It’s easy to lose credibility with people. It happened to me at a meeting I went to a few weeks ago.
The subject of violence came up and I expressed my view that violence is justified under some circumstances. Everyone else in the group was of the opposite opinion and, as soon as I said I would hit someone if there was no other way to defend myself, they tried to argue with me on philosophical grounds.
What if they are stronger than you, what if they are mentally disabled, what if it’s a child they asked. I said I’d hit them with a weapon if they were stronger and I don’t care if they are a child or disabled. If they give me no other option I will hit them. They argued my use of a weapon could result in them using a bigger weapon and tried to reason with me but I would not have it. If someone makes it impossible for me to walk away I am going to hit them as hard as I can with whatever it takes even if it means I have to kill them to stop them.
They gave up trying to reason with me but they also gave up listening to me. The subject was changed and, no matter what other subject came up, every opinion I expressed from then on was ignored or dismissed.
It seemed they thought if I have one opinion they disagree with that opinion makes all the rest of my opinions worthless.
I came home annoyed and convinced they were living in la-la land if they really thought there was no place for violence in real life.
I told myself they they would change their tune real fast if they ever spent an hour under attack and being terrorised by five people trying to get into their house. I felt they were not qualified to HAVE an opinion on the matter until they knew what it feels like to be afraid for your life.
My post traumatic stress symptoms flared up again. The mere thought of not being able to fight if my life were threatened again triggered panic in me. Nobody is ever, ever, going to put me through that again I reassured myself. If I have to kill to put a stop to an attack on me then I will do so. I will not permit anyone to make me that frightened ever again.
It’s easy to have beliefs like pacifism when you have never been faced with a real test of your belief. If a lion pounced on them and they had to choose between being violent or being dinner I was pretty certain their pacifism would disappear in a heart beat. They wouldn’t choose to be dinner. I decided that, until they knew what it feels like to have human wild animals taking a bite out of them, they were not qualified to judge and their opinion was of no interest to me.
That should have been the end of the matter but I was abused as a child. Because of the abuse I grew up with twisted, false and harmful thoughts, beliefs, opinions and views. It took a long time to realise how twisted, how harmful and how deeply entrenched these things were and it took even longer to find ways to beat them and stop them from causing me harm.
Over the years I developed a habit of keeping one eye open at all times for these things and I found ways to test them for truth and accuracy before letting them influence me.
One of the things that alerts me to the possibility that my thoughts, beliefs and opinions might be wrong and harmful to me is when others do not agree with me. It only takes one person to trigger my alarm bell and here was a whole group disagreeing with me so strongly they decided I had no credibility of any kind on any subject because of that one opinion.
It took several days to calm the panic I felt every time I even thought about having to change my mind about my resolve to fight, with violence and to the death if necessary, anyone who attacks me again.
I ran the issue through all my usual self-checking channels and was not able to resolve it enough to shut off the alarm bell.
Here are the steps I take to check whether my thoughts, beliefs, opinions and views are harmful to me or not.
Step one – Check the source of the criticism.
Are they qualified to judge? Do they have some motive for wanting me to change my mind that is not in my best interests? How much faith can I have that their criticism is objective and not biased or self-serving?
These people are not a part of my life. They have absolutely nothing whatsoever to gain from persuading me to change my mind about this. I added a weight to the scales on their side as these facts increase the likelihood they are right and I am wrong.
Are they qualified to judge? Not in my opinion! Until I was attacked and spent a whole hour fearing for my life at the hands of what seemed to me like human wild animals I had been a pacifist myself. In my opinion they did not have as much knowledge of the issue as I did so they were less qualified than me to judge my position on the issue. I added a weight to the scales on my side of the issue.
The scales remained weighted in their favour, however, because there was more than one of them. It was entirely possible my experience actually made me LESS qualified to decide so I decided to check with society as a whole.
Step two – Check other sources.
I did a surface scan of the world wide web for social opinions on the matter of violence and came up against Gandi and his nemesis Nathurum. Gandi appears to be hailed as the final word in the world when it comes to arguing the case for never using violence. His nemesis, Nathurum, killed him because he believed Gandi’s influence was destructive and would ruin the country.
Nathurum stated, in defence of the murder, that:
“I don’t refute Gandhi’s theory of non-violence. He may be a saint but he is not a politician. His theory of non-violence denies self-defense and self-interest. The non-violence that defines the fight for survival as violence is a theory not of non-violence but of self-destruction.”
The words were like balm to my distress. Someone understood and had put my feelings into words. It was exactly how I felt! Non-violence that defines the fight for survival as violence is a theory of self-destruction not a theory of non-violence!
I added the quotation to my side of the scales but the source of the quotation left a LOT to be desired. Nathurum murdered a man who had not attacked him personally. The source of the quotation was a man who did something I could not condone and who used the quote to justify that act. This had to be added to the scales on the other side.
To make matters worse, the general opinion throughout the web seemed to be consistent with the people at the meeting. Nathurum’s opinion did not turn up anywhere else in my brief search for information.
I have no doubt, if I searched hard enough and looked deeply into all the articles I found, I could have unearthed more support for my perspective but that would have defeated the purpose of my search. I was looking to see what the general, most popular, view is not find obscure, unpopular, views that would allow me to cling to mine.
It’s not hard to cling to false beliefs but it is costly. I stopped being willing to pay the high costs of believing I am right, even when I am wrong, a long time ago.
The scales remained weighted against me. There was only one place left to turn. God. If God said I was right that would outweigh all the rest and leave no cause to doubt myself.
Step Three – Check with God.
I turned to God. “Please tell me I don’t have to let anyone do that to me ever again” I pleaded but God was silent. When God is silent I know it means one of two things. He has given me the answer to my question in writing or I do not want to hear what he might say and I am blocking his voice.
I knew I did not want to hear God say I was not allowed to defend myself so I gave up on the hope of hearing him and that left only one place to turn. The bible.
I’m not much of a Christian in many ways. I never go to church and I almost never read the bible. I know God is unhappy with me about those things but He meets me where I am. He doesn’t walk away from me because I don’t do everything he would like me to do. When I first became a Christian I did read the bible. I also went to church, listened to sermons and did bible study courses. I remember a lot of what I learned then so I did a memory scan to see if the answer to my question could be found in what I already knew about what the bible says.
It didn’t help.
The pages of the Old Testament drip with violence and bloodshed! If there was no Jesus, no New Testament, the answer would be clear. The Old Testament was a whopping great lump of support for my side of the scale. The New Testament, on the other hand, was just as big a lump of support for the other side of the scale. No matter how hard I searched my memory there was no story of Jesus supporting violence under any circumstances.
I suppose I could have done a more thorough search of the bible and I may have unearthed some cryptic words I could have used to support my side but, again, I was not looking to manufacture truth I was looking to FIND it.
The closest Jesus came to violence was turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple. He had, in fact, forbidden his disciples to strike a single blow in defense of him. I knew, without doubt, Jesus would never have hit anyone no matter what they did.
I also knew God said the New Testament is the one we are to live by. Jesus came and put an end to the ways of the Old Testament.
I backed away from the issue. I understood. I am wrong. I am forbidden to use violence no matter what the provocation but I also knew I could not live that out. Not after what happened to me. I handed the matter over to God. I gave him permission to change me if that was his desire and I tried to forget about it all. It wasn’t THAT important after all. I am in no danger of being violent towards anyone any time in the foreseeable future so it’s all fairly irrelevant really. I accepted there was a discrepancy between how I feel and how God wants me to feel and I put it aside.
A couple of weeks later I had gone to bed and I was in that dozy state that precedes deep sleep where images and random things wander through your mind as you drift off. All of a sudden, out of the blue, a memory flashed into my mind as clearly as if I was reliving it.
Once again it was two days before the attack on me was due to happen. I was standing at the door of my house while two girls aged 14 and 17 asked me for permission to get a drink of water from my front tap. I saw, again, how the older girl kept looking down around my feet and tried to see past me into my house. This time I knew why she was doing that. I knew she was casing my house for the presence of a dog. I looked at the younger girl, just as I did that day, and I saw again the strange looks she was giving me. The way her eyes kept going from me to the older girl as if she was trying to say something about the older girl and I remember how I thought, at the time, she was trying to apologise for the rudeness the older girl was displaying.
As I watched the memory someone spoke, like a voice-over commentator, explaining the plot.
“She was trying to warn you. She didn’t hate you. She liked you and she was trying to warn you.”
I felt something, some psychic blister or boil, pop and begin to drain and tears flowed as I came fully awake. The commentator continued to speak.
“She remembers that night too. How you called to Me for help. How the other four threw everything they had at that door for more than half an hour. How their combined force was not able to knock you over. How they were forced to give up and go away. How the car was hard to drive because of the steering wheel lock. How the car blew two tyres before they got anywhere and they were forced to abandon it.
She believes you had help holding the door shut that night. She believes I helped you. She believes I blew the tyres to punish them and made your car fight them as hard as you did. She believes in ME because of that night. Her soul is about to be saved because of what happened to you that night.”
By this time I was sobbing hard and something poisonous deep inside me was draining out with every word.
I wanted to believe but I was afraid it was just wishful thinking.
“Is it true? Is it really true?” I sobbed to God. I felt him assure me it was true and it felt like my world, a world that went upside down that night and never fully righted itself, turned right way up again.
If this is true it makes all the difference to me. I know it may not be true. It could be me working through the trauma subconsciously but I don’t think so. I think it’s true and it makes everything all right. If a little girl’s soul is saved because of that night then it was all worth it – every bit of it!
I will let wild animals eat me alive if it will save a soul. I will not raise a hand to defend myself if doing so will cause a soul to go to hell. I no longer believe it will be necessary to fight to the death if someone attacks me again. I can’t say the same about my reaction if anyone attacks one of my children but nobody is perfect!
There have been a lot of healing steps on my journey out of post traumatic stress disorder and this has been one of them. Only time will tell if more healing needs to be done but I feel a lot less violent about the prospect of being attacked again than I did when I went to that meeting hehehe.