I’m off the grid for a bit—I’m going to probably the most remote base in Afghanistan, far, far away. I don’t have enough blog entries to cover the week (it came as bit of a surprise.) I’ll have some “experimental stuff” up. I’m working on a new blog when I’m done—one about brotherhood, men making and finding friends. It’s my wheelhouse. I’m not sure if men would be interested or if it’s a “perceived need”, but I think I can post three times a week about it.
The following entry is cross between this (real) blog and that (hypothetical) one. I’ve also been working on writing much longer posts. I know, just what you need right? Well, here goes. Please comment below about your thoughts. It would help me out a lot.
I’ve been in a couple of fistfights in my youth. I won two of them, hands down. One of them I got a bloody nose and I was bawling (I was six.) Those were all physical. Since then I’ve taken some karate and self defense classes (I will be taking some here in Afghanistan.) For some reason being a self-pronounced geek lends people to think I won’t get my knuckles bloody—fine by me, the less you know, the faster it’s over. (Not that I’d willingly fight someone, but I will protect the honor of my mother and yours.)
When I think about my friendships, I have about five to six friends who kick me in the head once in awhile. They willingly put on some gloves and challenge my misconceptions, address my fears and rebuke me when I’m being a selfish jerk. Honestly, I’m surprised that they stick around cause it’s some 24 hour work.
This ass kicking can take place over coffee or on Skype/Facebook chat. It has happened on a car ride or over dinner. It usually happens in an intimate setting where it’s just us, where no one can overhear the cracks to my thick dome by my friends’ loving words.
Now the ass kicking I describe isn’t one of shame or cruelty; they are not mocking me; they are honestly loving who I am and who I can be. Sometimes it goes really great. I listen and take in the information. I push back a bit and they push back a bit harder. And I change a bit; I find a new direction. And I’m happy they are in my life.
Other times, I can’t deal. I shake the hand of my Dark Passenger and let him have the controls for awhile; I’ll lash out, and not see what the problem is—or I’ll blame them. (Just call me Hector Projector.) Or I’ll just walk out, hang up, or close my laptop.
But I’ll come around eventually. Eventually, the Dark Passenger can’t keep up the pace and the love I have for my friends becomes a bit overwhelming; I grab my knife and fork and saddle up to some crow pie. I’ve eaten it for years.
So lately, I’ve had TWO rounds of ass-kicking. Back to hairy back. These Fight Club reenactments not really reenactments were brought to you by: Paul Martin and James Todd. Now I know what you are going to say: Why do you have friends with two first names? I know, I know. But relax. I’ve vetted them with the vet of a veteran. James Todd and I met at the World Domination Summit over Mother’s biscuits and gravy. Our friendship is so strong, he works for Dell and it doesn’t bother me at all. Yes, I said Dell.
Now Paul Martin, I met through my buddy Adam “The Wandering Tiger” McLane. Paul and I were sharing a conversation on Twitter and then moved the chat to Facebook and eventually Skype. We have a ton in common, read the same books and he has way better taste in music than me (not a hard stretch Ryan….SHUT UP NO ONE ASKED YOU.)
So as I put my teeth back in, I wondered: how do you do this? What are the Fight Club rules of Friendship?
Fight Fair: Look. It has to be bare knuckled fighting or not at all. This doesn’t involve chairs or clubs, knives or guns. It’s about the fight. When you are going to tell someone something really hard, a character flaw or something that happened that hurt you they caused, you need to make it about that. It isn’t about the lousy Christmas gift they gave your last March. Stick to the wound and keep it there. Bringing up past hurts or issues unrelated to the issue is the equivalent to putting glass shards in your fist wraps. Not nice.
Time it Right: One time, I told a friend of mine that I was struggling with some major depression (fun fact: my depression can surface like a submarine and two things happen. I get seething angry all the time and my left shoulder flairs up like you wouldn’t believe. Next up, turning green.). I explained that I could actually put a chair through a window at any time and not feel anything about it. My Dark Passenger had basically strapped a bomb to his chest. My friend proceeded to tell me how I shouldn’t spend time with my non-Christian buddies playing all of our demonic games. He told me how I needed to back off those friendships and try harder spiritually.
The Dark Passenger slammed on that trigger hard and my left shoulder nearly came off.
When you are going to tell someone something glaring, a problem you’re seeing coming down the pike, you need to tell it to them privately and when they are equipped to handle it. Don’t do it publicly. Don’t do it during a special occasion (I’ve had someone confront me on my graduation day from seminary. Went over fantastically.) You need to gauge if the time is right and if the person is ready to receive what you are going to tell them.
Have Your Moves Down: If you are going to talk to a person about something difficult, you need either the evidence or the experience to back what you are saying. If they slighted you once, didn’t call you for the movies that one time don’t use words like “a bunch of times” or “you always”. If your friend is perpetually late, and you want to talk about it, it needs to be fresh—then confront them.
Get Past the Defenses: Explaining why a behavior isn’t acceptable (being habitually late, rude comments to your husband, etc.) is the first step, but you need to explain how that impacts you. When you are habitually late, it tells me you don’t value my time. The behavior needs to have a connection to a feeling or a result. You are not saying that she or he is a bad person, but the behavior cannot continue. Now, my two compadres that I mention earlier, were talking about my own behavior and how it affects me. They clearly outlined that I was heading down a destructive path that would do anyone any good. But they have to get past my defenses, and let me tell you, my walls are high, thick and strong.
Respect the Timer: Sometimes when the person isn’t receptive, I’ve had to say, “Look. I know this is a lot to take. Let’s talk about this at a later time.” 99% of the time, they agree. Now it can be a bit awkward, “Hey, we just talked about how I don’t feel you respect women, and then you blew a fuse. Let’s play Jenga.” You’ll have some re-entry to do, but undoubtedly you don’t understand the whole situation. We may have triggered some dark emotions, stuff that is locked up and that person is heading to Triggertown and we bought the ticket. Give the person space to call a Time-out and limit the time you spend talking about it. No one ever says, “Man, I’m glad that fight went three hours. We really got to the root of it.” If the person is not getting it, you may not have timed it right or had the proper approach.
Pick the Other Person Up: When it’s done, when the person receives the message, you have to let them know you love them, that you are willing to help them however you can through the issue. If you are not willing, then just shut your hole. All you are doing is pointing out a flaw and then stepping back. The technical word for that kind of behavior is douche-bag-coward. Trust me; when the person extends their hand so I can get up off the floor, our friendship is much stronger.
So what did my friends, my Lanterns, Paul Martin and James Todd talk to me about?
Sorry, Rule #1 of Fight Club.