Social Question

tinyfaery's avatar

When people say they would kill someone, or otherwise react violently, if someone did something to a loved one, is it really true, or is it just a knee-jerk reaction?

Asked by tinyfaery (42728points) October 9th, 2009

A lot of people on fluther say they would kill or hurt someone if they hurt their child or other loved one, mostly in reaction to molestation and the like. I find this attitude deplorable, and I tend to look bad upon people who say this, but when I think about it, how many people would really do it?

If you have said this, is it true, would you really kill someone? Is this just hyperbole?

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59 Answers

Jude's avatar

Knee-jerk reaction.

deepdivercwa55m's avatar

If someone does something to my little brothers(talking about very serious things) I will be a murderer. I don’t give a shit

PretentiousArtist's avatar

I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have the courage to carry out the threat.

DominicX's avatar

They can say what they would do all they want. Until they’re in that situation, it’s not possible to know what you would do for sure 100%.

Facade's avatar

It depends on the person.

PretentiousArtist's avatar

@DominicX I could not agree more.

Grisaille's avatar

I don’t want to make us out to be bloodthirsty animals, but I believe we all desire a strong enough reason to kill someone, deep down inside.

gussnarp's avatar

I’ve said this when I was a younger man, and I meant it at the time, but as @DominicX suggests, I doubt now that I would really have carried it out. Now the notion of someone hurting my family makes me very angry, but I don’t believe I would do such a thing now. Partly because I believe it is wrong, it makes me as bad as them. But also because I believe in the rule of law, and that if we take the law into our own hands, then the rule of law becomes meaningless. And also because it’s a good way to get yourself thrown in jail so that your family has not only been hurt, but deprived of you as well.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t want to kill anyone.

Jude's avatar

I couldn’t do it. Even act violently—it’s not in my nature.

PretentiousArtist's avatar

I’m glad to see that some of us aren’t so bloodthirsty :)

MissAnthrope's avatar

I think it depends on the person. I don’t generally say it, because I’m careful to say what I mean (except for dramatic exaggeration, but that’s usually for humor purposes). I also think it’s bad juju to want people dead, or to want to kill or hurt people. I really doubt I would kill anyone, but if someone, say, hurt my little sister, I would find a way to make them pay.

Grisaille's avatar

Violence and murder is in our nature; always has, always will be. With respect to @tinyfaery and the question, I’m certain 90% of the people that say they will kill in a fit of anger or despair are speaking in hyperboles.

That said, taking the life of another is the most penultimate act anyone could commit, suicide being the next. We enjoy the infliction of pain onto others, and enjoy violence – I’m not speaking on the micro level, but rather the populace at large. Take a look at the movies on the screen. Ever saw a Saw movie?

Tell me, can you remember any of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims? How about the Zodiac Killer? Some of you might, if you did a report on them or was the relative of one of the victims, but chances are you can’t. We are fascinated by killers because they are the rebels on the absolute level. They toss away societal constructs in favor of indulging in true human nature.

That said,

Any sane, mature person understands that killing is an act of claiming dominion over the sentience of another living, breathing human being. Because our evolved morality has fine-tuned the empathetic response so well (that is, projecting ourselves onto another), we do not want to kill a human. No.

We just want to point a gun at a human-sized flesh target and pull the trigger. We want that tactile response, that feeling.

tinyfaery's avatar


Speak for yourself. None of those things you said is true of me. I have no need to dominate. I do not enjoy violence. You are making HUGE assumptions.

Grisaille's avatar

Oh, I know. And I’m probably in the minority. Perhaps others will understand what I’m saying.

EDIT: Also realize that I’m not speaking about anyone directly. I’m speaking about the general population. I just think that all of us have the capability for murder and more often that not, we subconsciously desire a reason to commit it.

Don’t get defensive, people. It’s just a half-baked philosophical assumption.

MissAusten's avatar

It depends. If I woke up in the middle of the night and caught someone in the act of hurting or trying to abduct one of my children, I would do absolutely anything to stop it. If the person got killed in the process, so be it. I’m not sure how I’d be able physically to kill someone, and most likely would do no more than scare the person off, but he or she better hope I don’t have the chance to sneak up from behind with the aluminum bat I keep under the bed. And I hope I would have the presence of mind to also grab the phone and call 911.

If, however, one of my kids came to me and said someone had done something to them, I don’t think I could go hunt that person down and exact revenge. I’d probably fantasize about it and really wish I could do it, but I wouldn’t. I’d call the police and do everything I could to make sure that person was punished to the full extent of the law.

Accidents are accidents, and if someone caused a car accident or something that resulted in my child being injured or killed, I wouldn’t be able to harm that person. I’d want them to suffer the legal consequences, of course.

