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Why Do We Fight?

Joe E. Lawrence

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It was a beautiful December day in magnificent Hawaii. The Christmas holiday season was approaching and everyone was getting excited to spend time with their families. Out of nowhere came an angry swarm of Japanese fighter jets as if someone shook their hive. They unleashed a fury of firepower onto the U. S. Pacific fleet of Naval warships destroying many and killing many of our brave men and women.

The attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a day that changed our nation’s position in the world forever. Until that moment we were neutral for the most part in the World War that was engaged all throughout Europe. Following the attack America joined the war and ended it with the dropping of the atomic bomb onto Japan.

Why did the government decide to go to war with Japan? Why did we go to war with Iraq? Why do we fight with each other? These are all questions that are going to be covered within this chapter. Before we get into these details, I want to discuss the different types of fighting that we can become engaged.

The first type of fighting that may pop into your mind is war. That is one nation versus another or many other nations. It can be a civil war within the same nation. This is the extreme to physical violence. That is where the goal is to hurt the other until they no longer have the will or ability to fight. If you achieve this goal you win the war or fight. Leaders in time of war and professional fighters before a fight spend a great deal of time formulating a strategy to reach his or her goal.

Another type of fighting that many don’t plan a strategy for is a verbal dispute. This can be a lover’s quarrel about something important or about something tiny like how to get to a restaurant. A verbal fight may be the bickering between friends over a basketball shot. It could be a hardy debate over the best candidate for an upcoming election. A harsh e-mail can even be the fulcrum of a dispute.

The truth is there are thousands of examples for the different types of fighting that we may encounter. However, physical and verbal disputes are the two main types of quarrels at the end of the day. Every single one of us has been involved in one or both of these types on more than one occasion. What drove you to fight?

What would motivate someone to fight? There are many reasons. You might disrespect me or my beliefs. You could threaten my property or my body. Maybe you challenge me to a fight. The underlying reason is that I have something that you want. The next few paragraphs are going to get into each of the above in a little more detail.

I am going to start with the most obvious of the three and that is if you threaten or attack my body or property. This is what drove us into World War II. Our property was attacked and our military blood was shed. We were enraged on one hand and on the other we had to fight back for self-preservation.

What if we had ignored the attacks? Every nation on this planet would feel as if they could get away with the same thing. Eventually, we could be conquered by another nation. The first emotion that we feel is rage towards the attacker. We want them to feel the same pain or even greater pain than what we experienced. This is the reaction that we have to a situation.

Every situation requires a reaction or a response. To react is an instinctual action that occurs. This is like a flinch when someone swats at you. Often the reaction is not the best decision, but we feel that we do not know any better. If someone yells at you, you are probably tempted to yell something back to them. You are likely to say the wrong things if you do not think before you speak.

We are designed and have the instinctual desire to react. One of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics states that “every action will have an opposite but equal reaction. ” This is the counter-attack and often it is not “equal. ” Usually the person counter-attacking wants revenge and reacts in a more aggressive manner. That in turn sparks the need for a reaction from the other person and so forth.

Have you ever played a prank on someone or been the butt of a joke? What happened next? Most likely you had to get them back. In fact, you had to get them even better to save face with others and to let them know you are not a punk. Then this person probably reacted with something even bigger and the cycle continues until it is out of control. That is true in every type of fighting.

Do not feel hopeless or upset about this, if you are a reactor there is hope. The antidote to the reaction poison is to respond. A response is the planned counter-attack. You are not flinching you are strategically answering the attack based on past experience and knowledge or training.

When I would train someone in free-sparring in Tae Kwon Do I would lay down the ground rules of safety and then cover the different ways to score points. A head shot was worth two points and the body was worth one point. Naturally, everyone did nothing but kicks to the head the entire fight. That is the way to get the most points, but rarely did a single one of them kick me in the head. This was not because I am a great fighter it was because I was much more experienced and new how to see that kick coming.

People often telegraph their true intents if you watch their body language. I was able to determine from the position of their hips whether they were on the attack or retreat. I was able to tell by the distribution of weight on their feet which foot they would kick with. Then often they would look to the location they desired to kick. All this was seen before they even picked the foot up and attempted to raise it six feet to my head. Because of my training I did not have to react, I had time to formulate a response.

Knowledge and training allowed me to think about the best way to counter-attack to reach my victory as opposed to just throwing a gut reactive attack that most likely would be very ineffective and a depletion of my energy. There is a story that I recall that keeps me level-headed in these situations. It goes back to a technical school class at Dover AFB, DE.

