“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
Power is something I have been considering for a long time. What exactly is it? What are your obligations to use your power for, assuming you find yourself in possession of some power? How many types of power are there?
I want to tell a story from when I was in college to demonstrate a misuse of power in from my past and what I learned from that.
Let’s introduce the characters. Myself. John Bro and A.O.B. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty, or innocent as it might be, except for myself).
John Bro was a mutual friend of A.O.B. and myself. I didn’t care much for A.O.B. I considered myself pretty religious at the time (I had a lot to learn), but still, I was put off by much of A.O.B’s general derogatory comments towards women. He was also much too obsessed with this appearance and tough guy demeanor. So admittedly I wasn’t coming into this with a very good attitude, but I was overall cordial to A.O.B.
Now he was hanging around our house (John and I lived together) pretty regularly, which was fine. But what was not fine was that A.O.B. had decided that I was a good person to antagonize. Being generally averse to confrontation, I generally shook off his personal attacks. He would “talk smack” at me rather often. He’d also make these ridiculous jab motions towards me like he was going to punch me. You get pretty tired of flinching because you think you’re going to be punched relatively often.
Finally one night I had had it. After yet another fake punch and some more harsh than usual smack talk I decided to end it that night. I challenged A.O.B. to a fight. Now I was a pretty decent wrestler in high school and I’m also 6’1”and relatively muscular. A.O.B. was probably 5’8”, a little pudgy but was also on the college wrestling team (for a short time) and had been an (amateur) boxer. He had also grown up in a tough neighborhood, from what I understand, or at least that’s what he said.
The fight was quite uneventful except for my first (and last) attempt at some smack talk “Do what you do!” I shouted at him as we were scuffling. Not my most enlightened sentence, then again, I obviously wasn’t doing much clear thinking as I was in the middle of a fight that I had (more or less) initiated.
The fight was over rather quickly. As is oft to happen when a wrestler fights a boxer, we were on the ground in less than a minute, I had secured a rear-naked choke hold and he had tapped on my arm signaling he was giving up and I immediately set him go. I walked in the house smugly, sure I had seen the last of our problems.
Two seconds later I was made aware how wrong I was by a fist hitting me in the back of the head. Turns out people who walk around insulting others and generally being antagonistic are pretty poor losers. A.O.B. had punched me in the back of the head, after I had won! What the heck?!?!? At this point our mutual friend John Bro threw A.O.B. out of the house. He didn’t come back for a long time. Seems like overall that was a win for me right? Well that night I spent most of the night wondering what other retaliatory action A.O.B. would take against me. Would he destroy my car? I was (and am still) a pretty huge car guy. Would he get his gang members and come beat me up? He was allegedly in a gang. Luckily no more retaliatory actions were ever taken and I also never really had to see A.O.B. again.
So what were the outcomes of that fight? Well my main goal on not having A.O.B. around demeaning me verbally or making fake jabs at me was fulfilled. This is definitely not a guaranteed outcome in situations like this. It’s just as likely that he could have beat the hell out of me and as was shown by his post fight antics, he likely would not have stopped if he had gotten me in a compromising situation like I had him. I had put my personal safety in peril. That was dumb.So while the outcome was arguably good in this situation it could have turned bad.
One outcome was I was physically exhausted and had received a punch in the back of the head and a cut from the fight. Definitely not a preferred outcome.
Another outcome as I mentioned was that I was nervous for months that A.O.B. would be after me or my property. This was an unintended outcome and one I had not considered before the fight. Also a bad outcome.
It is a pretty safe bet that A.O.B. did not learn anything from that fight. I didn’t show him the quote that I shared at the beginning of this article, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Instead, I reinforced that the strong take and do what they want and the weak suffer. That was not that lesson that I meant to teach him. This was a third undesirable outcomes.
So for a total of 1 arguably good outcome (that could have ended a much different way) and 3 bad outcomes, lets consider other ways that I could have handled that situation.
One way would have been avoidance. I simply could have made myself scarce whenever A.O.B. came around. This is generally a cowardly way to live and not necessarily a very reasonable one.
I could have approached A.O.B. myself with reason and conversation. I could have tried to share with him why I getting pretty fed up with his act. This would have saved me from being in a life threatening situation in the first place, a lot of paranoia afterwards, a punch to the head and it would have taught A.O.B. that there are better ways to solve a problem than fighting. 4 for 4 good outcomes again.
The best way would have been to get John Bro, our mutual friend, as an ally on my side. I think I could have convinced him that via his mediation he could create a calm that would make the time we spent together more cohesive. Bringing a mediator in between 2 disagreeable parties, preferably a fair mediator trusted by both parties is always a great way to solve conflict. I could have shared the same things but with an ally that A.O.B. trusted instead of just by myself. There is power in numbers.
So now you know a story from my life. I was in a fight. I learned that there are better ways to solve problems than fighting. If that simple message could get out to the world at large, I think we’d be on a pretty good track.
Perhaps. But some people just need a swift kick in the ass. Your confrontation could also have had a better outcome if you’d used the opportunity it outcome victory to grind it into his brain that be needed to get wise real quick or get his ass beat again. Some people just learn the hard way.
Yes. I could have beat him to a pulp. But do you REALLY think he’d have understood that? I think it’s likely that he would have not, but would have been more angry. Perhaps I showed him compassion in stopping when he asked. Perhaps that did still show him something about my character, even though I had engaged in the fight in the first place, I didn’t let that define me. I still choose to show compassion when it was warranted.