I don’t enjoy violence and can’t stand torture scenes in movies, horror movies, or scenes of protracted pain. Even the boxing scenes in movies like “Rocky” bother me. I’d rather watch just about anything else. Something violent happening to one of my kids is such a visceral fear though, I’d really do anything to stop it. Now I’m going to eat a chocolate chip cookie and try not to think about this anymore.

ubersiren's avatar

I really can’t imagine being able to restrain myself if I caught someone in the act of severely harming a loved one, especially my son or other helpless family member. Of course, if it ever actually went down, I can’t say for sure what I would do. I know how I feel about it, but it could just be a knee jerk reaction. I’ve never so much as been in a fist fight, so I don’t know where I think I’d get the courage from. If I did somehow find the courage, I’m still not sure I’d go through with it. It’s not something I would actively seek out to do.

Val123's avatar

Depends on the person, the loved one, and what would happen to them.

gggritso's avatar

@Grisaille First of all, it can be said with absolute certainty that we enjoy violence, however we need to agree that this affects mostly the male population. Grabbing examples from the animal kingdom and puppies who get into playful fights, to Roman gladiators, the rush you get from violence is undeniable.

That said, I don’t think it’s in our nature to kill. Evolution has crafted us into creatures that can only survive through cooperation. Killing is hardly cooperative.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Grisaille makes a good point about human nature. It is in our DNA to be at least a bit blood thirsty. I do agree that most of the people who make comments such as these are probably exaggerating. Many people probably fantasize about it and want to believe they could do it, but most people probably wouldn’t. Most of us have enough self control and respect for life to control our blood lust and not kill others, no matter the reason.

As @MissAusten pointed out, In self-defense or in the defense of one of my children I know that my animal instinct (specifically the “mama bear” part) would take over and I wouldn’t give a second thought to whether I was hurting the perpetrator, but as for calculated murder as revenge, I don’t think I have it in me.

borrowing from grisaille here That said… When I was in high school my grandfather was nearly killed by a hit and run driver. Since it happened my father has said more than once if he ever found the guy who did it he would kill him. Another time I was being hassled by a guy. My dad took the guy aside and told him that if he ever tried to contact me again he would kill him. There is no doubt in my mind that my father would – if the need arose – follow through on both of those promises. That’s probably why I never heard from the guy again – there was no doubt in his mind either.

casheroo's avatar

I can’t speak for every person that says that, some may say it as a knee jerk reaction. I know for myself that it is not a knee jerk reaction. I will kill you if you hurt my child. Now, this is not saying if some kid beats up mine, I’m going to go hunt him down. I’m talking about a molester, or someone who intentionally hurt my child..I will hunt them down and I will make them suffer. I may be a small lady, but when it comes to this…I would do all I could.
I think it’s in our nature to protect our loved ones.

And just because I feel this way does not mean I have a capability of killing just anyone. In my opinion you have to deserve it. I’m also a supporter of the death penalty so that might explain it.

Grisaille's avatar

@gggritso Would you agree that there is and probably will always will be some sort of schism between two groups of people?

If that divide is harsh enough, violence will ensue.

I’m in full agreement that we are social and cooperative creatures – but to say that we are just cooperative or just bloodthirsty is a bit of a false dichotomy. It’s in our nature to be both.

@SuperMouse I believe it is innate, and I don’t believe it is inherently unethical to fantasize – and fantasize is probably the wrong word. Perhaps “imagine” would be less of a strong word.

Thing is, the subconscious desire to kill another being is less so an ethical dilemma and more so a tactile wish, in my opinion. I’m certain everyone on this thread does not want to kill someone or something, but has the innate craving to do so.

gggritso's avatar

@Grisaille I think the schism between groups of people goes directly against what evolution instills in us. The existence of that separation is unnatural in a directly biological sense.

I do however, agree that we all dream of killing someone, but maybe it’s not because we want to __kill__ per se, just because we want to lay our vengeance, and like you said, murder is the ultimate act.

99% of the population simply don’t have the guts to kill another person, I certainly don’t. The mothers in the thread who say they’ll kill another person — I don’t believe you. The same instinct that throws you at your child’s attacker will prevent you from killing him. It’s the instinct to preserve life; it’s the cooperative gene that evolution so carefully places into every human.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I don’t think I could kill someone (other than perhaps hitler as per other thread, someone who has committed genocide). I don’t put it past myself to shoot someone in the knee though.

Grisaille's avatar

@gggritso I disagree wholeheartedly with your first paragraph.

Evolution is – as many like to put it – survival of the fittest. Many animals are not social and are fiercely territorial; they will kill another animal of the same species if they so much as step foot in their territory. Studying other great apes has shown us that there is a strict hegemony for any clan or grouping – territory is marked, and when another group enters, violence ensues. Biologically, killing is rooted deep within all of us. Take a look at your fingernails and canine teeth – they were once fangs and claws, designed to kill. Perhaps not one of your own species, but most certainly another living animal.

Regarding the last paragraph; I also believe that anyone could be driven to kill if you push them far enough. Poke and prod at a human in a cage long enough and soon they will revert back to a visceral creature. We are, after all, only animals.

scamp's avatar

Here’s a film that might help you gain a little more insight to this subject. Someone did hurt a loved one of mine, and I called 911 to keep me from crossing the street with the .38 I had in my hand at the time. The call was as much to keep me out of jail as it was to put him in.

@gggritso believe what you want. It’s not something you could really understand unless you’ve been put in that situation.