I was working on C-5A/B Cargo Aircraft at the time and needed to learn how to operate the jet engines. There are many safety precautions that are taken to prevent disasters and minimize damage in the event of a fire. We had many steps on a checklist to follow to accomplish this engineered response and had to know the first three by heart. The instructor would throw emergencies at us while in the simulator to give us the experience. Even though it was a computer program our adrenaline would get pumping and we had the tendency to react and do the wrong thing. The instructor advised me to sit on my hands until I had the proper “response. ”

By sitting on your hands and thinking things through you are more likely to choose the response that is best for the situation. In the case of the airplane; choosing the wrong switch could result in disaster. Sitting on your hands for a second allows for the emotion to calm and a level head to prevail. In other words, sitting on your hands allows you to combat the feeling of rage which drives us to react to an attack.

The number one reason that people resort to violence is that they feel disrespected. If you step on my beliefs or hurt my ego I am not being respected by you. I want revenge. I start by bickering and trying to solve the problem with words. If you choose the wrong words I am hurt even more and I will react. This will continue until I have no more perceivable words that will get through to you. Then I see physical action as my last resort.

A good friend Damien Thomas loved to get under people’s skin. He would make jokes and knew exactly what buttons to push to get a rise out of you. He told me once to watch as he played a joke on someone or made a comment to see how they reacted. If they hit him or threatened to hit him as a reaction it meant they had nothing to say. They saw violence as the last resort to regain their image and respect.

We do not often just invade another nation. When something happens that we do not agree with, we start with diplomacy. There are statesman and representatives of the government that try to talk through the issues. Once talk stops showing results or glimpses of hope we declare war and the armies begin to march. The Iraq War began this way. We tried to sanction the Iraqi government to inspect for weapons of mass destruction and Sadam Hussein kept toying with the United Nations inspectors. President Bush answered with a declaration of war.

I use wars as an example because they are the extreme to fighting. If you look back into history at conflicts and wars you will see they all were over the reasons listed above. We are the same in our quarrels and disputes. We feel as if our property is threatened as it was in the attack of Pearl Harbor. We get to the point to where words are not enough and we begin to see no other feasible action which leads to a dispute or even a war. This is evident in the Iraq War where we felt as if we were disrespected.

The last of the three reasons is if we are challenged. This could be a boxing match or martial arts tournament. Maybe it is a debate or sports game. It could even be a board or computer game against a friend. Whatever the challenge, it still has the same guidelines and principles as a fight.

We challenge others for fun, honor, or some type of reward. Many people have much fun playing board games like chess or checkers against one another. It is a great feeling to be competitive against others. When we play a game on our own we do not push ourselves to our limits and therefore never get better.

Playing against someone with comparable or better skills drives us to use our full potential. No one wants to lose at anything because it feels so good to win and therefore we pull all the tricks out of our bag. Playing against another also allows us to sharpen our skills and even learn new tricks. If I see my competitor doing something that I think is more effective I am going to adopt that. I will then practice what I learned on my own and then try it against my next challenger.

Let’s go back to the world of Tae Kwon Do for a short story about competition. Three of my best friends and I had our own little group that would work out together and even hang out together when not in class. We all had different talents and skill sets in a variety of areas. What was great about us is that we constantly were pushing each other to get better. If I was running sprints faster during our workout, the others would go home and practice and train until they could beat me. Meanwhile, I would be working on kicking harder than one of them because they were kicking harder in practice.

I am sure all of us have seen something that another has or can do and had the desire to share that ability. We see someone at the beach with a muscular or trim body and that may push us to get in the gym. Another business is getting the product to market faster or better and we need to step up our game. I will be honest sometimes it is fun to compete simply to deflate the big-headed balloon of that loud-mouth coworker.

Competing against others is very healthy in that it pushes us to get better. Some fighters get paid millions of dollars to fight for capacity crowds. Without challenges and competition we would all be happy with the status quo and mediocrity. The conditioning of our bodies and minds would diminish. Businesses would be able to charge anything and do whatever if there were no competitors.

Human nature is to react to a challenge, disrespect or personal property attacks. Fighting is not necessarily the best action and in most cases should and could be avoided. Reactions will result in a more extensive reaction and so on as the cycle continues. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “War does not determine who is right, war determines who is left. ”

We need to learn from past personal experiences and from world history to respond and not flinch. Sit on your hands for a moment and utilize your knowledge to determine the outcome you desire. Then what response is best suited to get you to that conclusion. Never forget that violence is the last resort of someone that can’t perceive any other solution.

Joe Lawrence is the creator and president of He is a true student of life and is a firm believer in the whole person concept. If you spend five minutes on his site you will come out inspired!

To see his latest eBook go to:


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