By Jasbir T. Singh |
In elementary school during recess, Bobby (bully) pushes and punches Greg (good guy) repeatedly and doesn't stop. A teacher has already been informed about Bobby bullying Greg, but Bobby doesn't care. No adult is present when Bobby bullies Greg repeatedly.
What do you think Greg should do?
If you selected, a, then you have failed to help Greg address his situation. Greg will learn that he has to run when faced with adversity, and his self esteem will likely plummet. He is at risk of not learning how to stand up for himself and face adversity. You have also allowed Bobby to continue with his behaviour, knowing that he won't stop. Greg could be affected for the rest of his life. By answering, a, you have failed him.
If you selected, c, then you probably think that any form of violence is wrong because it implies an "eye for an eye". You may think that only non-violent means should be used in every situation in an effort to make peace. In the adult world of course we should refrain from retaliation. After all, the following teachings are great lessons for humanity:
To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Luke 6:29However, in Greg's situation, the non-violent approach is not appropriate. It will have failed to help Greg, the victim, and Bobby will continue to bully Greg. There would also be no sense of justice.
But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:39-41
Option, b, is the right answer. It is perfectly acceptable and legitimate for Greg to fight back in order to defend himself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2263-2265) has an excellent explanation of legitimate defense. It teaches that:
...If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful...In my opinion, not only is Greg justified in fighting back, he should be encouraged to do so. It will help to develop and shape his character for the better, possibly for the rest of his life. He should be taught that fighting is not the answer in most situations, and that it should be avoided when possible. However, if someone attacks you, you are perfectly in your right to defend yourself with as much force as is necessary (with moderation) to ward off the aggressor.
This reminds me of a time when I was five years old. The townhome we lived in at the time backed onto a public park with swings and play structures. I would often play there, and I was always within earshot of my mother, who I think could see me from the kitchen window. Back in the 70s parents were rarely seen in the park with their children.
I'll never forget Guy, who was probably my age. He had long hockey hair, always had his shirt off, and his body was usually covered with black grease stains. At least that's how I remember him. He was the tough guy, the king of the 5-year-olds in the park, and he was aggressive towards me, always acting as if he would hit me.
I was afraid of Guy, and he knew it. He would practically bully me out of the park whenever I was playing there. It got to the point where I refused to play at the park anymore because of Guy's threats.
One evening, my Dad asked me why I stopped going to the park. I told him that I was afraid of Guy, and that he would hurt me. I'll never forget how my Dad handled the situation...I'm forever grateful to him for it. He basically taught me how to stand up to Guy, and that I should continue to play at the park. He explained that if Guy ever approached me to punch or hit me, then I should be ready with my fists clenched. He taught me how to make a fist for the first time in my life.
He then went on to show me how to throw a sideways knuckle-punch landing right on the deltoid muscle. Of course my 12-year-old brother was there to help me practice.
The next day, I went to the park, and was confronted by Guy. Before I knew it I was trapped in a circle of boys surrounding us as they were shouting, fight! fight! fight! Of course there wasn't a parent in sight. When Guy approached me with his chest all huffed up and sticking out, I reacted out of fear and panic, and threw my knuckle punch. It landed perfectly on his left shoulder, and he went down, wincing in pain. I looked at my hands, and said, it worked! Guy ran off, and never bothered me again.
This was a defining moment in my life, and I remember it clearly almost forty years later. I know for certain that it helped to give me confidence as a boy, and probably helped to shape my character, giving me a good start in life. I learned right from wrong in those days, and about standing up for myself.
I never grew up to be a fighter, and I never had to resort to fighting since then. Nobody, except for my big brother, has had to face my side-way knuckle-punch, and even then, it was just during play fighting when trying to escape his headlocks.