No. No. No. No! NO! Sound like someone you know? Is it you? We all know there are plenty of situations where the appropriate answer is No. Defiance is when the only answer is No. Does that mean all defiance is bad behavior? Red crypticism: Depends on what you are defying.
Our first stop is going to be to Merriam Webster, of course:
To defy, one must dare (do something deemed impossible), disregard (confront with assured power of resistance) or withstand (resist attempts). Sounds utterly froward, no?
Daring to do something is either one of two things: Really brave or really stupid. We generally do not tag tasks as impossible because most everything is possible. We do, however, assign the value “impossible to be rewarding”. This means although you may want to do something, in the end, the ends do not justify the means. Let’s use skydiving as an example.
The one who has no fear of, well, anything, who jumps out of a perfectly good airplane to free fall for thousands of feet, pop a parachute and float back to the Earth does not qualify as defiant. Confident? Yes. Crazy? Possibly. Defiant? No. This person is not challenging anything by jumping.
The one who is desperately phobic of planes, heights, falling, landing and being out of direct control, who jumps out of a perfectly good airplane to quiver in free fall for thousands of feet, frantically pull the cord about 500 feet too early and agonize the entire float back to Earth does qualify as defiant. This person has challenged fear to a duel…and won…even if the ground gets a big, wet smooch and nevermore does this person set foot on a plane.
What is the difference? To be truly defiant, you must challenge a fear, convention, belief, law or other ordinance by your action. You say NO! to the ideals which would (im)politely inform you the task is impossible for you.
Civil disobedience is the first thing which springs to mind. When your duly elected bobbleheads pass inane laws, the public will engage in civil disobedience of them, blatantly disregarding the law, the consequences of disobedience and the authority of those who passed it or are charge with enforcing it. More often than not, the consequences are dealt, but standing in defiance of the law vehemently exhibits your power to resist authority.
When exercised well, defiance of this sort can bring about positive change. In and of itself, you will have a hard time subscribing this defiant behavior as bad.
Determination or Disobedience
Being able to withstand attempts to dissuade you is being defiant. This is the classic battle of wills. Enter Teenager. The angst-filled pseudo-adult is brimming with defiance. As part of the maturation process and the quest for identity, Teen will be openly defiant about (friends, school, hobbies, clothing, ad nauseum). Buckle up, Parent: This is normal.
Forging identity is tough enough. You recognized during the terrible twos this self-same defiance. Now, Teen is not cutting the umbilical cord, but instead burning the kitchen to be rid of the apron. In your (anger, disappointment, loss of authority), you may well question the integrity of the hospital staff who (you firmly believe) supplied you with a ran dom infant in a nursery lottery.
While the defiance may be painful for Parent, it is necessary for Teen to establish boundaries, belief systems and an identity outside Teen’s familial role. Watch closely. You are seeing inside the chrysalis.
For some, defiance is a defining trait. This person begins agreement with the word no. Every statement you make is answered with, “But if you only…”, “The way I see it…” or “If that was true,…”. The closest you will get to an admission you won an argument is “Whatever”.
Defiance in this case is Borg. Resistance is futile. Resisting a resistor is not always the easiest undertaking. In many cases, it is far simpler to nod knowingly and tell Mate about how insufferably infuriating Borg is.
Borg either has no idea defiance is the only characteristic in the identity box or is afflicted with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Whichever it is, Borg is best handled by psychiatric professionals.
Similar to Borg, Danger is always gunning for a fight. You can tell the difference between Borg and Danger by watching to which guns they stick. Borg will stick to one set of rules. Danger will stick to whichever rule is opposite yours.
This is the argument between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck over rabbit and duck season. If you (as Bugs) proclaim it duck season, Danger (as Daffy) will argue it is rabbit season. The moment you switch positions, so does Danger. This is the prime example for arguing for the sake of argument.
Danger could care less what is on the menu as long as there is something to defy.
Depending on what you choose to defy, defiance is not always a bad choice. Refusing to accept the social norm may not be comfortable, but if it brings about positive change, it is worthwhile despite the discomfort.
What have you defied? Is defiance one of your core identity traits? When have you seen defiance bring about positive change?
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(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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