Ending war is a lot like ending conflict with a spouse, which is very different than stopping a bully. In the typical bully situation, the victim needs to stand up to the bully to show he or she isn’t afraid and will do what it takes to stand his or her ground. What this means changes in the situation. If the bully is pushing you around a school playground, standing up likely requires something physical. If the bully is using cyber bullying, it becomes trickier because you can’t simply send angry messages and emojis of fists punching. If the bully is your boss… ew, that’s even trickier, especially since punching him or her is only an option in your mind unless jail is the job transfer you’re looking for. What I do know is that standing up for yourself is an important step in order to feel self worth and to avoid shame. Tattle telling just perpetuates the problem and leads you to being dependent on others to protect you and deep rooted insecurity… not the best option in my mind.
Ending a war and domestic squabbles is very different than ending bullying because in most cases who the bully is changes depending on your perspective. Even World War 2, which seems like a blatant bullying situation, had more going on. After losing World War 1 Germany was in chaos; they had a revolution that changed the government in 1918-1919, which was called… you guessed it, the German Revolution. They also hated the rest of Europe between typical wartime resentments and for the Treaty of Versailles, which devastated their economic development. If you asked a German in 1930 who their bully was they would say Europe. If you asked Westerners why they needed to fight Germany in WW2, many would say to stand up to the German bully. How can both sides be the bully? History books typically make Germany look like the bully, but that’s largely because we won. If Germany won, the history books would be retelling the story very differently. They’d say how Germany, the underdog, stood up to their bully and conquered. But war is not a bully situation. War is like a family feud or the typical marriage fight because both sides feel like a victim and are “standing up” for themselves; thus, war just continues. Terrorist attacks are very much the same. Why does a terrorist group attack? Because they feel loved and cared for? Because they hate equality? Because they want to be evil? No, they are “standing up” for themselves against the great enemy. However, when terrorists attack, everyone else feels like a victim and say that we need to respond by “standing up” for ourselves. Both sides are standing up for themselves, and you can’t stand up to a bully when the other person already thinks you’re the bully. You just look like more of a bully, which makes him or her want to hurt you more; thus perpetuating the problem.
If we want to end war, if we want to end domestic fights, we need to learn how to say, “I’m sorry.” We teach it to kids: “Say sorry to your brother for hitting him.” “Say sorry to your sister for embarrassing her in front of her friends.” But at some point as we become adults it’s like we say “Good, I’m an adult; I don’t have to apologize anymore; I hate doing that.” When’s the last time your partner said I’m sorry to you? When’s the last time you said I’m sorry to your partner? After WW1 and Germany was struggling, what would have happened if North America, France or Britain had said to them, “This Treaty is unfair, and we need to change it. We’re sorry for hurting you”? Of course, by the time Hitler was in power, an apology was no longer of any value; the resentment was too strong. This may have been the case with those involved in 911, but what would the world look like if George Bush said, “Clearly, we’ve made some mistakes as a country that have caused people to hate us; we need to make some changes; I’m sorry for what we’ve done to hurt you”? I’m not saying that he should have said this, but I can’t help but wonder how different things would look. I can’t help but wonder would the world respect the US more for showing self control or would they consider it weakness? This leads to an important question: Why is apologizing considered weak? Why is self restraint and not retaliating considered being a pansy? There is nothing harder than biting your tongue when you’re angry because there is nothing more satisfying in the moment than to lash out at someone who hurts us. Lashing out can also lead to further hurt as the other side “stands up” for themselves. I wonder if we don’t respect people who apologize because we don’t do it enough ourselves to know how hard it is.
To end a war or domestic fighting, you either have to crush your enemy so hard they can’t retaliate whether for fear or damage, or you have to go gentler and apologize. The best choice isn’t always clear, but the wrong choice can lead to a lot more hurt.
This week may you reconsider the wars in your own world, and whether you should try apologizing rather than attacking.
Chad David, www.ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people