I was struck by an article this morning on Fox News regarding two moose who were found frozen in Alaska with their horns interlocked. The symbolism, without even reading the article, struck me. How many would would recognize the underlying moral to the story?
I frequently lecture on the use of force and that in many occasions, the best response, if possible, is to remove yourself from the situation. Yet, for some, sometimes their emotions, their “man card” and their pride preclude them from heading my advice. So, let me try through an extremely poignant picture.
What can we learn from this picture?
First, sometimes our safest and most astute response to provocation is not to fight; but rather, to walk away. Yet, some may see or comprehend this as an opportunity lost.
However, the second learning experience that we can take away from this picture is that not all opportunities are to be taken, as some opportunities are traps that may lead to our own demise.
And this leads us to the third learning experience that we, as human beings, can become so determined to harm or destroy our adversary that we become blind and end up destroying ourselves.
And let me be abundantly clear, your actions may be completely justified and supported by the law and yet, even if you survive the encounter without even a scratch, you still may destroy yourself. Few people can comprehend the impact on their psychological state after being involved in a use of force situation, even where the perpetrator was only harmed and survived. There are reasons, as Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman points out in his book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, that our soldiers, historically, are disinclined to kill, unless we dehumanize the enemy, and that there are relatively few recorded instances in history of soldiers using bayonets against one another. I have in my profession, unfortunately, seen the aftermath of a justified use of force situation on an individual’s psychological well-being…I have also seen the aftermath of a non-justified use of force situation on an individuals psychological well-being and frankly, they do not tend to be that different. You will not be the same, at least, not for a while, although you will believe you are the same exact individual. Your family – those that you love the most – however, will see drastic changes in you. And with time, love, support and proper counseling, you can go back to being substantially similar to who you were before, but you’ll never be the exact same.
Keep this in mind if you find yourself in a situation, where you can safely remove yourself. There is far more to be proud of in deescalating a situation than the possibility of your family sitting over your grave.