I’ve heard it said that ego has put a lot of men in early graves, and in prison cells. Ego in the worst sense of the word, has to do with our illicit desire for honors. In the first place it is a desire to posture as if ready to fight over insults, minor offenses, or slights – perceived injustices. Our sensitive ego needs reassured and comforted that we’re not a coward. We desire to feel courageous. The emotion of fear looms large, and we’re tempted to posture. We’re often content with a cheap display of posturing, to feed those insecurities. The ego demands to be fed: Whats the problem? Are you scared of this guy? Are you a coward? I thought you were a man. Why aren’t you out there dealing with this guy? Who does he think he is? He doesn’t know you. He doesn’t know what you’re capable of! Get out there and look as big and menacing as possible! Most people don’t really want to go to war over insults. They might want to appear as if ready to go to war. But most people don’t really want the pain, injury, and potential death that may be a part of that ordeal. So they seek to posture, just enough, to quiet down the ego. Secondly, the spirit of the world has given us the lie that the right thing to do is to seek revenge, or vengeance. That – is – a – lie. Increasingly we see folks clamoring for justice, though if the decisions of the states attorney or courts are not to their liking, then it’s not justice. Vengeance is increasingly confused with justice. God has made clear vengeance is His, and His alone. We ought not seek that. In this post I’ll explore the bad side of ego, pride, and arrogance as it relates to legitimate defense.
We fear many things. That’s the reason we have arguments in our families. We fear losing control. We know we’re responsible to protect, provide, and lead, and yet we get push back. Leading is often hard work and many don’t desire to be led. Our people don’t understand why they shouldn’t do this, that, or the other thing and we fail at calmly and effectively communicating the why and how. We argue and raise our voice. We lose patience because things are not going well, and we use sarcasm. We fail to remain calm, and we fail to lead. Early on when we’re spun up emotionally, we don’t feel like apologizing, as that requires us to take a low position. This is one small arena where we can begin dominating our emotions and growing in strength. Ask yourself as you begin to get angry or impatient – What is it I yet fear? Socially and professionally we often fear losing wealth, power, pleasures, or honors (St. Thomas Aquinas). With insults, minor offenses, and slights, honor is what we fear losing. Respect is another word for honor. We fear losing respect. We fear humiliations. Yet humiliation is an exercise of the virtue of humility. It is with great effort and pain we gain strength at the lowly aspect of humility. To grow in the truth aspect of humility is less painful. We fear a vulnerability to humiliations. Ask yourself; What is it – I’m afraid of?
The solution is one – move towards those fears that we know we ought to conquer, and then sit down in the low seats. Ought being the qualifying term. We have to be willing to be vulnerable. Failures are opportunities to learn. We want to believe when the time comes for great calculated risks, we’ll move towards the sound of the guns. Will we? With a brotherhood holding us accountable we will. On our own? How disciplined are you? What kind of habits have you been forming? An analogy: Few men lay down on a bench press loaded with a four hundred pound barbell, and competently move that weight. We begin with the bar. Begin – with – the – bar.
Don’t egg things on
As stated in the previous post, ego has much to do with the emotions. Ego is easily recognized in the emotion of anger. Fear lies at the root of anger. We get angry and we’re tempted to exaggerate insults, minor offenses, or slights into perceived injustices. If someone offends our own personal sense of justice then our ego might begin demanding that guy needs to learn a lesson. He just flipped me off after endangering me and mine. I have to teach him a lesson! Do you? Is it your job to teach lessons? Is that part of your mission in life. No. That jerk is not your subordinate, nor his he your child. If he was your subordinate then you’d document the incident, and discipline him. If he was your child you’d provide age appropriate discipline. But disciplining a stranger? That’s not a moral, legal, civil, or social thing.
The Word of God teaches exactly the opposite. As it relates to insults, offenses, or slights, we’re to turn the other cheek. In antiquity, men of old, we’re not as sensitive today as our current generation. A slap in the face was a mere insult. A slap was not a call to go to war. Now-a-days if someone looks at another person wrong, its often time to go to war. That is the wrong way! If someone gestures to you in a road rage incident do nothing to provoke, encourage, or facilitate mutual combat. Don’t speed up, don’t begin braking or slowing down, and don’t offer to pull off to the side of Route 66. If you do nothing to escalate things guess what will happen 99.9% of the time? He’ll move on. For the .1% of the time a crazy guy develops a fixation on you and yours, you’ll be able to honestly report (via your attorney) you did nothing to instigate, aggravate, or otherwise participate in any kind of mutual combat. You will have retained your innocence by trying to avoid the problem. That means any potential witnesses, video, or any other evidence will support your claim of lawful self-defense. You’ll sleep just fine if you have to defend yourself against such a man. If instead you decide he must be taught a lesson, then you’re indulging in mutual combat, and perhaps even becoming the unjust aggressor as he tries to get away from you. You’re going to lose the legal battle, and you’re going to go to prison. You’re strategy is terrible. You’re adopting a losers strategy.
Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord
Then there’s the vengeance thing. Occasionally we read about a burglary or perhaps home invasion victim who chases the criminal out into the street and starts shooting as the bad guy runs away. Sometimes that bad guy is shot or killed. Guess who’s getting charged? Of course discretion is involved with elected states attorney’s, but citizens who go after the burglar and start shooting out of what looks a lot like vengeance, are going to find themselves on a legal battlefield. Knowing where the lines are is a matter of freedom or incarceration. It can’t be: Oh you think you can steal from me?!? Revenge or vengeance is God’s alone. Don’t touch it. That is a hard line. Where do ideas like ‘teaching lessons‘ or ‘Oh, you think you can steal from me‘ come from? How many television programs and movies have we watched in our lives which show the so called ‘hero,’ killing all of his enemies, their friends, and everyone associated with them? Our generation has suffered a steady diet of vengeance via bad media influences during our upbringing. Music videos, immoral video games, etcetera. What are we feeding our intellects? Are we having any conversations with our children about what’s moral and what’s not moral in what we’re viewing? Why are we surprised when we feed our intellects garbage, that we experience garbage in, garbage out? How is that a mystery? It’s not – a mystery. It’s common sense.
To compound the above listed problem we have stopped talking about virtues! We have even stopped talking about values. There is a radical distinction between virtues and values. Values are subject to change like the passing opinions of man. Values could be viewed like a river bank. A river bank can suffer erosion and it can overflow it’s banks. Over enough time that bank line can change significantly. Virtues on the other hand are like the bedrock in a riverbed. Virtues don’t change. I think it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who first gave this analogy using doctrine and discipline.
Do you hear a lot of leaders talking about virtues? No. We’ve come through the enlightenment right? What a sick joke to call it that. It is a great darkening of the intellect of man. A great darkening and turning away from God, Who truly enlightens our minds and gives man common sense for the common good. What do men who sit in leadership seats today talk about now that we’ve forsaken virtues, and even set aside the weaker standards of values? Buzzwords. We are so weak kneed, and spineless in our current generations, we’re down to buzzwords.
Bear with me, I’m about to digress. So we hear many so called leaders today using buzzwords. The word nice is a kind of buzzword. Not as clear cut as something like accountability or transparency. But we’re told; “We must be nice.” Must we? To understand things we often have to go back. Do an internet search for the word “nice” and “etymology.” At www.etymonline.com/word/nice I found this definition: “foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless,” from Old French nice “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,” from Latin…” Anyone think being nice is still a good idea? The word nice is not found in the Word of God. Do a digital search – no results found. If you’re a Catholic do a digital search of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the word nice – “No documents match the query.” Weird. Yet, if it’s so important to be nice don’t you think there would be some mention of it in the Word of God? Today the word nice according to Merriam Websters dictionary has multiple different definitions, some of which are also negative in nature but this one jumped out at me: pleasant and satisfying: complaisant, affable, agreeable, considerate. Should we just pick whatever definition of nice we prefer? What do you mean by we should be nice? Define the term. Be clear and take a stand on what it is you believe.
Nice has no “love” for the other person. I got to write that again, it is very important. There is no “love,” in being nice. Nice is unwilling to risk anything for anyone. Being nice – is cowardly. Spiritual or moral cowardice is a very bad thing. How bad it is?
Revelations 21: 8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
Cowardly is listed first among all these bad things. Morally. On the moral battlefield.
