Wise Counsel Protects Against Crime
ANY number of people have written books and articles advising how best to cope with crime. Many of their practical suggestions are of real value, although at present there is no way to ensure total safety or protection. Yet this does not mean that we cannot do anything. We can, and in view of today’s steadily mounting wave of crime and violence, we should.
For some very practical suggestions, let us turn to a man blessed by God with “wisdom and understanding in very great measure,” yes, a wisdom that made him “wiser than any other man” of his time and made it possible for him to “speak three thousand proverbs.” (1 Ki. 4:29, 31, 32) You may recognize the man as being King Solomon.
The famous Spanish author Cervantes once aptly defined proverbs as being “short sentences drawn from long experience.” No one has had longer experience with man and his problems than man’s Creator himself, who endowed Solomon with the wisdom he needed to compose the “short sentences” that we find in the Bible books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s counsel, coming as it does from God, is the very best available. Let us see how we can apply it for our own protection.
“Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”—Prov. 22:3.
The underlying principle here is that a person should foresee possible dangers and conceal himself before calamity strikes. In other words, take precautionary measures. This is the very best kind of protection. Examples? There are many.
Keep your doors and windows locked when away from home. In some areas it may even be wise to keep them locked at all times. If you live in a home with adjoining garage, do not overlook the door between it and the main part of the house. Husbands leaving late for work have been known to leave the garage door open, allowing strangers easy entrance to the house through the garage.
What applies to your home also applies to your car. Keep it locked. In some countries it is illegal to leave a car unattended without locking it, and rightly so. Even while driving, you may find it wise to keep the doors locked; otherwise unwanted persons could enter your car while you are waiting at a traffic light. If you must leave your car on the street at night, try to pick as light a place as possible to park it.
Burglars like to work undisturbed and to go unnoticed, so they will generally come to visit when you are not at home. A loud burglar alarm (in the house or in the car) or a barking dog may be enough to convince them that working conditions are unfavorable. If you are gone for a longer period of time, do not advertise your absence by letting newspapers or mail pile up in the front yard or in the mailbox. Ask that they be held for you until you return or arrange that they be regularly picked up by a friend.
A light left burning in the house makes it appear that someone is at home. Of course, leaving it burning day and night for several days would be just as revealing to the observant would-be burglar as no light at all. In cases of extended absence, it might be a wise investment to purchase a device that automatically turns your lights, or even your television set or radio, on and off at certain predetermined times.
Keep your valuable things in a safe place, somewhere that a burglar might not think to look. Even better, keep them in several places, so that if he should succeed in making off with some of them, he will not have gotten them all. It pays to foresee trouble.
AVOID BEING OVERLY TRUSTFUL
“Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.”—Prov. 14:15.
It would be wonderful if we could trust everyone whom we meet, and this is still possible in some parts of the world. But in other places, including many large cities, wickedness abounds and we must be realistic. Here it may be wise to be on guard against questionable persons and situations.
It may be unwise, for example, to invite strangers into your home, even when they appear to have legitimate reasons for calling, unless they can present proper identification. In fact, since even opening the door can be dangerous in some places, you may want to have it equipped with a peephole or a chain if you live where the situation requires it.
Never leave your door key under the doormat or in any of the other generally well-known hiding places. You can trust the person you are leaving it for, but can you trust the one who may find it? It is also unwise to tag your key ring with name and address, thereby ascribing honesty to the person who may find it should it be lost.
Caution is the course of wisdom when a person approaches you on the street, especially at night. His intentions may appear honest, but it could be a trick to get close enough to you to do some kind of harm. Better to be cautious than to become the victim of a mugger. Not going out alone, as far as this is feasible, can also be a protection. Two persons are not as likely to be attacked as one. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: “If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him.”
When in public places, watch your appearance. The way you dress is important. It could incite others to actions that you would not appreciate.
Also, when attending public gatherings, exercise caution. Leaving valuables on your seat while you go to the rest room or out for refreshments is unwise. It takes only one dishonest outsider in an honest crowd to make you regret your carelessness.
Avoid trying to “look rich.” The man flashing a fistful of bills and the woman loaded down with jewels are asking for trouble. A recent article in Time observed that “largely because of the epidemic of kidnappings and other violence directed against Italy’s rich, the flamboyance—and the flaunting—of the moneyed life-style has all but disappeared.” A wealthy person was quoted as having said: “In Italy now you want to feel rich and look poor.”
PICK ASSOCIATES CAREFULLY
“A man of violence will seduce his fellow, and certainly causes him to go in a way that is not good.”—Prov. 16:29.
Violence is like a contagious disease; it is catching. Even innocent arguments with workmates, friends or relatives can rapidly escalate into violence if one is not careful. It is claimed, for example, that more than one fourth of the murders in the United States are family affairs, often triggered by domestic quarrels. Attend a party where excessive drinking is taking place, or get involved in a protest movement or march where emotions are running high, and the danger of violence is multiplied. How wise, then, to avoid persons given to violence and situations that tend to nurture it!
You should be concerned about your own conduct, but do not be overly concerned about the misconduct of others. If you observe someone acting discourteously or improperly in a public place, it is better to exercise self-control and say nothing as long as life is not being endangered. Proverbs 26:17 explains: “As one grabbing hold of the ears of a dog is anyone passing by that is becoming furious at the quarrel that is not his.” You could easily incite others to violence by inappropriate comments or even by a “dirty” look.
What should a person do if he inadvertently gets caught up in a quarrel not of his own making?
LEAVE, IF YOU CAN
“Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”—Prov. 17:14.
