Conflict averted, but still filled with self-doubt and loathing

Apparently one of our Youth Club has been “leery” all day with another in his year. This Other appeared outside youth club with the express intention of fighting him. When I knew why they were hanging about, I had a chat with them, trying to dissuade him of this action, “the bigger man walks away, can you be the bigger man?”

They left; maybe I’d bored them with my recounting of meeting people in prison who had overstepped the situation and found themselves facing a long stretch: normal people who made a single bad decision.

Then, later, they [the Other and a mate were back at home time. The youth club member had already called his Sister for a lift home – a little worried now: maybe his actions during the day had really been the cause of all this. I told them I would not allow them in the area (it is Church property after all, as I knew what they intended – did they want me to call the police?). The mate was bigger than me, although clearly only about 13 or 14 at most, and as he tried to front it out, I stood in front of him. I wasn’t prepared to see a fight outside the club. Another chap, waiting to pick up a younger brother, only perhaps a year or so older than he, told me outright that he didn’t think I was right to “square up to him”, and this is where the self-doubt comes in. Was that inappropriate? Was I defending our young people by not showing weakness myself, was I matching his menace with menace of my own and indeed was that right? They backed off, and went again.

As they went out to the car, they appeared: the Other made a lunge at our youth club member, and I had to stand between them. The Other was half my size. I was told where to go in no uncertain terms. My phone is out and I suggest I ought to follow through to the Police. Youth Club member leaves with Sister. The Other storms off. The Other’s mate remains and we chat. Now he appears totally unaggressive, chatty even. We get on.

The Other appears again, a bit sheepish now. We chat about what has gone on. The aggression has now subsided. I sit on the floor outside the hall and we chat. No one is now quite sure what at school caused it. We talk about anger, and channeling it, of productive things and we share a smile. We exchange first names and a handshake. A good outcome, I feel.

One of my Youth Leaders tells me I handled it well, but I feel awful. The conflict scares me, and I am filled with the notion that I handled it wrong, that I was wrong to intervene, wrong to order them off the Church property. It I had not been there, there would clearly have been real violence, and we know that these days that often means sharp things. Goodness knows how it could have turned out for me, or for them. I am convinced that a quiet, meek and mild approach would not have worked, and would have been far worse for all concerned, but I feel like a terrible Christian.

Life is filled with these dilemmas. Why do I do youth work again?