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All is Fair in Love and War

“All is Fair in Love and War” is a phrase used to justify behavior that could be considered unsavory, unethical, or unfair.

What’s interesting about that statement is that there is a certain truth underlying it, but not how most would consider.

There is no unsavory or unethical behavior that should ever be justified. Unsavory and unethical behaviors happen, but they are actions taken and immediately justified from an unconscious part of ourselves. When that takes place, it is the very validation and continuation of those negative parts of ourselves in this world.

We as parents want the best for our children. We love them with our whole heart. However, what we must understand and realize is that our love for them should never be used to justify negative behavior.

Many parents are concerned that they will lose their child’s love if they don’t always fully support them in each and every moment, no matter what. If we believe that love can be lost, then it isn’t love that we know at all.

There is a school in England called “Summerhill”. The founder of that school wrote a book about the school and what he learned from observation of the students that attended. Many of the students were brought to that school because parents felt incapable of dealing with unruly and unsavory behaviors in their child.

In his book, he mentions a new child coming to the school who knew every swear word in the book and used them often. The school was based in a certain allowance in letting a child not only explore what they felt like exploring, but to let them be who they were without judgment. They saw, through experience, that this was the best way for a child to learn.

Because the students at this school were given a safe place to be themselves, they allowed this new student to be himself as well. In other words, they allowed him to swear.

The important key here that I need to mention is that they allowed him to swear, but they didn’t give their attention to that behavior. They didn’t resist it. They didn’t ask him to stop. They didn’t exclaim that swearing was bad. They didn’t coddle him and tell him everything was ok or ask him “what’s the matter?”

They didn’t do anything to try to change his behavior. They just went about doing what they were doing without paying heed to his behavior.

After 5 or 6 days, the boy stopped swearing. He never swore again. The part of him that wanted attention through the use of swear words, wasn’t given the attention it needed to survive. Those unsavory parts need attention to survive. When that attention isn’t given, it no long can have a life in our consciousness.

That may seem radical to some, but the principle of it is beautiful in itself.

I am not speaking of “ignoring” truly harmful behavior, because there is a certain resistance when we ignore.

Our true work as parents and as individuals, is to become fully aware of what any unsavory behavior in our child or others triggers inside of us.

Whether that unsavory behavior triggers judgment, a wish to punish or correct a child, or even a wish to coddle our child and tell them everything is ok, our work is to allow ALL that is moving through us to move through and not feed it with our attention. In other words, to become aware of the whole of the moment.

Why? Because the initially triggered thoughts belong to old, recognized part of ourselves that always prod us in the moment to re-engage with them. To be new, we must wait for the old to pass so that the new can be revealed.

We need to consider an altogether different possibility that life is using others to show us in all moments, unsavory behaviors that exist in ourselves that need to be let go of.

Life doesn’t make mistakes. If a disturbance arises in us, it was meant to be brought up to be seen and let go of. That’s the whole point of the trigger, but our old learned patterns are pretty set in their ways. They want YOU to change so that I am not disturbed. There can only be war, only battle in that.

To me, “All is fair in love and war” means that if Love is our guide, it is Love that we will experience and receive. If “war” (the old, divisive, combative) is our guide, it is war (the old, divisive, combative) that we will experience and receive. So all is fair in love and war.

Which one we feed is in our hands.

Image courtesy of: Gustavo Fring on Pexels

Exercise for the week: This week, see if you can catch yourself condemning an unsavory behavior in your child. Work to let go in that moment and bear as much as you can bear in waiting for higher instruction.

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