Having to Walk Away from Situations of Conflict
I’m writing this post on a Saturday night,and I’m shook up. I’m prone to getting anxious about things quickly and easily, and while not everyone would spend so long thinking about the types of things that I’m going to talk about next, I do think that it’s worth talking about, especially on a blog that focuses on mental health.
My sister and I went grocery shopping today, and were driving back home around 6:00 in the evening. It gets dark here around 3 nowadays, in the midst of winter, so I was already a little worried but I wasn’t feeling too bad at all. I was about to take a right turn out of the parking lot onto the road, so I checked and made sure that no one was close behind me that I would risk hitting their car (as good drivers usually do), a few seconds after I turned, the person in the car that I think was behind me slammed down on their car horn, sped up, switched lanes, then switched back and cut me off. I knew that there was no way I could have screwed them over and that I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I honked back. The person then stopped their car in the middle of the road, got out and made a bunch of angry gestures at us and proceeded to flip us off before getting back in their car and drove off. No one in their right mind stops in the middle of the road just because someone honks at them, which makes me more certain that I probably hadn’t done anything wrong- who knows? Maybe the person was already stressed, and were already having a bad day. Maybe they were on something and shouldn’t have been on the road in the first place, and maybe I should have called the police.
The reason why I still feel shook up is because the potential risks to me and to her could have been far worse: what if she had a gun, or, what if I had a gun? Someone could have died simply because two strangers got mad and honked at each other. It wouldn’t matter at that point if it was my fault or her fault or someone else’s fault. We are all one decision away from a completely different situation, right?
A couple of months ago, something similar happened. I’d gone to a restaurant and ordered takeout. It was dark outside, but I wasn’t too worried since the place I had gone to was in a large shopping center, but I guess I shouldn’t have counted on just that to feel safe. Once I got out of the restaurant and started walking back to my car, the guy who had parked his car next to me got out with his daughter (who looked like she was 5 years old, mind you) and started walking towards the restaurant. All the while, I could feel him staring at me, looking me up and down. I got mad both because I felt unsafe, and because this guy was with his daughter– was that really the expectation he wanted to set up for her when she grew up and became a woman? I turned around, and I asked him “Why are you staring at me?” He replied “because you’re not cute!”. So I said “so stop staring at me!”. If this had happened in broad daylight, I probably would have let it go. But it was dark outside, and I was alone. When I shared this with some of my friends, a lot of them applauded me for standing up for myself, but my parents pointed out that things could have gotten far worse than him choosing to walk away. I was frustrated with them at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were completely right.
What I’m coming to here is this: when, and how, do you make the split second direction to walk away from a situation, especially when you know that the other person is wrong? Neither of these situations would have been worth my life or the life of the other person involved, yet in so many ways we live in a world that teaches us to never walk away from a fight, to bite back and to always stand up for yourselves. These sentiments sound so good, but they can get you in trouble if you aren’t careful. In the moment, how do we know if what we are fighting for is worth it?
It’s not always about putting yourself in danger, either. I always hear people snapping back at others, even if it’s for the smallest things. I hate hearing people fight, and I hate fighting with other people. In the end, it becomes a game of who can cause the other the most damage. It’s more annoying to think about because people always talk about the consequences of saying or doing something out of anger, but in the moment, we don’t think about why we are doing what we are doing- we just do it.
Looking back at what happened today on the road, or even what happened a few months ago with that man, or in any fight that I’ve had with a stranger or with someone familiar when I spoke up, I can say that I’m proud of myself for standing up for myself, and for what was right. But I can’t say that I always took a smart risk.
I’m not saying that it’s bad to speak up for yourself, and I’m not saying that sometimes you shouldn’t take a chance and stand up for yourself. Before you do it, think. In situations with strangers its obvious when you should and shouldn’t say or do something, but when fighting with the people we are close with, its so easy to get carried away because you count on the fact that they will still care about you when its over. But is yelling hurtful things at them worth it in the long run? What would happen if you didn’t say something? If you chose instead to role your eyes at what they might have said or done and just let it go? If you chose to walk away from a fight?
Sometimes, it’s not worth it to fight. Your life and your relationships are worth much more. Just something to think about. What do you think?
Sending you all my warmest thoughts,