Choice vs. Coercion


  • the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats
  • the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner.
  • a set of various different similar types of forceful actions that violate the free will of an individual
  • to induce a desired response.
  • the intimidation of a victim to compel the individual to do some act against his or her will by the use of psychological pressure

When I was younger, I would ride just about any ride in the theme park.  However in my later years, I’ve become more fearful and there are a few rides that I won’t get on.  The Titan at Six Flags Over Texas is one of them.  The Titan has been a big topic in our home.  My son, Jaren talked about the Titan frequently which was one of the only extreme rides that he had not conquered yet.  He studied and researched every aspect of it on the computer and would promise with optimism that the next time we went to Six Flags, he was going to ride the Titan and he wanted me to go on it with him.

Jaren did finally go on the Titan and actually on a day that I was not with him.  Sometimes our kids become braver when we parents aren’t around.  He was so proud of himself and actually, I was proud of him too for conquering one of his fears that seemed to haunt him on a regular basis.  Now that Jaren had the Titan under his big Texas belt and big bragging rights, he loved to gloat about his new found fearless attitude and began pestering me about going on the Titan.  He offered me every solution for my argument and tried to persuade and convince me that the Titan was not the bad.

I don’t like the coercion tactics, but I will admit that one time I did coerce Jaren into going on a ride.  As parents, we justify this behavior as trying to help our kids become more self-assured.  Six Flags had a 4D SpongeBob movie ride, where the seat rocked side to side or back and forth but didn’t leave the floor.  It’s mostly for special effects.  Jaren loved SpongeBob.  But for some reason, he was so afraid to try this ride.  I kept explaining to him that it wasn’t like the other scary rides.  Jaren did go on the ride reluctantly but to be honest, afterwards he still wasn’t crazy about it and was a little mad at me.  The experience was distressing for Jaren and I felt really bad.  After that, I never tried to talk him into going on a ride again.  I asked once or twice without any pressure and if he wasn’t ready to go any particular ride, we didn’t ride it.  Even if we brought some of his friends who wanted to ride something that Jaren wasn’t willing to ride yet, he would sit and wait and I sat with him.

One afternoon, while driving home, I was listening to Jaren pester me about riding the Titan.  As parents, we all have witnessed our kids from time to time beg or plead for something whether it is a toy in a store or a happy meal at McDonald’s.  It’s a side effect of being a parent.  But this time, my son was not pleading about something HE desired but rather about something he wanted ME to do.  He kept sharing his opinion while enforcing his views.  He had it in his mind that I would feel so much better if I faced my fears and went on the Titan.  He went on and on, trying to weaken me and hoping to convince me to go on the Titan until I became somewhat agitated by his attempts.  I finally told him that no amount of convincing from him was going to get me to do something I don’t want to do.  My life flashed quickly before me and I realized how many times, in my younger years, I had caved into someone else’s desires or wants and I suddenly saw a teaching opportunity for my son about coercion.

I explained to Jaren that there is a difference between motivating someone and coercing someone.  I said it is okay to motivate someone but he should never try to coerce someone to do something they don’t want to do.  I further explained that if someone does agree to do something solely because he convinced them, they may end up regretting it later and then hating him.  You see, at that moment, I thought about my son being on a possible date sometime in his near future.  And instead of him trying to convince me, his mother to ride an extreme roller coaster, he could be trying to convince some girl into having sex.  I needed him to understand that that is not okay.  I told him that you may ask someone once or maybe twice but if they refuse your offer, never try to convince or coerce them into agreeing otherwise.  No, means no.

This is what “regret” feels like; when we make a choice that we really didn’t want to make but allowed our self to be influenced or psychologically pressured into choosing an alternative outcome.

Sometimes our family or friends may need our encouragement or motivation to make a choice.  We may need to help boost someone’s confidence that may be damaged or lacking.  When we motivate someone, we tell that person that we believe in them and we know that they are wise enough and strong enough to make a decision.  In the end, we support their choice, no matter what choice they have chosen.

Coercion is the opposite.  Coercion is convincing someone to do what you think is right to do, not what they think is right.  Coercers are more concerned with their own desires.  Coercers don’t believe that others are capable of making sound judgments or good decisions and therefore feel the need to sway the outcome.  They will attempt to tear down the mental abilities of a person by reminding the person of their lack.  Coercers will play both protagonist and antagonist, focusing on the negative outcomes of a choice they don’t desire while promoting their own agenda with a more optimistic outlook.  Coercers only support one choice and that is their choice.

I have a favorite bible verse that I discovered a couple years ago.  It resonates with me and has helped me understand why we need to be true to ourselves, our decisions and our choices.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.  (James 5:12)Image


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