Theresa Byrne boils down the dynamics of couplehood into one 4-word phrase.
These four little words that seem simple enough, but when spoken by someone in a position you trust: they can mean the world.
I’m not saying they mean life or death, but they kinda come from a meaning of life or death.
They mean you aren’t alone. And they also mean “if you feel you’re in danger, I’ll keep my eyes open for you.”
I believe they are four of the most inherently supportive and heartfelt words you can say to a good man (or woman). Especially when the person you’re saying them to is a typically strong person but feeling vulnerable, weak, or engaged in a struggle. And especially if that person is someone who agonizes over asking for help.
Warning: These four words are only to be used if, and only if, you mean it.
Because if you don’t, they’re the worst four words you can say to someone—period.
The four words are: “I’ve got your back.”
Hey, “I love you” is always nice. “You got this!” always works as an affirmation of someone’s strength. But “I’ve got your back” means: “I will hold the high watch for you; I believe you can do this; I will stand by you; I will watch for dangers you can’t see, and I support you 100%.”
But that’s a lot to say in a pinch, and it’s not exactly catchy, so these four words cover the bases.
Check out the Urban Dictionary definition of I’ve Got Your Back, and you’ll see what I mean.
They aren’t just words of affirmation, they are words of action. If you say “I’ve got your back,” it means you have to show it. It means you will show up. Your word is your bond.
We offer a workshop in my martial arts studio called Fast Defense which is based on a similar idea: adrenal stress training. In this class you’re put in a adrenalized situation with a trained attacker (called a “woofer”); you have a coach who not only has your back but stands behind you guiding you as you role-play and stand up effectively with an attacker. I’m a coach and have seen these classes transform thousands of people since 2001.
Have you ever had one of those “rude awakenings”? A time in your life when you have felt utterly bereft or completely alone? When you felt that you weren’t supported by anyone or anything in your life?
Maybe you’d messed up. Maybe you made the wrong choices.
Maybe you believed the wrong people. Maybe you fell for the wrong person.
Maybe you got scammed.
Maybe life circumstances just led you to this place.
Maybe it was actually a divine occurrence.
Whatever the case, it happened. Life happened.
And then you found a few people, very special people, who stuck by your side and said “I’ve got your back.” And those words were a touchstone.
I remember a close friend who went through a nasty on/off tumultuous relationship with a woman. By the time they were completely “off,” she’d gone through an affair, a potentially false pregnancy (he was never sure), demands for money (as a parting gift), and she had lied and told every single one of his close friends that he was abusive and cruel. He was left to pick up the pieces of his shattered heart and what remained of his esteem, his reputation, and his life after that dysfunctional hurricane. There were very few people who stood by him. I was one.
There was a time I went through the most disheartening eye-opening chapter in my own business; with troubled employees and the issues created, my friend said those four words to me, “I’ve got your back.” I’ll never forget that. It gave me strength and hope at a time I needed it.
So where does the term come from? The genesis seems to be military. And of course, as a martial artist by training, I’ll admit I appreciate the etymology.
“I’ll cover what you cannot see if you are in danger.” BAM.
Back in WWI as a soldier was climbing out of a foxhole, he’d ask the man in the foxhole to have his back. The soldier was at risk of being killed, because he wasn’t able to look behind himself as he climbed out.
Another meaning is “I’ve got your 6,” used in “The Last Starfighter,” which comes from WWII fighter pilots covering the unseen area to the rear (known as the six o’clock position) of another fighter plane.
Yet another bit of research uncovered that the fighters in Greco-Roman times would often train to fight back to back, creating protection for the unseen foes who could attack the back of a fighter.
Regardless of the origin, the phrase “I’ve got your back” possesses astonishing power, and it will always resonates with me.
So if someone strong you care about deeply is going through a tough time, consider letting them know that you’ve got their back.
But only if you really really mean it.