Being nice is about looking out for number #1. Being nice is about compromise. Compromise is one way the spirit of world gives peace. The spirit of the world gives peace through compromise and unjust pressures, unjust threats, and unjust force. If we cared about virtues we’d be inclined to study words like Charity. Charity is love. What’s love? A great place to start is:
1 Corinthians chapter 13: 4 “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
The correct word all of us should substitute for nice is “kind.” Why? Kindness has to do with “concern for” the other. That – is – love. To be kind means one’s willing to risk for the other – mostly to tell them the truth when they ask for it. To be kind is to care about one’s people. Kindness is courageous. Kindness is love. In the world of legitimate defense it’s one of my twelve principles – loud rebuke. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do as we strive to avoid a violent confrontation is to loudly rebuke the other person. That’s for another blog post. Is anyone teaching these truths today. Instead we’re told to be “nice.” Meaning, don’t upset anyone. Don’t put me in a position where I have to risk losing power, honor, wealth, or pleasures. Be nice! Just be agreeable with everyone. Just compromise with whatever nonsense is holding sway. Be affable, be pleasant, and satisfying. If you go that way realize you’re acting and directing your people to be ignorant, careless, weak, and stupid! That’s being “nice.” I’m sure being “nice” pays off in terms of wealth, power, pleasures, and honors. But I’m also sure being “nice” lays waste to the common the good. Should we be tactfully kind? Yes. Should we be respectfully, and patiently kind? Yes. Where are you leading your people? If you’re focused on being nice and compromising with evil, you’re leading your people the wrong way my brothers and sisters!
Truth is not the same thing as insults, minor offenses, or slights. The Truth is worth dying for. Prudence is certainly involved in who, when, and how we preach to folks. I’m not going out and preaching on the streets to folks who are not well disposed. How do I know when it’s time to tell someone the truth? They’ll ask for it. They’ll ask us what it is we believe. Or they ask for some advice. Or they’ll come to this website and willingly read what I’m writing. The conversation will just find it’s way to – that – place. As a Catholic I’m not ‘insisting on my own way.’ That’s part of love as defined in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
I am not advocating approaching folks on the street and correcting them for their use of profanities. I’m not advocating correcting them for parking in a handicapped spots. Now if some unjust criminal aggressor crosses the line and begins threatening or attempting great bodily harm and/or death to innocents that – is a radically different scenario. If your conscience bothers you because someone is illegally parking in a handicapped spot, call the non-emergency police number and let the professionals handle it. That’s their job. Is that instance of illegal parking worth you going to prison for? Is that worth dying for? Can I, should I? Can I confront him? Yes. Should I confront him? No. What’s the probability he’s going to have a deep sense of remorse over illegally parking in a handicapped spot, and thank you for your fraternal correction? Wake up! The probability is near zero. Gratitude and entitlement are at war! There are legion who feel entitled. Is it worth compromising your mission as husband and father? No, of course not! Fulfill your mission!
Politicians are not going to clearly talk about the good and right limits to any buzzwords. Start defining words and you’re going to start losing votes. Ambiguity is a politicians friend. Weak – kneed – and spineless wordsmiths. I’m done digressing.
Egos are insatiable
Imagine the ego like a pit bull puppy. Start feeding that puppy and it’s never going be satisfied. Every single time it feels threatened it’s going to demand to be fed. It’s going to demand, to be reassured. I brought up virtue because I understand the only way we can make something stronger is by exercising it. If we want bigger shoulders, we have to exercise them. If we want to stop some vice then we look at the corresponding virtue, and we begin exercising that virtue. The temptations to the vices are also opportunities, to exercise the virtue. So it is with the insecure ego.
Why should we discipline our egos? Why should we deny our ego the reassurance it seeks? First of all, most of the time we feed the ego we’re simply posturing. As the world grows darker we’re going to be forced to back up that posturing and get bloody, get dead, or go to prison. Over what? Some guy following too closely? Dying for what? Some guy cutting me off in traffic? Going to prison for what, because neck tattoo accidentally bumped me coming out the doors at the grocery store? Because this, that, or the other guy stole my parking spot? Because he parked in a handicapped spot? What are willing we to go to war for? How far are you willing to go to back your posturing up? Are you willing to die for an insult, a minor offense, or some slight? Are you that insecure? Are you willing to kill for the same? The answer should be – no. The bad guy always gets to make a choice. Free will, right? If he chooses to drag us to war over some nonsense, then I’m going to enter that war at a moment he doesn’t expect and I’m going to do my best to use surprise, speed, and violence of action, to achieve and maintain relative superiority until he chooses to stop, or he is stopped. That might be with something like pepper spray, or if the threat is of great bodily harm or death a firearm. He chooses, I confirm his decision, and the consequences play out. That’s on him.
