Growing up with three brothers, being the youngest, I had my fair share of ‘rough and tumble’. Lots of bumps, scrapes and bruises came with the territory. Having three older brothers was awesome and what made it even more exciting was growing up in a family of athletes. My parents were outstanding athletes and my father was a successful football coach.
A great amount of energy, activity and assertiveness existed in our household. As a young man I would invariably end up in scenarios in which I was hitting someone (typically one of my brothers) or being hit by someone (yep, one of my brothers). I was the instigator of much of it and would oftentimes hit my brother with more than just my fist. I didn’t need a reason, I would just hit him. (Sorry Mom and Dad!)
I recall the day when that changed. It was another one of those days on which I felt the urge to hit my brother. But, this time when I hit him my Dad happened to walk in to witness the attack. Oops! My brother certainly was no idiot and relished the opportunity to see me squirm. Instead of hitting me back it was time for a payback. He countered my attack by saying, “Hey Dad! Did you see that? Tom hit me!”
Permission to Kick My Butt
Oh crud! I thought to myself. Cringing, I awaited my punishment either in the form of being grounded or the threat from the crack of a belt. (To clear the air, I was not hit with the belt. But, the sound of the belt cracking and the thought of being hit with it was enough to send a message). What actually happened was just as bad, maybe worse.
My Dad gave my brother permission to kick my butt! He did not exactly say it in those words, but he did say, “Then hit him back. If you hit him back, he won’t do it again.”
Oh boy! I am dead. I thought to myself expecting punishment, but not in the form of a beating from my brother. Luckily for me, my brother took the high road and walked away. Although, it did leave me wondering when he would seek his revenge.
That moment when my Dad told my brother to hit me back stuck with me. Now that I am raising a family of my own it didn’t occur to me that those words would be resurrected. A year ago “Hit him back!” returned when my third grade daughter met her first tormentor. In the evenings before bed she and I would talk about her day. During one of our talks she summoned up the courage to tell me about this kid who was annoying her on the bus ride home each day. He would grab her shirt and pull her hood over her head, grab her art projects and rip them, call her names, grab her back pack and throw it on the floor of the bus. This boy never stopped.
Almost every day my daughter had to put up with this little trouble maker. We talked about what my daughter could do to avoid any conflict. I suggested that she could sit somewhere else on the bus. She tried that and it did not work. I suggested that she just tell him to ‘Cut it out.’ But, that was also ineffective. He still persisted.
As she shared the experience her words fell upon my ears and I tried my best to fight back feelings of anger. But, when your child is telling you that she is being picked on it is easy to react with anger and retaliation. I became so frustrated that I eventually blurted out those words, “Just hit him back! If he will not leave you alone, then hit him back. Once you do that, he won’t bother you again.”
My emotions got the best of me! I could not believe this was my advice for my eight year old daughter. Ugh!
My Daughter – The Better Person
I am proud to say that my daughter was the better person. She didn’t want to hit anybody, so she took the high road by not heeding my advice. Our dialogue continued and I searched for a way to fix the issue, until one night she made a very simple comment to solve everything. My daughter looked at me and in a matter-of-fact tone said, “Dad, why don’t you just tell the bus driver?”
Wow! My eight year old daughter had the solution to the problem which had nothing to do with my misguided advice of attack. Problem solved! The next day, we informed the bus driver about the trouble this kid was causing. After that it ceased and my daughter no longer had problems with him.
I am so proud of her for not heeding my advice; she never hit that kid. I am proud of my brother (and very thankful) for not heeding the advice to hit me back when we were kids; he never hit me back. What my daughter and my brother did (not do) took a lot of strength and courage. Oftentimes it is easier to attack and much more difficult to walk away. To have the self-confidence, and pride in oneself, to just walk away is no easy feat.
My daughter taught me a valuable lesson. I am now aware of the power of forgiveness and the strength it takes not to retaliate. The best choice is to forgive. Instead of hitting back, we choose to Hit ‘em with a hug!
True Strength Lies in Forgiveness
Don’t hold onto a false belief that hugging is for the weak and that hitting is for the strong and resilient. It may seem much easier to respond with violence which might solve the problem momentarily, but it breeds more hatred and violence. On the contrary, for one to relinquish the need to attack, choosing to lead with forgiveness and love is the boldest and strongest thing someone can do.
The next time you feel the urge to hit someone back pause for a moment and Hit `em with a HUG instead! And know this, true strength lies in peace and forgiveness.
I am thankful for my daughters who are my greatest teachers.
I send you love and forgiveness!