Why do you think you are defensive? And if a quick ebullient [don’t worry, i had to look it up too!] slightly-too-loud I’M NOT DEFENSIVE burst out of you or at the very least charged its way into your mind, then that might be a helpful sign.
Blessed are the Defensive…
…for they shall resist change!
The online dictionary definition of ‘defensive’ starts off simply by saying, ‘used or intended to defend or protect’ which sounds like a good thing, right? But the second meaning goes on to say, ‘very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism’ and that sounds more like the defensive i am talking about.
Where does that anxiety come from? The image it conjures up for me is one of urgency, desperation. THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW THAT THIS THING IS NOT TRUE ABOUT ME. Or something like that. But where does it come from?
And let’s each of us commit to making this a personal investigation because i’m sure i can come up with all sorts of reasons and understandings as to why you may be defensive, but why am i defensive, in those times that i am?
What makes you defensive? Not wanting someone else to think you’re wrong/something you’re not/someone you’re not? Or being in the wrong and feeling embarrassed/shame? Fear of change? Fear that something you have believed or held on to for so long may actually prove untrue or party true?
A picture says the words
When i googled ‘defensive’ this is the first image which came up:
Stay back! Right? Get away from me. Leave me alone.
The second was even more revealing and for some reason I couldn’t get it to add in here but it was a middle-aged white guy wearing boxing gloves sitting at a table in front of two women who appear to be interviewing him [the picture title is ‘how to deal with a defensive co-worker’]
And the third picture is Dwight from the American Office tv series – say no more!
You might find it interesting or significant that apart from sports-related defensive position pictures, i had to scroll down a fair way to find someone other than a white person in the picture. Could it be that defensiveness is linked to power? Or privilege? Or the fear or anxiety associated with losing either or both, or even just being called to recognise that you have them?
i like this cartoon that i found.
Because, particularly on social media, it seems that often when someone doesn’t have a good argument they go on the offensive in the hope that people are running away so quickly that they forget that they had the upper hand.
Personal attacks are typical – you’re ugly, stupid, typical ‘insert label’ [libtard/snowflake/conservative/racist]. So is misdirection [calling something a straw man argument is an easy way not to have to substantiate your own point of view] and a phrase i learned earlier this year called ‘Whataboutery’ which goes hand in hand with the #NotAllMen #NotAllWhites #NotAllHashtags – the Whataboutery argument being that if you are accused of something, by pointing out someone else that does that same thing you don’t have to explain away why you are doing it. Or else by pointing out an exception to the rule you nullify the whole rule somehow.
As with the cartoon above, if you have a good argument, you don’t have to be as offensive, or even as defensive.
The other side
i return your attention to my opening point which was, ‘Blessed are the defensive, for they shall resist change.’
There are things i am defensive about, i have no doubt. The point of this post is for me to reflect a little bit on my life and particularly my social media presence and ask where those instances are.
A good question to be able to ask yourself [and i think of this in the context of thinking about myself arguing with one of my best mates Duncan, cos we love to get into it sometimes] is ‘If during the course of an argument, you realise that actually you were wrong or misinformed or that there was some or all truth in what the other person was saying, will you back down? Will you acknowledge it and own it and apologise and change your direction? Cos that is a sign of true maturity. i have done it, but it’s hard cos it knocks on the face of pride and sometimes it feels easier to just keep going or at least misdirect or end the argument and move along, than admit, ‘i got it wrong this time!’
Which is not a bad thing. It is okay to get things wrong and to realise mid argument that you got something wrong or maybe missed a point or perspective or that something the other person said suddenly helped bring some clarity. What is wrong, though, is if you refuse to acknowledge it and try and bull-in-a-china-shop your way out of it.
But also there is this:
Another thing we do pretty dismally [generally speaking] on the internetsweb sometimes is disagree with people. Actually, no wait, we do that pretty well sometimes. But i mean that we struggle sometimes to allow people to disagree with us and to lean into that together and wrestle and be open to learn something new. If i label someone ‘defensive’ then it’s another quick and easy way out of an argument without really having to invest.
How defensive am i?
But i think this all comes down to self-reflection. Although i have found it super helpful to invite friends whose love for me is unquestionable to be able to speak to me when they see me out of line or being defensive. That’s not easy – i don’t think hearing you are wrong ever is – but if the love is assured it becomes a lot easier to go back and check yourself and confirm that you were a bit of a chop on that one. Accountability is gold.
It’s maybe helpful to process with a loved one or some close friends some of the questions i was posing earlier. What are some of the things that specifically make me defensive? Are there topics or conversations i need to avoid or commit to listening more and responding less on? Things like that.
So, all that said and done, how defensive are you? I AM NOT DEFENS….. Oh, i see.