En Garde

Damn you villains, who are you? And from whence came you? Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard)

I remember going to a melodrama performance one time when I was a kid. You know, where part of the entertainment involves audience participation? It’s a lot of fun. The audience has to respond in certain ways according to which character is on scene. For instance, when the beautiful damsel appears looking kind and sweetly, the audience is supposed to say “ooh, ah.” Or when the dashing, young hero bursts in, everyone cheers and applauds. But when the sinister villain slinks in looking pale and tragic, the audience boos and hisses.

It’s Dashing Hero against Sinister Villain while Beautiful Damsel looks on in distress! Thrust! Parry! Lunge! Ha Ha! Ha Ho! It’s heroism vs villainy; good against evil; brains over brawn. And just when all looks lost, Hero wins the day; he wins Beautiful Damsel’s heart, and leaves Sinister Villain cursing him for thwarting his evil plans yet again!

Ah, if only life were like that. Amusingly entertaining complete winnable situations and easily identifiable villains based on their appearances rather than their character. It certainly would make spotting life’s pitfalls and dastardly fiends much more simple. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Often times we are caught unawares either from the ill-intended actions of others or life’s curve balls that leave us feeling like that damsel in distress.

Let’s face it, most of us go along through life minding our own business. We typically try to give people the benefit of the doubt. We try to see things in a positive light.

En Garde 1

But then suddenly out of nowhere… WHAM! We feel like we’ve been hit up side the head with a two-by-four! Because while we were going along minding our own business, doing our own thing, someone or something decided to use our head for baseball practice and are now wrecking unholy havoc on us.

Suddenly we’ve been dropped in the middle of some kind of nonsense that we didn’t sign up for but nonetheless there we are. And for the next forseeable future, we waste our time CYAing (covering your assets) ourselves, trying to defend against an enemy we didn’t know was there a moment ago. It’s enough to drive us to drink, causing us so much undue stress and anxiety that our tendencies may be to lash out, react in kind or withdraw.

Why, you ask, does this have to happen especially when you didn’t sign up for any of this nonsense? I wish I had an acceptable answer but believe me, there’s no answer that would be acceptable.

So instead of questioning the why-fors and how-comes that will make no suitable sense to us , we should work at our self-awareness, so we can readily recognize those people or situations that trigger the worst reactions in us. In other words we should be on guard (en garde!).

No, I’m not saying we need to start dancing around like Errol Flynn in tights, brandishing a broomstick that doubles as a sword, ready to stab at whatever moves. No, I mean as in fencing, en garde, to take up a defensive stance in anticipation of an attack. OK, I know that sounds a little aggressive but hear me out.

The best way to protect ourselves is to know ourselves (nosce te ipsum). What sends you over the edge? What drives you up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other wall? What makes you lash out, or retreat? What makes you go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde?

For me, passive-agressive people trigger the worst in me. They get under my skin fast than a chigger on a hot, humid day. They take all their brokenness, all their damage and wield it like William Wallace wielding a sword. Misery loves company so when they’re miserable, guess who’s company? And don’t kid yourself, PAs aren’t hapless types bungling through life causing innocent misfortunes on the rest of us. Oohhh no, these types are calculating. They will sidle up to you all nice and easy-like, seemingly sweet and kindly until they can exact their nonsense on you. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing; they’re slicker than snot on door knob and they intend to cause you, me and whomever else harm for their own personal gain. Insufferable prigs. (See? I told you they get under my skin).

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So it’s important for me to be self-aware; to know just how these kinds of people push every button I have. I also need to become familiar with their personalities so I can readily recognize their type when they show up. That way, I can defend myself (en garde!) against their imminent nonsense!

If you and I don’t know what sets us off; if we don’t know our reactive tendencies; if we don’t know us, we’re going to be in trouble. We need to know our weaknesses so we can lean into our strengths.

So what is my strength for dealing with PAs? Sticking to the facts (just the facts, ma’am, just the facts).

If there is one thing that a PA can’t fend off is the truth. Oh make no mistake, they will try to twist the truth in a way that would put a contortionist to shame all in an attempt to get you discombobulated. They will name fingers and point names but by remaining calm (that’s key) in the midst of the finger-naming, and listening carefully to their choice of words, (“you always,” “you never”) one can refute their accusations by using the facts against them (“I have,” “I have not”). And it’s important not to engage in making accusations in response otherwise it’ll be like a fish on a hook that’s taken the bait.

We are told to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. Now that may sound like a strange thing to say but think about that for a minute. Heebie jeebies aside, snakes are very smart. They assess their surroundings all the time. They take in the situation before acting, and if they sense a threat, they take up a defensive posture to protect themselves. En garde!

And then to be gentle as doves. Have you ever seen a vengeful, psychotic dove before? Yeah, me neither. In fact they’re quite docile, gentle birds, even when encountering other birds, which may be why they’re symbolic of peace, harmony and purity. Good characteristics and behaviors for us to emulate, particularly towards those who vex us greatly.

En Garde 3

Another source of strength, believe it or not, is to act peaceably towards others. Now this may sound contrary to my previous statement about taking an en garde posture but actually they coincide with each other. En garde is defensive, not offensive, standing at the ready in case action is required. Peace is completely nonagressive. It’s calming, tranquil, harmonious and nonviolent. Neither invites trouble.

Lastly, as you notice those toxic people or situations coming at you, you don’t have to just stand there and take it. Run! Run the other way (Run, Forest, Run!). You don’t have to be considerate or act with politeness when someone is trying to engage you with their nonsense. Just pick up and leave.

So if we stand at the ready (en garde), if we know what our triggers are, and if we act in our best interests, what do you think will happen…to you?

You will experience less stress. You will begin to see people and situations for what they are and learn how to avoid their toxicities. You will set healthy boundaries. You will thwart the efforts of those who have ill-intent. You will gain your sanity!

So be on guard for your well-being against those sinister villains and life’s curve balls and you will not be easily swayed.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7


2 thoughts on “En Garde

  1. This struck a cord with me. It’s one thing to know you have snakes in your backyard but, to realize you have the world’s most deadliest snake lurking very close to you. Makes you question, why give anything “the benefit of the doubt” in the first place.


    • Thank you for your honest perspective. I get what you’re saying; I’ve been there, felt that too. It can be hard to give others the benefit of the doubt when one has caused you so much grief. I hope, though, you find those whom you can surround yourself with that are deserving of your good opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

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