David Trinko: Fighting the urge to retaliate

When my children were younger, I remember how important it was to me to teach them not to walk away from a fight.

I wasn’t looking for fisticuffs or anything. I just wanted them to understand that if you deeply and firmly believe something, it was OK to stand up for it. There are too many people who become quieter and quieter when their core beliefs are under attack. Sometimes you need to lose some friends to stand up and do the right thing.

I hope they see the difference between that lesson and the one I had to teach a few times last week: Sometimes you have to walk away from a fight.

I love my children. Don’t underestimate that. Still, sometimes they just say things that make me so infuriated that I want to reach out and touch someone, or I want to say something I know I shouldn’t say.

For instance, one of my teenaged daughters was in a bit of a mood the other night. She decided she wasn’t going to answer any of my questions directly when we were talking about her progress on her homework. She didn’t want to tell me whether she had homework at all. She started sharing classes that she didn’t have homework, including a few that were clearly smart-aleck remarks. (No, I didn’t anticipate she would’ve had homework in choir or lunch.)

Sometimes you have to walk away from a fight. I reminded her that she’d been tired lately, and I thought it was because she’d been working on homework well past dark lately. Instead of lounging on the couch and playing on her device, finishing her schoolwork then might benefit her.

Then, as she started to say something else, I walked out of the room. I kept walking, all the way up to my bedroom, where I grabbed a laptop and started on some relatively mindless work function.

Oh, sure, it would’ve been temporarily satisfying to help her understand how much I missed the friendly, compliant girl we had prior to high school. It would’ve felt good for a bit to attack one of her insecurities. There’s a dark corner of our hearts that enjoy bringing people down.

That’s when I like to remember a wise saying, shared by a fellow supervisor when I worked in Georgia: “Don’t wrestle with a pig. All you get is dirty, and eventually you realize the pig kind of likes it.”

There’s so little real value in angry exchanges with people. I’m amazed how often people start a conversation at home or work at a level 9 emergency when they could’ve had more success with a lower-key, friendlier start at the beginning. Unfortunately, our representatives in government sometimes make us think the only way to change the world is to insult the other guy.

I hope my children saw me say what I had to say, bite my tongue and then walk away. It’s true I once taught them not to walk away from a fight. Now I want them to see sometimes you should, when the time is right and you’ve made your point.


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.