What is the best case of “YOU JUST PICKED A FIGHT WITH THE WRONG PERSON” that you’ve witnessed?
I saw this question on Quora in early 2019. I wrote a response and it’s received a few upvotes. I’m sharing it here because I hope it helps others to hear the story and read the comments.Find the QUORA Question & Answer with comments here.
I’ve been teaching anger management classes for a decade. Many people in the classes are there because they’ve done something legally notable but have never offended before and show little to no likelihood of offending again. From these classes, I have so many stories to share, but one, in particular, stands out.
A 16-year-old tall slender boy showed up one day for class. He was polite, quiet, committed to paying attention and did a great job earning his certificate. He didn’t really want to share his story during introductions. He generally shared that he got in a fight at school.
Later in the day after a lot of vulnerability was demonstrated by many of the participants, the boy raised his hand and asked if he could talk. Of course, I gave him the floor.
He explained he had been bullied at school for as long as he could remember. He was beaten up often by the same groups and this lasted for years throughout elementary school and high school.
I’m assuming he had changed a lot as he grew because the boy in my class seemed gentle but not necessarily an “easy target.” Kids can be cruel, of course, but it’s often the case that bullies choose targets that wouldn’t stand a chance at defending themselves. In my mind, this boy was once an easy target, but no more! Even though he grew up, sprouted tall, somehow he kept the target image even though he was developing into a strapping young man.
One day in the cafeteria he was reading a book and a neighbouring table of boys started picking on him. He ignored them until it was no longer possible. Then he got up to walk away. They pursued him and were throwing pennies and trash at him. They called him worthless, and garbage, and other demeaning things.
At one point one of the bullies said something that the boy couldn’t ignore. At this point, the boy stopped walking away and turned to face the group of bullies. He walked towards them and asked who had said the one specific comment. Proudly and immediately one of the bullies claimed responsibility. Without another word, the boy punched the bully in the face. It was one shot but it shattered the bully’s jaw and knocked him out. The boy was suspended and mandated to take anger management classes.
To my knowledge, he had never been violent before or since. At that moment, however, it was as if he was standing up against all the years of abuse and all the bullies.
It wasn’t a “fight” per se, but I would definitely say that the bully “picked on” the wrong person at the wrong time. This one bully certainly wasn’t every bully in the boy’s past, but he most certainly received the boy’s wrath as if he was.
I can’t say what the boy did was right. But I understand what drove him to react the way he did. Insofar as he was defending himself, I’m glad he was done being a victim. Often the trouble with being passive in the face of threats is that you’ll explode at some point. And he did.
I’m big on confidentiality. So there are zero identifying details in this account. I do want to say to the boy (now a man) if he ever reads this…I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for not letting bullying keep you down forever. I’m proud of you for not making violence a part of your life beyond this exception. Mostly though, I’m proud of you for taking the consequences seriously, being open-minded and learning what you could about managing anger.
Toughness is such a silly facade. It’s unreliable. It’s posturing. It’s an arms race mostly built on bluffs. In that anger management class, you showed me that you were willing to be vulnerable. You weren’t weak. You weren’t ashamed. Nor were you vengeful or self righteous. You reflected and explored like a curious person with a lot to learn should. (I believe we should all be learning till the day we die but many aren’t open to it, especially in heated situations like this.) In the face of all you had experienced, your vulnerability and thoughtfulness in that class showed me you are stronger than any punch any person ever threw.
I would love to connect again and see how you’ve continued to grow. Honestly, at this moment I don’t even remember your name. Maybe you remember mine…
Even though everyone loves an underdog story I want to say a few things here. Whether it’s a street fight, a parking lot brawl, or something less stereotypical, it’s not worth being the bringer of justice. There will be people who seem to always be causing trouble. Even if you’re solid muscle, built like a brick wall, one day you will mess with the wrong guy. This guy in this story was luck. The stakes are high and you never know when a fist turns into a knife, or worse. Let the a**holes take care of each other. You know what I mean? A fight with the wrong person isn’t ever worth it. The idea of being the “righteous” boy in this story might be appealing. But you’d be surprised how often things turn south.
Fight the good fight, which is usually about not actually fighting at all.— Juliana Trichilo Cina