I grew up in a bad neighborhood. There were high crime rates, gang disputes, corrupt cops, and legitimate crack heads (who would wander around the darkened streets at night). This was not ideal, of course, but I learned a lot of important life lessons from observing the people in that place.
I quite literally saw a guy "get the snot knocked out of him" on one occasion. My high school functioned as a recruiting ground for several gangs. Many of the boys, who fancied themselves "hard men," would join, put on their colors, and start getting into trouble. One of these guys was named Manny but he wasn't as "hard" as his cocky attitude would have suggested and his flaccid performance cost him both his pride and a fairly serious and very public beating (I am really struggling to make a dick joke here but I'll resist the urge).
Manny was a recently initiated member of a very famous gang in this country (I won't say which but if I asked you to name two, it would likely be one of them). He had some dispute with one of the smokers who would hang out on the street corner during lunch and thought he would invoke his new privileges as a member of this infamous and feared organization to settle things favorably for him.
After walking over to a group of more senior members of his gang, Manny looked quite satisfied. They all began to walk toward the offending smoker and Manny's smug smile seemed to say "you're going to get it now" as he pointed toward his would-be victim and recounted the perceived sleights to his (and the gang's) "honor."
"Fight him and we'll make sure no one jumps in" the apparent leader of Manny's group said. Manny appeared distressed. He did not want to fight this rather large teenager alone. He had expected his companions to swoop in and do his dirty work for him. Manny made that clear to the older gang members and his situation rapidly soured.
Up until the point that Manny had made his cowardice known, the leader had his his attention focused on the potential enemies that stood in front of him. However, that quickly changed when Manny spoke. The leader spun around with balled fists and rage clearly evident on his face. He glared at him for a moment and the crowd of teenagers, who had gathered around to see the fight, grew silent. The leader's body jerked as he threw his arm around with shockingly violent speed. His fist connected with Manny's cheek and drug across his nose. Manny stumbled with a rather large and embarrassing glob of blood and snot smeared across his face and fell onto his hands and knees. The leader then gestured to the person who was the target of Manny's wrath and indicated that he was free to do as he will before turning and walking away. A fast but fairly serious "ass stomping" ensued, ended, the crowd dispersed and we smokers finished our cigarettes while Manny collected himself and retreated to some friendlier location to lick his wounds.
I feel like there were two lessons to be learned from that incident. The first is obvious. One should not always count on his or her friends to come to his or her aid. People may decide to help you but they are not bound to you and when you encounter danger, they may choose to stand by rather than face it with you.
The second lesson is more important, however. It is unwise to accept obligations that one cannot live up to. Manny wanted to look tough and be part of that gang but he "wasn't about that life." He agreed to represent an organization that, in part, functions based on the amount of fear and respect that it commands in the communities in which it operates. When he failed to perform his "gangly" duties, he cost that organization some of its prestige and he suffered severe consequences as a result. He found himself the victim of his own comrads and was ultimately abandoned to whatever fate his original opponent wished to impose upon him.
All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website unsplash.com.