C. Gibbons learned early on that patience is better than violence to failing with people.
When I was a kid, I had quite a short temper for some things. Bullies were number one on my short-fuse list. Whether they were trying to bully me, or if I saw kids picking on another kid, I felt compelled to get involved. When I left Primary School, my behaviour report cautioned that I reacted with physical and verbal force when provoked or felt cornered. Makes me sound like a raccoon doesn’t it? “Don’t piss me off or I’ll eat your rubbish, piss on your garden and bite your dog on the face….the FACE!!!”
In my secondary school years I only got into one fight. I remember it very clearly, I was 14 or so and it was all over in a couple of punches. I got a black eye and that kid got a bruised head and cut lip. The day after the fight, I went to the Head of Year at the school and told him that I got into a fight. I told him why I punched the kid, and he asked me if I thought it was the right thing to do. My answer surprised him:
“Yes sir, I absolutely do. He was being a bully.”
The kid never came near me again. I remember afterward that he made out like he won the fight (he might well have done – but I’m claiming the victory in the absence of the Las Vegas Referees Commission) and that I had the black eye to prove it. But on his own, he would always avoid eye contact with me and never said another word to me for the rest of the time he was at the school. He knew that if he did, he’d in all likelihood get punched again. I know that the head of year also had words with him, as he did with me.
The talk that Mr. Ford had with me following that fight, and the conversation I had with my father on the way home, had a profound impact on me. I knew that if this was going to be my method of solving problems I would one day end up picking a fight with the wrong person, or, as a young adult, find myself charged with assault and having a criminal record. None of this would help me find a job or get into a good university. I wasn’t a violent kid – I didn’t like fighting or confrontation. I was terrible at it too. Every scrap I ever got into ended up with me crying about it at home, thoroughly ashamed and just filled with anger at the world. I had a big trigger inside when I felt that someone (or myself) got wronged. My father told me:
“Son, don’t play by their rules and don’t try to beat them at their own game, if you do – you always lose”.
So now, when I feel my blood rising, I think of those words. People think of me as a patient man. I tell them I learned patience. It is a skill, you have to practice it and yes it is difficult to approach problems with logic and rationality, but you can do it if you choose to and have the discipline.
Now, I’m not some Vulcan who never loses his temper. But lifting heavy and having a supportive family and network of friends I know will always support me and listen to my problems is a big help. But I also think I have got a lot better at differentiating between things I ought to get worked up about, and stuff that I can just shrug off and not let into my life.
As an example, I was at the gym a while back and a guy was asking about my training regimen. The inevitable question, “how much ya bench?” came up. I answered honestly. The response was “That’s not very much, back in my day I went to a powerlifting competition and benched 375lbs and I could cheat with 200Kg!”
“That’s pretty good” I said, and got on with my set.
My mind was screaming at me to point out that a cheat bench press is not a bench press so is an irrelevance, and that as an older lifter he’d do better to give newbies encouragement rather than putting them down in front of the whole gym. I wanted to get into a big argument with the guy and get him to try and bench my current PB and point and yell and laugh as he was crushed under the bar. Years ago, I’d have flown off the handle at this and got all indignant about it.
I took a breath.
I did my set.
I smiled and said “So, I’ll let you know when I’ve beaten your record”
“No no! All that matters to me is that you break your own lad” he said with a knowing smile.
I smiled back and thought:
“If that were true, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now, would we?”
I said with a laugh “No, no, don’t worry – I’ll let you know” and with that he said his goodbyes and left for the night.
We both laughed at the time, but I had turned my aggression into motivation……and then let go. The best thing to do is not let this sort of thing rile you up – it just becomes a distraction. It bleeds away energy that you should be directing at more positive endeavours.
And, like Blaine said: “I ain’t got time to bleed”.