Recently while in Sunday School I had a memory of a kid I knew when I was young. It's been over twenty-five years since I've seen him and as a result I no longer remember his name. For the sake of the story let's just call him Greg. Greg didn't live in my apartment building but did live on the same block as me in the projects. We were friendly off and on over a period of a few years but not exactly friends if that makes sense. As a matter of fact, the last memory I have of him was a fight between me and his younger brother and subsequently me and him but that's another story entirely.
On this particular day when we were about ten years old during a period of friendship we happened to be standing outside on the block talking. Greg had this bad habit of running his mouth to other people but unfortunately for him he had absolutely no ability to defend himself. For whatever reason there was he would start calling another kid names, saying bad things about his family and what he would do to the kid. Since he couldn't back any of his smack talk up whenever it came to physical violence (which with boys at that age it invariably will do) Greg usually wound up taking a beating. I recall on one occasion a boy we'll call Mike (can't remember his name either) came running up to Greg and started punching him out of the blue. It seems Greg had been mouthy with Mike in school where Mike couldn't do anything about it but now out in the open he had found his opportunity for revenge.
Greg immediately dropped into a fetal position and covered up as best he could while Mike pounded away on him. Eventually Mike tired of this and figuring that his need for revenge was sated he stopped pummeling Greg and told him he'd gotten what he deserved. Mike let him up and told him in great detail what he would do to him the next time he dared to talk to him the way he had before. Greg kept his head down and started to walk away sniffling but when he had gone about thirty to forty feet he started a vicious, nasty, verbal assault on Mike the likes of which I had never heard before. Greg took off running with Mike in hot pursuit but he only got a short distance before Mike caught him and the whole scene repeated itself.
Once more Mike let Greg up and once more he walked away before starting another verbal assault. Mike chased him down again and bashed him as best he could, given Greg's fetal position. This scene repeated itself several more times before Greg finally made it to the safety of his home (or Mike just tired of using him as a human punching bag) whichever came first. Greg had suffered a very public beating but had never stopped running his mouth once he had gained some sort of relative safety. Mike had shown that he could dominate Greg but could not stop him from running his mouth, no matter how many times he beat him down. It's hard to say whose will was more indomitable.
What's could all of this possibly have to do with Church you say? Our lesson was about a leader who refused to make an oath that he would war no more even though he and his men were trapped and could not win. They faced complete destruction and still he would not give in. Greg was very much like that leader. He put himself in a bad situation of his own making and talked about what he would do but ultimately would not fight back and defend himself. Behind his verbal smokescreen he was a coward and could not face his own demons. Not once did he stand up for himself, not once did he attempt to throw a single punch. Instead he chose to transfer those demons to others in what I can only surmise was an effort to deflect the pain he felt inside. As a result he ended up having pain on the outside fighting a war he could never win.
Greg could not bring himself to capitulate nor could he learn from his mistakes. At the very least he should have realized that the smart thing to do was get a little more distance between Mike and himself before opening his mouth again, but he could not even do that. I don't know if it was pride, stupidity or good old fashioned craziness which drove him. At the time I didn't know whether I should admire or pity him and even now I still can't say for sure how I feel. His behavior puzzled me then as it does now. If you won't defend yourself then perhaps it's better to just keep your mouth shut. If he never learned from his mistakes and dealt with those demons he might still be stuck in the same revolving door pattern he developed all those years ago. For his sake I really hope that's not the case. It would be rather sad at his age to still be living a life as a cowardly fighter.
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.