting fear and my natural shy nature dictate my reaction to conflict left me compromising my principals. I wasn’t really afraid anymore. Sometimes I really wanted to sock some of those guys good! But once you have created a persona, it is hard to break out of it.
As I grew up confrontation with bullies on the bus disappeared, of course. Yet I still seemed to work hard for compromise and conciliation in all circumstances. I think that this led some of those around me to lose respect for me. That can be dangerous when you are their boss. I guess that it became obvious to them that I saw no circumstance when standing up for oneself was appropriate.
Later in my life I began to have new revelations about myself and the purpose of my life. It was then that I realized how stupid my earlier behavior had been. For example, if I really wanted to avoid confrontation, I should have stood up to those who threatened me.
I still strongly believe in working hard to avoid conflict. I am a huge believe in win-‘win outcomes. I suspect that my years of practice in compromise and in what I like to call “composite” solutions to complex problems made such outcomes more likely than they otherwise might have been. I even considered becoming a professional arbitrator at one point, but I couldn’t stand the idea of constantly dealing with negative emotions.
My experience has taught me that if you show confidence and no fear, most conflict will be avoided. Whether kids or adults, bullies are, at heart, afraid and insecure. If you show no fear or interest in their shenanigans, they will look for easier prey. And if they don’t, you had better make them wish they did.
I know, talk like that is a far cry from my pacifist days. But I learned a great deal during my meek years. I knew that I should never go looking for trouble, but that if it came to me, and I did not stand up to it, it would rule over me forever. I now teach my children the same lesson, a lesson that would have shocked me as a child.
When we show fear to bullies, we surrender our lives and our freedom to them. We cannot rely on others to protect us. The nasty guys will just wait until you are alone and then terrorize you. You’ll never be able to rest.
Each of us must have the sense of confidence that only comes from knowing ourselves, our purpose, and our passion. With that confidence, we will put bullies and other simpletons to shame. When they see your sense of drive, purpose and direction, they will fear you. Not that you will hurt them, but that you are far more that they have ever dared to be. They are intimidated by your shine.
Gandhi was my kind of pacifist. He might not have used direct force, but he sure as heck never ran from the bullies, and he won! You will too.
Am I still a pacifist? Apparently not. What am I? Why, I’m a Passionate Warrior, of course!
All the best to you and yours,