When you think of the word “defense,” what comes to mind?
Personally, I think of medieval European castles, with drawbridges, gates, and moats designed to protect their inhabitants from intruders. Perhaps you might think of an NFL football team defending its end zone or a mother hen defending her chicks from predators.
In any of these examples, let's see the common thread. Defense, by definition, is a mechanism designed specifically to keep others away or chase them off.
While defense is great on the battlefield or the sports arena, it isn’t always the best tactic in relationships. Relationships aren’t about winning or being right. They’re about sharing intimacy and developing trust, and they certainly don't thrive when the verb "keep others away" is the main action taking place.
In all our relationships, at one point or another, we do things that make others upset or uncomfortable. When this happens, our friends or partners may confront us about how our actions have affected them. In these difficult scenarios, you have two choices about how to respond: you can defend yourself, or you can stay open to their perspective, which likely you disagree with during the conflict. You can cower in your castle, shooting arrows and pouring boiling oil to keep the invader out; or you can roll down the drawbridge, open up your heavy gates, and invite the trespasser in for dinner.
So which would you prefer? Suppose you have invited me to dinner, and I am an hour late, with no explanation or apology. After a few moments of strained pleasantries, you might say, “Alan, you were an hour late. I was concerned.”
I might offer several defenses: