Who Are You When You're Under Attack?

“Once, in Birmingham, when King was giving a speech, a two-hundred-pound white man charged the stage and began pummeling King with his fists… they were astounded to watch King become his assailant’s protector… King was a moral absolutist who did not stray from his principles even when under attack.” - David & Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell


But if you stray from your principles when you’re under attack, are they really your principles? (I’m genuinely asking.)

Are principles what we say we have, or what we exhibit when the going gets tough?

When our backs are against the wall, are we who we really are, or merely a version of ourselves tainted by the current circumstances?


From a personal perspective, I know there is a difference in “me” when things are going my way & everything is in it’s proper place versus when life seems to be dealing me a crappy hand & doors appear to be slamming in my face.

But the question remains: if you stray from your principles when you’re under attack, are they really your principles?

If you can only be patient when there’s nothing to wait for; be kind when others are kind to you; be generous when you’ve got something to give; be forgiving when it’s easy to forgive; be understanding when you understand— are you actually patient, kind, generous, forgiving or understanding?

Can principles be circumstantial? 

Or is who you are, who you are? 

Is how you do one thing, how you do everything? 

Are we truly only as strong as our weakest link?

I don’t know, but if Martin Luther King could embrace a man assaulting him for his skin color— that is, if he could exhibit kindness when others were not kind to him— it seems to me our truest principles show only when their presence is demanded.

Principles like patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and understanding are most necessary when they’re hardest to exhibit.

But if you can only exhibit them when it’s easy, are they truly your principles? I think it’s worth the self-examination & perhaps, reconsideration of what we say are our principles.