Lately something has been on my mind that I would love to get some input on.
I think most men have had this experience at some point in their lives and responded differently. Someone gets in your face about something very trivial: A dispute over a chair in a bar, a perceived insult (unintentional) or someone just flat out picking a fight.
Now, for the question: What is the appropriate response to this? Growing up I was a very volatile teenager who would gladly give in to any jerk's desire for a physical confrontation. Not only did this get me into the hospital at times (can't win them all) but it ended up getting me into some trouble with the law.
These days I avoid physical conflict to the extreme. I don't care if I'm 'right', or if I can take the other guy. Frankly, I just don't see the point in getting physical with anyone to satisfy his need to prove his manliness, nor do I feel like I would prove myself right just because I can take someone down. In other words, might doesn't make right.
However, the lengths that I go through to steer away from a fight can raise a few eyebrows. While I don't care about what a complete stranger thinks about me, it can get annoying when my friends point out that I backed out of a situation where I was completely within my right. Explaining to them that I wouldn't feel any more of a man by putting my fist in someone's face feels like a cheap excuse. And by backing out I basically prove to the other man that it's perfectly fine to start shaking his fists the next time he doesn't get what he wants.
So in short, when does taking the high road become an act of cowardice?
That depends on you. Cowardice is about personal motivation. If you are in a situation where something needs to be done, and you don't do it out of fear that's one thing. If you are not afraid, but make a conscious decision to walk away for other reasons then maybe its not. Your friends can appeal to you and argue about whether it was a good logical decision to walk away or not, but its only cowardice when your fear overrules your other considerations.
At the end of the day, you know whether it was fear or not.
having trained martial arts for years and instructing LEO and military guys, hard for me to get worked up over some jerk in a bar
if I choose to walk away, or not have a fight, and that is what ends up happening= my choice
then I am in control of the situation
never a coward move
The cowards are the guys who you will see that do nothing. Their fear paralyzes them; they don't know what to say to diffuse a situation, and they certainly don't know how to defend themselves in an actual fight. What you are doing doesn't sound like an act of cowardice to me, it sounds like one of the marks of a gentleman.
As far as the other guy "shaking his fists the next time," it's not your job to prove that he's wrong. He'll learn eventually, maybe from a bouncer in a bar that knocks his lights out or from cops that pick him up for aggravated assault. Either way, he'll get his.
The cowards are the guys who you will see that do nothing. Their fear paralyzes them; they don't know what to say to diffuse a situation, and they certainly don't know how to defend themselves in an actual fight.
Cowards shrink from everything. They shrug off responsibility and turn the other way when they face challenges. You don't seem to be doing that. You're just resolving the conflicts in a nonviolent way. Of course, if you're being physically assaulted you can use force. But it seems to me that in the cases you describe you're not being a coward. You're just using an alternative form of conflict resolution.
Seems to me as though you've gone from one extreme to the next.
From the guy who would give in to any taunt to guy who completely avoids fighting.
What you need here Bram, is balance or the golden mean. I believe that the Article on Assertiveness may help
Incorrect usage of the term "golden mean'.
Personally I think he is doing fine. Up to the point where the other person throws a punch it is not cowardice to simply walk away from a potential fight. You can be assertive without resorting to violence and you can protect yourself without throwing a punch yourself. I will say the fastest way to end a fight once the first punch is thrown is to put the other guy on the ground as soon as possible; it also helps to keep others from being hurt as a by-product of the violence.
Whatever the issue is, you have to believe it is worth fighting for. If you fight for it, you run the risk of dying for it. To keep from dying for it you may yourself have to kill for it. How important is that chair? How hurtful that insult?
It's only cowardice when you fail to fight when it's genuinely needed; to protect yourself, your property, a friend, or a loved one from being hurt. A man has to consider the reprecussions of everything, and these days any sort of scuff could quickly turn into expensive litigation. Idiots can afford to pick needless fights because they have nothing to lose.
Generally, taking the high road is the complete opposite of cowardice. Having strength and courage to NOT give in to some whackjob who's trying to push your buttons is a sign of self-control and manliness.
The coward is afraid, not just of the aggressor, but even more afraid of the opinions of the others in the room. He is not motivated by "doing what is right" nor motivated by "protecting himself or his loved ones". He's motivated by protecting his ego, more often than not.
Giving in to the moment is ultimately giving away your self control. If you do not want to fight then don't fight. You will wind up more angry at your self then the idiot in the bar. Pick better company to keep.
Speaking of cowardly: Just a bad choice, a reflex, or cowardly?