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Thursday, October 3, 2013

SO YOU WANNA BE A TOUGH GUY?

           Let’s face it guys (and some gals), we’ve ALL done it!  You walk into a room with other people you don’t know and immediately you start summing up how many guys you might actually be able to beat up in a fight if push came to shove.  It’s like a genetically engrained subconscious “where do I fit into the hierarchy” kind of thing.  Where do I fit into the pack?  Am I the Alpha male, the runt, or one of the medium level guys?

            Now some of us have actually lived in places or been in situations where this reaction might be a necessary survival skill.  Police officers, military personnel and some others may have to make snap decisions about life or death in order to stay alive, but most of us are just average guys living mundane lives whose biggest decision is to decide what shirt to put on when we get dressed in the morning.

            So what is it inside that makes us judgmental of where/how we rank compared to those around us?

            Now I’ll admit, when I was in my younger days and growing up through high school, this was much more of an issue than it is now that I have matured and discovered what it means to really be a man (but we will talk about that later on in this story).  Now, I’m not saying that I was a thug who used to go around looking for a fight or beating people up. On the contrary, I was a pretty mild mannered guy who tried to be amiable to other people around me (at least I hope I was).

            Nevertheless, I lifted weights, participated in athletics and even took several years of karate during my formative years.  I knew that I wasn’t the toughest guy around, but I was confident that I could handle myself if push actually did come to shove.  And I think that confidence actually helped keep me out of more trouble than it got me into.


            There were some guys who always seemed to have to publicly prove how tough they “thought” they were.  They were the loud mouthed, braggadocios who were always popping off and giving those they deemed as weaker a hard time.  The classic Bullies.

            I witnessed this backfire on several occasions though, which was actually quite hilarious!  I remember one particular thug who thought he was “all that and a bag of chips”, who teased a very quiet and reserved classmate in the locker room at P.E., a few moments later the bully was down and out with blood gushing out his nostrils on the dingy tile floor with a broken nose and eyes that resembled a raccoon for several weeks.

            Another time I witnessed 3 kids trying to pick a fight with another single boy who had supposedly offended one of their girlfriends.  The single guy, who was just an average high school teenager, dropped two of them onto the asphalt between the cars in the parking lot before they could finish accusing him, while the third stunned guy backed away in shame, not wanting anything to do with the flying fists of fury.

            I had multiple occasions where other guys came up to me looking for trouble.  Once, while changing after a high school football practice, a Senior teammate who felt he had to prove a point of his rank, approached me with some derogatory comments and got in my face expecting me to back down or cower away.  I was in good shape, was bigger than he was, and had 4 years of karate under my belt, but he didn’t know that.  Out of nowhere he was in my face taunting me with words I won’t repeat here in the public forum.  I didn’t flinch, but instead confidently turned to face him and said, “Are you absolutely sure you want to find out how UN-tough you really are?”
          He cowered a bit, dropped his eyes to the floor, then cracked a nervous smile and attempted to joke, “Ha, I was just kidding man,” then tucked his invisible tail between his legs and slunk away.

            Although I’m a pretty passive and relaxed guy, I have been in a few actual fights in my day, and I can tell you one thing.  It’s not like in the movies.  People fight dirty and things aren’t fair, and even if you clean some guys clock in self-defense, you are most likely going to come away with a few lumps, scrapes or even a broken hand from where you knocked a guy out by punching him in the forehead. (I was aiming for his nose, but he flinched and ducked… but that’s another story).

            Now that I have matured, I usually don’t walk into a place and size everyone up.  But for some reason I still like to be aware of my surroundings, sit in the table or booth at the restaurant where my back is against a wall and I can see everyone else in the place, etc…  I think this habit is more out of wanting to protect my wife or kids when out in public then it is about seeing where I rank on the toughness scale.

            Women are a different situation altogether.  Instead of thinking about fighting, they go into a room judging how their appearances rank next to everyone else.  I’ll save all the ladies in the world the trouble right now by saying that wherever my wife goes, she will ALWAYS be the best looking lady in the place, so you will just have to settle for sorting yourselves out below her!

            So I guess what I’m getting at is that although we like to try to rank ourselves compared to everyone else around us, thinking we are tough or in charge of the situation, is really all just an illusion.

            To illustrate this point, let me share a short story with you.  I was a young father, who was playing with my oldest son, who happened to be 3 years old at the time.  I was a fit 6’3”, 230 pound lean machine at that time.  We were on the trampoline and I was on my knees as he stood in front of me.  We were playing ninjas or some other game I can’t remember, but I was pretending to fight him and have a good time.  Then, without expecting it, my cute, cuddly little tike hauled off a stiff right jab which caught me right in the eye.  Trouble was, his little fisted knuckles were small enough to fit right inside my eye socket and smack me right on the eyeball!  Clutching my optic orb in throbbing pain with both hands, my 3 year old ninja then kicked me right-square in the crotch with a perfect strike that would have made Chuck Norris jealous with envy!

            Toppled into a helpless heap on the trampoline, one hand on my eye and the other covering a different part of anatomy, my son jumped and pounced on me with merciless, laughter-filled abandon, as I thought in agony, “What the…? I just totally got the crap beat out of me by a 3 year old!”

            The main point of the story is this.  Most of what we consider to be strength, control, intelligence, fitness, good looks, financial security, etc… is really just a sham.  Everything we have of each and every moment of each and every day is a gift from God, and can be taken away in an instant.  Health can change with sudden illness, accidents can cripple and maim, jobs can be lost, good looks fade and change with age and somebody tougher is always just around the corner.

            The key to being a real man and having real strength and security comes from knowing how weak and vulnerable we all really are.  With that humility, we can then finally realize our dependence upon God, and if we are willing to turn to Him and rely upon Him, and be grateful for the precious gifts and experiences he grants us each day or our existence, then we can come to know that He is our loving, merciful, gracious and kind Heavenly Father.  And knowing that, we can understand that we are indeed His children, and are eternally precious in His sight.  With that knowledge comes true confidence in our standing and abilities, for we begin to see the potential of what it is we can become if we will trust and follow Him!
            I’m thankful for the moments of my life which have literally driven me to my knees, humbled me, and forced me to turn unto the true Alpha and Omega of all beings, for in and through Him, I can hold my head high and stand with confidence before the world. This perspective also allows me to see the divine potential of those around me with more clarity as well.  And in a world full of so much deception, lies, bullying and malice, the knowledge of who we truly are is the remedy that each and every one of us need to make this world a better place!