Do not add fuel to the fire by arguing. Proverbs 26:20 tells us: “Where there is no wood the fire goes out.” An argument can last only as long as you choose to stay upon the field of battle. Avoiding violence by taking your leave is not the mark of a coward, but, rather, of a wise man. The examples of Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul prove this.—See Luke 4:28-30; Acts 9:23-25; 14:5, 6.
But what if your opponent physically prevents you from fleeing? Then speak to him calmly. Remember, “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Prov. 15:1) This calls for self-control, but it may pay in the long run. Women have been known to talk assailants out of rape by remaining calm and explaining to them their Biblical stand on morals.
Of course, there may be times when fleeing is impossible and when calm words fall on deaf ears. Then what? It depends on what the person wants. Does he want your property, your money? If so, let him have it. Material things can be replaced, but not your health or your life. Never put these in jeopardy for purely material things. Having the wisdom and proper discernment to be able to recognize the relative unimportance of material things as compared to life is, as Proverbs 3:14 says, “better than having silver as gain.”
If your assailant is after your virtue or your life, however, the situation is different and you have Scriptural support for defending yourself by whatever means are at your disposal. An article in a north German newspaper recently explained how this might be done. It advised women or young girls confronted by sex offenders to “keep calm,” to “offer resistance” if possible, and “at the same time to scream for help.” (Compare Deuteronomy 22:23, 24.) Those incapable of physical resistance were told to try to outwit the evildoer or “to divert his attention by praying out loud.” This is wise counsel, because it is Biblical. It also leads up to another suggestion made by the wise ruler.
TRUST IN JEHOVAH
“Do not say: ‘I will pay back evil!’ Hope in Jehovah, and he will save you.”—Prov. 20:22.
These words are not to be understood as ruling out self-defense, but they do show us the need for discernment and balance in exercising it.
Basically, crimes are of two kinds: those directed against one’s property, such as stealing or extortion, and those directed against one’s person, such as assault, rape or murder. Since life is of infinitely greater value than property, we would rightly be entitled to a wider latitude of action in warding off crimes against our person than we would in crimes against our property.
“The trend [in France] to rely more upon defending oneself than upon police protection is growing.” So reported a German daily recently. The article told of a self-defense group whose members had been advised: “Arm yourselves and shoot first.” A similar trend is found in other countries. A newsmagazine reported that “West Germans have registered 2,500,000 revolvers and pistols, shotguns and rifles, but they possibly have illegal possession of ten times that number.” The article continued by saying that obtaining weapons is getting easier all the time and that “they are being used with greater ease and brutality—by criminals as well as by well-behaved citizens.”
Some may feel that it can do no harm to have a gun in the house, ‘just in case,’ hoping, of course, that it will never have to be used. In reality, however, the only way to be really sure that you will never use a weapon is not to have it in the first place. How often, under the pressure of fear and nervous tension, persons have made use of weapons, only to regret it afterward. Sympathize with a filling-station owner south of Paris who heard suspicious noises in the middle of the night. Going downstairs, he suddenly saw a shadow and, thinking it to be a burglar, shot. How tragic to discover that he had shot his eight-year-old son who had gotten up to get a drink of water!
Shedding human blood, even when done unintentionally, is a serious matter. Of course, there are other types of weapons, such as gas pistols, that can be used to ward off attackers. Although not intended to wound or to kill, even such “harmless” weapons can, at times, trigger greater violence on the part of an opponent, so the advisability of using them should be weighed carefully.
The so-called martial arts, like judo and karate, are another increasingly popular method of defending oneself. These martial arts train a person to use his hands and body to either injure or kill an opponent, so, in reality, they, too, are weapons. Their pagan background and military usage also raise questions as to their propriety for Christians. Can you imagine the apostle John defending himself with karate chops or Jesus Christ fighting off an opponent with kung fu tactics? (See the December 8, 1975, issue of Awake!, page 28, for a more detailed discussion of this subject.)
How far you can go in defending yourself and your loved ones, as well as the methods you care to employ, are personal matters for you to decide on the basis of a well-trained conscience. Asking yourself a few questions can be helpful, however, in deciding what you should do: Am I fighting to defend life or simply to protect property? Is my motive protection of self and loved ones, or getting even with an evildoer? Have I thought of the effects my actions might have on others, including the evildoer? Would I want to injure him seriously or even kill him? Do I realize that he may be a victim of circumstances, more to be pitied than condemned? Could it be that with proper training, attention and love, he might be willing to develop his latent good qualities and repent of his bad ones? Would I be willing to help him to do so if I had the opportunity?
In summary, Christians, while not categorically opposed to self-defense, ought to be careful to avoid situations that would make it necessary. They recognize that by exercising the spirit of a sound mind, foreseeing trouble, taking necessary precautions, being careful of associations, guarding both tongue and action, avoiding being overly trustful of man, while placing complete trust in Jehovah, they will be pursuing the course of wisdom. This is a better form of self-defense than any based on the use of weapons or martial arts.
ECCLESIASTES 9:18 SUMS IT UP:
“Wisdom is better than implements for fighting.”
Jehovah God, the highest personage in the universe, without whose knowledge not even the smallest crime could take place, is capable of making a completely accurate tabulation of crimes as a basis for settling accounts with wrongdoers. But will he really do so? Is today’s steadily mounting wave of crime and violence destined to continue swelling indefinitely, or will God bring mankind needed relief? For the answer, read the article “Can Crime and Violence Ever Be Eliminated?” on pages 27 and 28.
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Will learning karate or owning a gun safeguard you?