Grace Under Fire or Fire with Fire?

Let’s suppose you’re going about your business, trying to do something nice for a friend/loved one/relative who needed help, when suddenly they get mad at you.

You’re blameless, of course.

You try to defend yourself, but the other person grows increasingly hostile, accusatory, and paranoid, so you attempt to deescalate by leaving.

They call you to “work things out,” but your attempts to explain your side don’t work and they get mad and start insulting you, ranting about other relatives, and dredging up old grudges and grievances going back a decade or two.

At this point, do you respond by calling them a childish jerk who throws a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way, or do you attempt to take the high road, responding as well as you can to the substance of their complaint?

Note that this is someone whom you care about and will be seeing again, so just telling them to “fuck off and die” isn’t an option.

If you turn on the insults, there’s the possibility that they will just say, “See, I knew you were the kind of person who says hurtful things!” and your relationship will be further damaged. But if you take the high road, there’s the chance that they will think their behavior was justified, or not realize just how entirely out of line you think they are.

Now, we can all come up with high-falutin’ philosophy–and philosophy tends to come up with, “Always take the high road.”

But does that actually work?

5 thoughts on “Grace Under Fire or Fire with Fire?

  1. I don’t think it does, as a rule. I think we’ve sort of come to take for granted that other people won’t ’cause a scene.’ I’m fully of the opinion that one should never normalize bad behavior. It should ALWAYS be called out (one doesn’t have to be a jerk to call someone out, though). We do our loved ones a disservice if we always make excuses for them and allow them to behave however they please.

    This also necessitates a willingness on our own parts to accept that we may, occasionally, be called out ourselves.

    One thing we tend to forget in our relationships, is that they are 2-way streets. If you are the only one carrying the burden of peace-making and you’re always changing to suit someone else’s moods, or giving in and letting things slide just to ‘make it better,’ then you’re being used, and poorly.

    Taking the high road is noble, in stories, but in our interpersonal relationships, not so much. If you always change what you stand for and who you are just to get along, then….who are you?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By writing this, it sounds like this is presently your situation.
    I don’t know anything about you but I’ve seen others get sucked into these foolish dramas, usually by family members. There is often some underlying psychological issue at hand quite apart from the alleged bone of contention.
    I have seen people deal with such relatives by controlling communication. When the conversation is civil, they are all smiles and laughs. When things slip back into insanity they leave or hang up.
    This trains the relative to behave well. Their reward for behaving badly is the reaction of the target. Remove that and the incentive is gone.
    Some people have the self-reflection to see for themselves what’s going on and fix it. In this relationship, that might be all involved or it might just be you.
    But who knows, maybe you’re asking for a friend. Just like I was talking about a friend.


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