Photo source: http://www.midnighteast.com
I’ve told you that I’m a fighter. I also strive to avoid fights when I’m thinking clearly. The two contrasting directions in my personality can be confusing for me.
Have you ever seen the movie “Biloxi Blues,” the play by Neil Simon? In it, shy soldier Arnold Epstein says a line that always haunts me. He instructs the main character, “You have to take sides. Make a contribution to the fight. Any fight.”
Too often I’ve taken the safe path of avoiding the fight. I usually go a level higher to address the source of the fighting. When that doesn’t work, I often duck or wait it out.
But times have been coming that we haven’t seen in a while, when ugliness is getting so bad that to not take a side, to not fight, is to support the darkness. The time may come when I will have to decide to stand up against a room full of people who will hate what I have to say. The time may come to really fight.
I’m terrified of that, and always have been. I’ve been thinking: How do I do that? How do I fight against the ugliness with all my heart, stand up for something I believe in, and not get consumed by the darkness, not come to resemble the thing I hate.
To answer that, I considered how I teach my students to overcome their difficulties. I never throw the darkness of their inabilities in their face. That’s not the way we fight to improve.
Instead I tell them what I want them to be able to do. Then I tell them how it can be done. They are not fighting against their flaws, but for the mastery they want.
Perhaps then the smartest thing is not to fight against people, but for ideas. For one thing, when I fight against people, especially people who hate me, I just become a mirror version of them. Often, they are fighting, not for ideas, but against me.
When I fight for ideas such as acceptance, compassion and thoughtfulness, I may avoid the traps they’ve fallen into. Even better, what if some of my ideas actually coincide with some of their ideas? What if the end of the fight meant we both moved forward, instead of someone moving back (for now?)
Fighting for ideas doesn’t mean it’s an easier fight, or a nicer fight. It can be just as painful, voices are raised, noses are bloodied, and people still get knocked down. The difference is that every blow I strike is designed to get me closer to something, rather than simply to destroy the person opposite me.
The fights are coming. Whether big or small, I am coming closer to them every day. I just have to be sure my ideas are worth fighting for.
Want to fight me on this? Do you think it’s enough to be for ideas? Or do you prefer to be against the enemy?