I was reading in the The 33 Strategies of War and there was an interesting strategy I came upon. This strategy I think is one we use often and do not even know it. It also has great application to normal life. If it is not being used in your life, I think it might be time to step back and start using it.
Let us begin, the Strategy I’m talking about and that is outlined by Robert Greene is:
“TRADE SPACE FOR TIME
THE NONENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
Retreat in the face of a strong enemy is a sign not of weakness but of strength. By resisting the temptation to respond to an aggressor, you buy yourself valuable time–time to recover, to think, to gain perspective. Let your enemies advance; time is more important than space. By refusing to fight, you infuriate them and feed their arrogance. They will soon overextend themselves and start making mistakes. Time will reveal them as rash and you as wise. Sometimes you can accomplish most by doing nothing” (p.137, Greene).
Another way to say Trade Space For Time could just be called “retreat.” Retreating is simply getting away from the action to give you time to think. So you are giving up ground (space) (could be used metaphorically) for time to your self. And I think this applicable in more ways then just military battle. But before we talk about that let’s hit on a few points so you can have a well rounded view of this strategy:
The first point to cover: “If you are always advancing, always attacking, always responding to people emotionally, you have no time to gain perspective. Your strategies will be weak and mechanical… Retreating is something you must do every now and then, to find yourself and detach yourself from infecting influences. And the best time to do this is in moments of difficulty and danger” (p.140, Greene).
The second point: “When you fight someone more powerful than you are, you lose more than your possessions and position; you lose your ability to think straight, to keep yourself separate and distinct. You become infected with the emotions and violence of the aggressor in ways you cannot imagine… The decision to retreat shows not weakness but strength. It is the height of strategic wisdom” (p.141, Greene).
Now the last point: “War is a constant illustration of Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. But when you retreat, when you exchange space for time, you are making Murphy’s Law work for you” (p.142, Greene).
Now these I thought were the best three points from this chapter. And gives the best frame work for us to learn from. The biggest take away for someone is the emotion control aspect of it. Because it is usually our emotional responses that get us in trouble. And I think this is where this principle can be very applicable to everyday life. To illustrate, I will now go through some scenarios we may run into.
Scenario one: Husband and wife start to argue, and she is coming at the husband hard, hitting him with everything, remember every failure and letting him know about it. She is fighting dirty. Now, the husband starts to get angry and defensive, and he’s got a temper. the fight is escalating and both are saying things they will wish they hadn’t. He now has two options, stay in the fight and keep elevating the temperature and letting the heart rate get past 150, where now he can’t think, he then will be acting emotionally. Or, he can remove himself from the situation. Get away from the fight. Give up his metaphorical ground to have some time to himself to gain perspective, and calm himself. As well as come to the conclusion that this fight is not worth it, so he can win the friendly battle we call marriage.
Scenario two: Let’s say you have your girlfriend over for dinner. You have a nice time, she really enjoys the parmesan chicken you made, with the side of green beans, and the salad. Now let’s say you finished desert, and are watching a movie. Maybe you start doing some smooching, and all the sudden she has got a real taste of testosterone from kissing you (because testosterone is transferred through saliva: science). Now things are really heating up, and her cardigan comes off. Right now, your mind is not thinking… at all. But hopefully this is idea is in your brain slot, RETREAT!!! This is when retreating, giving up the ground you worked so hard for (with making dinner) and getting away from the action could save your life in a metaphorical and very real sense! Cause unplanned pregnancy will really change things for you. While away you will catch your breath and your senses will return to you, and you will have dodged a bullet.
So, in these two situations, you can see getting away from the action will give you the time to think, so you are not being controlled by your emotions and feelings, cause how often do we do things because our emotions got the best of us? And these are just two situations to show it. This principle can also apply to that business deal you are working on, or the relationship with a family member you have that you are always fighting with.
Moving on, here are two other ways I think we can use the retreating principle. “Retreat” can be something we do everyday, and or something we can do with a couple people or as a group. The first one being quiet time with God in the morning and or night. This will allow you to gain perspective on the events that have transpired or events that are coming up in your day. It is also a discipline we should be doing everyday as Christians. Often time this is when God can reveal things to us we are doing real awful on, or we can strengthen ourselves in God.
The second way this can be used is something the church calls going on a retreat. A mens retreat is a common thing in the church. And it is basically getting away from the everyday action we face and allows us to gain perspective and or different perspectives. Retreats even allows us to know we are not the only ones who are experiencing turbulence in life.
Other ways of retreating could just be going for a walk, or a drive. Maybe going to a local coffee place to just collect yourself. I remember one time some of my business deals were really getting me stressed out, and I had to leave the office to get some strength from the Lord. When I left the office there was a passage of Scripture that I had in my heart from the past, and a verse that I love. The verse I focused on was this one in 1 Samuel 30:
“6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David strengthened himself in Jehovah his God.” (Biblegateway.com)
Particularly where it says “but David strengthened himself in Jehovah his God.” See, I was able to retreat from the action and get encouragement from God in this situation. Know this: we are not al totally equipped to handle all of life’s circumstances. So sometimes retreating and get the strength from God is a must.
To end, retreat is not something to be thought of as something that is shameful, but to be thought of as a skill that can allow us time to collect ourselves and make a better decision, a better move, or better choice that then can allow us to win the fight and ultimately the war.
Now flip side don’t use this tactic to be a coward, sometimes we have to stay and finish the fight, sometimes we have to be strong. So use wisdom with this principle.
Bible Gateway . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+30%3A6&version=ASV>.
Greene, R. (2006). The 33 Strategies of War. New York, NY: Penguin Group.