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Fight From A Position Of Strength

Most times we all feel that we must stand up for what is right, even if standing up means creating an unwanted and often unpleasant conflict with others. No one likes conflict but righteousness–secular righteousness–must be defended; but what is righteousness? How are we assured that we are fighting for righteousness and not something else when we courageously stand up and challenge the opposition? How confident are we in justifying our position in the face of unwanted conflict? Where do we go to look for the answer?

Cliches like defending one’s honor or reputation have always been an iconic creed to our culture even if such a creed may have lost its punch in modern times. Since we cannot challenge each other in a duel anymore, then how do we do it nowadays? In the past such sentiment was easily expressed with an act of chivalry but today, acts of standing up for what is right are not expressed in such-not-subtle-ways anymore. In fact, in most human relationships, the idea of standing up for what is right is often confused with damage control or managing the situation.

Damage control is fighting from a position of weakness and not from strength. Whether it is among family members, friendship circles, or around coworkers, some people stand up for what is right not because it is the right thing to do but doing so serves them a selfish purpose. More often than not people who resort to damage control are protecting what is not-so-righteous. They are putting out fires that threaten their way of life or their way of being, which has nothing to do with standing up for what is right.

Without deciphering whether their interest is on the same side of righteousness, their goal becomes fighting the fires. If the seemingly threatening fires are out, then no harm is done, and, in their eyes, reputation and honor are protected. Putting out dangerous fires is an idea to which most of us subscribe, so when these people put out these dangerous fires, we have nothing but praise for them. We do not question their motive but regale in the result.

Since the result of their selfish act is the same as the one most of us would want to happen, these people go about unnoticed for how well they manipulated the situation for themselves and never get called out on how they did nothing for the protection and promotion of righteousness.

I am not suggesting that in the future we call out these people but only that we do not become them. These people are only fooling themselves for hogging heroism for a short-term gain, when in fact they are weakening themselves in the long-run. Reputation and honor are worth protecting, but only when we know why we are trying to protect them. One of my clients suggested that she is eager and willing to protect the reputation of her husband among her girlfriends because the man she married was honorable and worthy of her praise. In fact she was married to a no-good-of-a-man that was not worthy of being anybody’s husband.

After long dialogues and reflective moments, she and I came to the understanding that she was willing to stand up for her husband because of the reputation she might develop for marrying such a loser. This lady was not worried or concerned about the reputation and honor of her husband, in fact she knew very well he was not worthy of it. She was only worried of the stigma she might have gotten if her girlfriends were to find out her lack of judgment in men.

This lady was standing up for her man, and rightly so. Who among us would not appreciate such a courageous stand? Who among decent people would not label her act as one of standing up for what is right when she stands to defend her husband’s reputation and honor? This lady was standing up for what is right against her girlfriends even if it meant losing their friendship.

The unfortunate truth is that this lady would not be able to mask her husband’s foolishness forever, and she knows that, yet she was willing to continue with the charade of standing up for him in front of her friends even if it meant losing them if they chose to hold an adverse position. What she was really doing is hiding her true nature from her alleged friends, which, like her husband’s shortcoming, she would not be able to do so forever.

The glory of her early heroism will soon come to an end when her husband show his true colors; when she is outed for what she ain’t; and when the so-called friends she was fronting are publicizing her flaky reputation. This lady was defending her husband’s reputation and honor from a position of weakness. It may have served her well in the short term while her acts went unquestioned and unchallenged by the rest of us because standing up for one’s husband is the right thing to do. However, she was not doing it from a position of strength, and therefore she will pay for it.

Let us all try not to do what she did, even if doing so feels good temporarily. In similar situations, let us question our motives and challenge ourselves to stand up for what is right because it is the right to do. As much as we want the right outcome, let us not forget to question not just the result but the process with which we reach it.

About the author

Dr. Tseday is a clinical psychologist and one of the country's leading experts in marriage, relationships, and self development. She advocates a unique and at times controversial approach to the dynamics of marriage and personal development, the necessary element for a successful relationship. Read more »

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