One of my mother's rules was to never start a fight. However, she also believed that if you got in fight that you should try to win if you could do it fairly. She also was big about using your intelligence to win.
So what does all this have to do with "fighting fire with water?"
Recently the phrase that you have to "fight fire with fire" has rolled off the tongues of many. Usually it is a thinly veiled attempt to excuse nasty behavior in response to criticism.
It makes no sense on a lot of levels. First if my house is on fire, I am going to use water instead of starting another fire. Maybe if you are fighting a forest fire and have the right equipment, you might successfully fight fire with fire but you are also likely using as much water as you can while praying for mother nature to deliver some rain.
The idea that criticizing someone is excused by the fact that they criticized you is hard for me to swallow. I have been in a lot of interesting and challenging situations in my life. I have found that sending off a flaming email to a critic is counterproductive. In fact in today's world, it is unlikely that an email, conversation, or even a civil debate will change your critic's mind.
Most people who go off the deep end for one reason or another have lost their power of reasoning and it is unlikely that there is anything you can say or do which will change that. Often when I was writing about Apple, I offended some of Apple's most serious fans who believed that Apple could do no wrong. Providing them with concrete evidence that I was right was absolutely futile.
Eventually, I learned that the easiest thing was to let them showcase their bias and just leave the judgement to others. It is possible to defend your own position without attacking another person.
Recently we had a neighborhood issue when someone choose to send out some derogatory emails about me. Anyone who knows me well realizes that I have plenty of online soapboxes where I could easily defend myself or shred someone if I wanted to do so. I chose not to even read the emails. That made it easier to not retaliate.
While I could not take back what the person said about me, I could just let the person showcase their own bitterness without even acknowledging it. In essence I was throwing water on a fire instead of setting my own house on fire in effort to save it. As someone said long ago, the best revenge is living well.
Just maybe our country could be benefit from lots more water and a whole lot less fire.