Fight Without Fighting
Periodically, I hear people saying that we can’t stick our heads in the sand if we’re to create a just and equitable society; that we have to fight to gain rights that are being denied us, or fight to keep the rights we do have from being taken away.
I both agree and disagree. I agree that sometimes we have to stand up to bullies to get them to back down. I agree that we cannot sit still if we want to live in a world where each of us feels valued and appreciated. If we want that world, we must act, and we can do so in a way that is aligned with our inner truths and our personal expressions of joy.
I disagree that “fighting” has to be something that provokes anger and hostility. Fighting doesn’t need to produce a winner and a loser. Fighting doesn’t need to leave people feeling resentful and wanting revenge. Fighting doesn’t need to take the form of boycotts, demonstrations, or telling people that they’re wrong.
It isn’t always necessary to pass laws to tell people that what they’re doing causes harm to other human beings, nor is it necessary to pass laws telling people that they must do something. I say that because every time we tell another human being “you have to…” or “you can’t…” we’re going to encounter resistance. Harmonious living comes naturally when we stop telling each other what we can or can’t do, or what we can or can’t have.
Having said that, it’s important to recognize that until each of us takes full responsibility for ourselves and we stop obsessing over what other people are doing, many laws can be beneficial; especially laws that create resistance in people who cling to fear and use dogma to justify their fear-based approach to life.
Laws that are initially perceived as unpopular can serve two purposes. First, they can raise awareness and create dialogue. It’s not uncommon for a dialogue to be heated, even ugly at first. But as people get tired of fighting with each other, their emotional exhaustion inspires them to look for solutions.
Second, the search for solutions can be facilitated by the very laws that are initially vilified. A society’s growth can be much more difficult if there isn’t some type of framework to help that transition. Shifts in societal attitudes can happen quickly, or they can take decades. But they do happen – especially if there is a framework in place that reminds us of the society we want to create.
Look at how we now view drunk driving. There was a time not long ago that people didn’t think twice about having a few drinks and getting behind the wheel of a car. Now, even people who are so drunk they can’t stand still have enough presence of mind to order a cab or an Uber. Why? Because laws that were once seen as ridiculous, overreaching, and creating a “nanny state” opened our eyes to the harm we were doing to each other.
So yes, there are times when we need to be brave and do things that stimulate difficult conversations, but the conversation has to start if each of us wants to be recognized, valued, and appreciated.
Here’s another thought to chew on: The real fight isn’t with other people who disagree with us. Nor is it a fight. No, the real “fight” (if you want to call it that) is with our inner dialogue. Shifting the conversations we have with ourselves can be the most challenging thing we ever do. Our biggest challenge isn’t the campaign to stop discrimination, nor is it the struggle for equal protection for everyone under the law, nor is the movement to get the government out of our lives, nor is it the fight for basic freedoms, nor is it the fight for world peace.
Our biggest challenge is with ourselves.
As the title of this post says, we can fight without fighting. We can improve our lives without creating pain or suffering for ourselves. We’re always going to face challenges; that’s a normal part of our human experience.
Suffering however, is optional. How is it optional? Suffering comes when we look outside of ourselves for satisfaction or joy. Suffering comes when we obsess over what other people are doing and then insist they need to be different or act differently in order for us to feel better. Suffering comes when we blame everyone else for our feelings of misery, but we fail to take a look at the stories we tell ourselves.
Mind you, I’m not talking about physical suffering. I’m talking about the emotional type. Emotional suffering is always self-inflicted, and as the saying goes, “Misery likes company.” When we suffer, our human side wants others to suffer with us because one of the most emotionally distressing experiences we can have is suffering alone. We consequently look for others to share our distress, and we do so by playing on their fears. Then, when other people are as miserable as we are, we somehow feel better.
I cannot stress this point enough: Those good feelings are as temporary as they are illusory.
But that’s a conversation for another day.
For now, I will conclude by asking this simple question: Do you want to fight the good fight, and in the process change the world?
Then start with yourself. Take a close look at your inner dialogue. A profound change can be as simple as using a different word in a sentence (“I don’t eat meat” rather than “I can’t eat meat”). And then, when you’re ready, shift your conversation from “I don’t do that” to “I do this.”
And while you’re at it, stop obsessing about what other people are doing. Obsess instead about what you are doing. Obsess about living your best life right now, and in the process discover everything you’ve been missing.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.