Wasted Energy; Unnecessary Risk
by Gila Hayes
A surprising number of questions, especially from non-members who aren’t sure whether the Network is their best choice, ask if we’ll pay an attorney to get them out of trouble after one hypothetical situation or another.
Our answer is always the same: The Network assists members after self defense through legal means. Since your hypothetical incident hasn’t happened yet, there aren’t enough facts to answer accurately. “Well, isn’t doing XYZ self defense?” their follow up inquires. Without knowing what led up to XYZ, there’s no way to answer that question.
Now, I have to admit that there is a small part of me–that unkind, impatient part to which I keep duct tape firmly affixed across the mouth–that wants to quip, “If you have to ask, it probably isn’t self defense!” and no, dear correspondent, you really aren’t defending yourself when you stomp up onto the neighbor’s porch cursing about her dog using your prize rose garden as a privy.
Unfortunately, the self defense argument often falls apart quite a while before the first blow is struck, the first violent threat made, or the first move toward a hidden weapon initiated. In an echo of the first question, it is not unusual for a phone or email question to give a brief sketch of use of force by “a buddy” who was subsequently convicted of assault. “That wasn’t right! If it happens to me, will you help?” comes the question.
Unfortunately most of those questions detail aggression when our “hero” 1) refused to give another driver a break in traffic and was swept up in road rage, 2) was “just picking up his stuff” at the ex’s house when (fill in the blank) happens, 3) strode across the street to tell the neighbor’s teenager to quit driving like an (insert vulgarity) and got pounded, 4) and, yep, that all-time favorite: went over and rebuked the neighbor about his obnoxious dog(s). Oh, boy, here we go again: willfully engaging in conflict over someone’s driving, someone’s pets, someone’s girlfriend or someone’s offspring.
Much like the old adage advising about the foolishness of trying to teach a pig to sing: the recipient of our correction is not receptive and our attempt to improve another person only creates a higher level of anger and resentment. Somehow, we convince ourselves that the target of our intervention “needs” to be schooled, when in truth, we are merely trying to make ourselves feel better by explaining our superiority to the poor fool.
Why are we so shocked by hostile responses when we take it upon ourselves to correct the bad behavior of others? Please think long and hard about the larger consequences of being the one who starts a confrontation, fails to withdraw when tempers heat up, or just has to get in the last word. Inciting a fight invalidates the claim that you were just defending yourself
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