Theodore Roosevelt must have been a cool guy. After reading some of the things he said, I wish I could have met him. He was quoted to say:
“Walk softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
So few words and such deep meaning! To me, it means: don’t cause trouble, but always be ready to deal with it. Everywhere you go, be nice and friendly to people. When they try to walk over you, manipulate you, or use you (and they will at some point), you gotta pull out the big stick and show them you are nice BUT you also have a backbone. Be as easy going and nice as you possibly can for as long as you can, but when the time comes to be firm, don’t back down.
If we look at this saying literally, it makes sense in terms of self-defense. If you are a criminal looking to victimize someone, what’s your reaction when you notice they are armed? Some of my martial arts instructors have said that even just appearing alert and aware of your surroundings can deter a potential attacker.
A couple more Teddy Roosevelt quotes to go along with the one above:
“Don’t hit if at all honorably possible, but if you have to hit a fellow, put him to sleep.”
This matches Teddy’s attitude of: if something is worth doing, don’t do it half-way. Go at it 100%. But I think it also means avoid violence or harsh dealing until it’s a last resort and there is no other choice. At that point, you really do need to incapacitate someone in order to protect yourself.
“Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready.”
Again, I think he’s saying we should be nice AND strong at the same time. This is a balance that doesn’t come easy. When people push me far enough to make me angry, a controlled, firm response can be difficult. It’s easier to explode and let them have it! Or to be intimidated and allow myself to be bullied. But neither of these extremes nurture respect, whether it’s the respect of others or my self-respect.