We ought not let our egos out unless this violent confrontation cannot not be avoided. Insults, minor offenses, and slights can generally all be avoided. Generally being the qualifying term. I live in place with a lot of blue collar folks who race from stop light to stop light. I can tell you from experience that if you don’t begin playing acceleration and braking games with them, 99.9% of the time they move on.
Recovering Lost Innocence
Now we’re not perfect and in a moment of weakness, we might mess up and and let the puppy out to play, as it were. Then what? Is there any recourse for us if that happens. Yes. This ain’t legal advise, and I’m not an attorney. Illinois case law includes discussion on how to recover lost innocence. Illinois statutes also deals with this question in 720 ILCS 5/7-4 Use of force by aggressor. In part it states:
“such force is so great that he reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and that he has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or in good faith, he withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.”
If it were my job as the prosecutor to poke holes in your story I’d study what happened and simply attack your claims that you exhausted every reasonable means to escape, by pointing out some reasonable means of escape that you didn’t choose and let you or your attorney try to explain why that wasn’t possible. I’d attack whether you ever actually indicated clearly your desire to withdraw from physical contact and terminate the use of force. I would use circumstances to my advantage to show this wasn’t the case. To show you were not actually afraid as you stated, based upon subjective reasonableness in what you did or failed to do, that goes against the claims you made.
That’s Illinois statutory language – whatever state you live in, it’s your responsibility to look it up, and figure it out. Go talk to an attorney if you need to. Go take some professional training where you have the opportunity to ask questions and clarify whether what you believe is right thinking or not.
I’m going to suggest we give much thought to Saint Thomas Aquinas when he said: “An error in the beginning is an error indeed.” It’s easier to compound mistakes made in the beginning than it is to try to fix them after the fact. Better to not let the puppy out to play, as it pertains to insults, minor offenses, or slights. Why would it be easier to do it right from the beginning? Once you’re in the fog of war, as it were, you might be too busy fighting, and too spun up emotionally to to think clearly enough to remember what to say. Getting punched in the face makes it more difficult to recall: “I would very much like to withdraw from physical contact and terminate the use of force.” Now I’m being a little bit sarcastic here, but you get the point.
In the day and the age we live in, it is all the more important, to avoid escalating these minor offenses, insults, and slights by responding in kind. It’s not a contest to see who can be the most arrogant. Be humble, and fulfill your mission.
If you’re a husband or a father, your life is not your own. I probably should write that again as you might not have heard that before. If you’re a husband or a father, your life is not your own. You have life long responsibilities. You’re mission is to protect, provide, and lead your family. You have a responsibility not to waste your life for some insult, minor offense, or slight. You have to grow up. You cannot act like a child any longer. It is a responsibility to make prudent choices for your wife and your children. How are you going to protect, provide, and lead them, if you’re killed or in prison for going to war over an insult, minor offense, or a slight? It is selfishness to the extreme to reject your mission, and to feed your insecure sensitive ego. Secondly, when you walk out, puff up, and posture, realize you’ve just lost your lawful ability to claim self-defense. That’s the prison part. Self defense is a legal term. It doesn’t matter how you feel about these things. It is what it is. Square off to reassure your insecure sensitive ego and if that leads to violence you’ve just initiated or participated in mutual combat. Mutual combat means you lose “innocence.” Proving your not innocent is one of the ways an elected states attorney in your jurisdiction will send you to prison. Lastly, if you consistently operate based upon your emotions you’re going to be more inclined to panic and / or quit. It makes you weaker in the long run. You weaken yourself mentally if you constantly indulge your emotions. Do you desire to be weaker? When the chips are down if you’ve always taken the easy road what makes you think you’re suddenly going to be imbued with strength of mind? When you begin losing hope – you’re going to desire to listen to that voice that says; It’s over. There is nothing more you can do, so just quit. Just let it go. Don’t fight it. Just die already! If you’re not accustomed to denying yourself, how do you imagine you’ll have the power to do anything other than indulge yourself that one last time? You’ll do what you’ve always done. Begin now in little ways building strength by controlling and denying your emotions as they relate to fear, anger, impatience, etcetera. It’s like building a foundation. When that moment in life comes where you have to make a decision to either fight, or lay there dying the death for all eternity I want you to be able to spit in the eye of the voice that says: It’s over. Just quit. Don’t resist. I want you to fight with a great propensity for violence so that you might win.
Even if it seems a sure thing that you can’t win – you still have a choice to make. Quit and die – or go out swinging and perhaps still stop the unjust aggressor. I have to clarify this a little farther. I’m not drawing on a drawn gun at point blank range, unless I believe he is going to murder an innocent, me, or mine. I’ll create or watch for a window of opportunity, what’s called a combat sweet spot. If all he wants is my money – I’m handing it over. I’ll be a good witness. If he makes clear to me he’s going to kill me or mine, that is what I’m talking about when I say even if it seems a sure thing that you can’t win – you still have a choice to make. In that type of scenario, by God’s grace, I have a desire to choose to go out swinging in the hopes of potentially stopping him. That is the sub one second draw – with a few other tactics thrown in.
No honor among thieves
When things get tough most people abandon one another and save themselves. No honor among thieves. Why is that? For the most part thieves have developed habits of saving themselves. Thieves have developed habits of looking our for number #1. It’s the two ways that are set before us. The way of good and the way of evil. The way of truth and the way of lies. The way of life and the way of death. The way of picking up you Cross and carrying it, or leaving laying in the dust so as to save yourself. If we “will,” to be different than the thieves (insert unjust aggressors, bad guys, villains, etc.), as it were, then we have to begin denying ourselves. We have to begin practicing habits of self-sacrificing love. Selfless acts need to be habitual. Practicing and building habits of risking suffering and losing things for our people. Easy to say – hard to do.
There is this great line near the end of the movie Gladiator. Commodus the villain, is talking smack to the man of war Maximus. Commodus is taunting him about unspeakable things done to his son and wife before they we’re murdered. Maximus humbles himself and exhibits restraint warning Commodus: “The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end, highness.” Indeed. The time for all of us honoring ourselves, will soon be at an end, as we’re all getting older and every man dies and faces his judgment. What a humble, kind way of warning Commodus he’s going the wrong way. An awesome movie of a man of great character, humility, and a propensity for violence. Maximus exercised humility, and meekness – a controlled strength. Spoiler alert; Commodus couldn’t defeat Maximus even when Maximus was mortally wounded and dying. Maximus had control and domination over his emotions. Over his fears, his anger. Fading in and out somewhere between this life and the next, Maximus fought until his enemy lay at his feet, and time gave way to eternity. A movie? Yes. Just a movie. But it points to a reality. There is no more dangerous warrior than a man who can dominate his own fears, his own anger. Go read true accounts of posthumous medal of honor recipients, and you will see it points to a reality.
Sometimes unjust aggressors do choose to burn it in. Sometimes they’re willing to die. But in the end it’s almost always a selfish decision. It’s never a selfless – self sacrificing kind of decision. Sometimes the unjust aggressors don’t tell on each other or they’re willing to exchange their life for some perceived return on their investment. Sometimes it’s a fear of what will be done to them by others if they tell and sometimes it’s a fear of going back or to prison. Men who habitually choose vices and selfishness almost never turn around. Almost being the qualifying term, as by grace some do turn around. So we pray. The right road is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life (Matthew 7: 14), few willingly choose it. It involves a Cross laying in the dust, that needs to be lifted up and carried. The wrong road is wide and easy and many there are, who choose that road. That is in the bible. Believe it.
As for you, begin now in small ways dealing with your fear and anger. Why? If you find yourself in a life and death struggle you want to have built up the emotional strength necessary to have control over your fear and anger. You’re disposition will be such that when the temptation to quit begins stalking you – you’ll be empowered to spit in it’s eye. Start now my friends. Start now.
In conclusion, we ought to seek humility and meekness (controlled strength) as it pertains to insults, offenses, or slights. Vengeance is God’s business, not our business. Stay far away from vengeance. Humility includes a willingness to take the lowest seat. Humiliation is the exercise of the virtue humility. Lowest seats are awesome tactical seats. Why? An unjust aggressor is more inclined to underestimate a man who takes a lowly seat. That underestimation or over confidence on his part, is a great gift. He won’t see the strike coming. The word defend doesn’t mean to block. It means to strike. Check Merriam Websters and scroll down to the section on history and Etymology. There you will find; To strike. We don’t want unjust aggressors to see the strike coming. We don’t want to telegraph our defense as we don’t want them to have the opportunity to stop the defender from defending. There’s not much challenge or fun in spinning up with a humble guy. The arrogant guy is more apt to spin up against a like minded arrogant guy. The arrogant believe they have to take out their threats. If you’re not perceived as a threat… You get the idea. May God give us the graces to know and to do right things.