When the bully offers you a chance to take a free shot...

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Have you ever seen the scenario where the bully or tough person  tells the person who's being bullied:

"go ahead, take your best shot"

In some stories, the less powerful person gets in a lucky shot (think David and Goliath). In others, the bully doesn't flinch. Then the bully retaliates.

It's a set up. The bully knows the person can't hurt them, so the offer to "take your best shot." Then the bully has an excuse to retaliate, because the other person threw the first punch.

But lately I've been seeing a disturbing variation on this theme: the bully acts first, and then offers the victim a shot at retributive justice.

I know a woman who discovered her husband was cheating on her... a LOT. Her husband's response was to offer her six months of faithfulness to her during which she could sleep with anyone she wanted, after which they would have an open marriage. To him, this seemed a reasonable way to settle the score.

He offered her something she wasn't interested in - the opportunity to stray - as a way of making up for him breaking their marriage vows. How is that compensation? And then he offered her a kind of marriage in which she was also not interested. In short: "I've taken from you what you wanted, but in return I'm offering you what you don't want."

I've seen situations where someone has said or written some awful thing about women, or people in same-sex relationships, or people of various races or religion. When called out on it, they offer the chance to say something awful about men, or heterosexuals, or white Christians. Somehow, this is supposed to even the score.

It doesn't.

When there's a power differential, the harm is disproportionate. If the elephant steps on the mouse's foot, it's not the same as when the mouse steps on the elephant's foot.

Instead, what if the person causing the harm:
  • admitted she or he was wrong
  • did his or her best to undo the harm
  • endeavored to not repeat the mistake
  • encouraged others to avoid the mistake

It's not as tidy as "take your best shot," but it's much more helpful.

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