Tough is Not Tough

You threaten me. I threaten you back.

You threaten me a little more. I threaten you even more than that.

And on and on, until somebody gets hurt, or worse.

Modern society, for the most part, calls this, "tough." 

But the only thing tough about this definition of tough is not the show of might but the personality and ego needed to adopt the pretence. That is tough to bear.

In reality, tough is not tough. Tough is weak. Tough is weak because of how cheap a resource it is, like junk food. Tough is weak because of how ignorant it is. And most of all, tough is weak because of how utterly ineffective it is as a strategy to meet your needs in any kind of sustainable way.

It's all too easy to be punitive and negative. The strategy requires little to no emotional intelligence. It's what young children do on the playground all day long. And it's altogether exhausting to propagate, receive, and watch.

Consider the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. getting attacked in 1962 by Roy James, as he was giving a speech at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

James, a 6'2" heavy set man and member of the American Nazi Party, suddenly charged the stage and punched Dr. King in the face, drawing blood. Instead of fighting back, Dr. King is reported to have dropped his hands in surrender and forcefully instructed those around him to not harm James, as he, himself, spoke kind words to the attacker.

The two would later meet in private. No doubt, Dr. King was interested in understanding the man's story, serving him, and forging a connection.

Meeting violence with love and kindness—that is tough in the truest sense of the word.