Grisaille's avatar

Now, now. Let’s keep it cool, peoples.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@scamp It’s not something you could really understand unless you’ve been put in that situation. Great Answer!

scamp's avatar

@Grisaille who me? It’s all good.. I’m not hot under the collar I was responding to his statement: The mothers in the thread who say they’ll kill another person — I don’t believe you. The same instinct that throws you at your child’s attacker will prevent you from killing him*

@RedPowerLady I wish I wasn’t in a position to know what this feels like, but thanks anyway!

Blondesjon's avatar


I would kill the individual by jerking their knees out.

Grisaille's avatar

@scamp ‘twas just a forewarning, is all. just don’t want this to turn into a passionate, heated debate based on purely subjective reasoning, y’know?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@scamp I apologize. That was not what I meant. I am very sorry that you had to learn how it feels. I am happy that you were able to express that one cannot know without being there. Again I apologize.

gggritso's avatar

@Grisaille Following the apes argument I officially lay to rest the opinion that conflicts between groups are unnatural. Great point.

@scamp Yes.

MissAusten's avatar

@gggritso You don’t think that if someone was in my home, hurting my child, and I a means of stopping that person that might also result in that person’s death, I wouldn’t use it? Seriously?

If it were fathers making the same claim, would you believe them?

I might have a strong biological instinct to nurture, but I think I could squash it without a thought if someone was in my home hurting my children.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@MissAusten Oh ya if someone was hurting my child in my presence that is another story. What about post-assualt? I had assumed that is what the questioner was asking.

MissAusten's avatar

“The mothers in the thread who say they’ll kill another person — I don’t believe you.” The moms who said they could kill someone stated it would be in order to stop a violent action. Not revenge. Except for @casheroo, who I’m a little scared of now. ~

I honestly hope I never find out what I’d do in that situation, but I can’t imagine anything other than using whatever means I have to save my child.

gggritso's avatar

@MissAusten You know, putting it into context makes me feel different… I think in my mind I separated the situations. I made a distinction between rash action in a frantic situation and the deliberate action.

You’re right. If someone is in your kitchen hurting your child, you would grab a knife and hit them until they stop moving. I now see that.

What I saw in my mind’s eye is pressing a cold barrel of a gun to the temple of another human. Looking into the eyes of a frightened man, his eyes wide, his breath short, his muscles stiff, what would you do? His life hangs on one contraction of a muscle. Would you have the strength to punish him?

If you do, what’s next?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@MissAusten I must have missed that little piece.

MissAusten's avatar

@gggritso Yes, for me the two situations are very different. In your second scenario, I don’t know what I would do, but I suspect I wouldn’t have the nerve for that sort of thing.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I agree with @DominicX: you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re in a situation and then you learn some things, maybe surprise yourself.

cookieman's avatar

I have said I would kill someone if they were hurting my wife or daughter. I have no idea if it’s only hyperbole. I hope I never have to find out.

casheroo's avatar

@MissAusten You have nothing to fear from me…unless you do something to someone I love. I would hope you did not rape, or molest or kill any of my loved ones.

And I don’t care what people think of me. I stand by my statement. I hope I never have to be in the situation though.

MissAnthrope's avatar

The more I think about this and read everyone’s posts, I realize that it’s very possible to find yourself in a position you would never anticipate. Like, if someone attacked you or a loved one, and you were in a position to fight back. I could envision myself in this scenario, fueled by anger, adrenaline, fear, self-preservation, all the way up to shooting someone if necessary. However, I don’t think my aim would be to kill them, unless it was a really dire situation where there was no other option, it’s either them or me.

YARNLADY's avatar

Most of the time when you see it on a site like this one, it’s just anonymous false bravado.

tinyfaery's avatar

For the record, I did not mean in the moment. My question pertains to a reaction after the fact.

cookieman's avatar

@tinyfaery: Well that’s a different kettle if fish.

After the fact?...No, definitely not. With time between the (presumedly) horrific event, I think I would have moved on to other emotions and not physically harm anyone.

Even if I thought about it, common sense would stop me from planning it.

MissAusten's avatar

@casheroo I’m absolutely sure your kids are safe from me. The worst I’d do is steal your son’s awesome name, but since I’m done popping out babies, even that won’t happen. :)

scamp's avatar

@RedPowerLady thanks again, and no apology needed. I knew what you meant.

As far as the after the fact scenario goes for me, those thoughts/feelings took about a week to qwell. Lucky for him and me, they jailed him the following day.

I whole heartedly agree with @hungryhungryhortence when she says: you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re in a situation and then you learn some things, maybe surprise yourself.

In another scenario, my ex and I were property managers, and a drunken tenant came late one night to pay his rent. To make a long story short, he beat up my ex badly when he was asked to leave our office. When I walked out to find him laying unconcious on the ground and the moron standing over him, I snapped. I went instantly into ‘protection mode’, and started punching the guy. I hit him several times until he went down, then ran in to call the police. They said we shouldn’t press charges against him because he could also press charges against me. so we evicted him instead.

If someone would have told me I would duke it out with a guy that size, or any guy for that matter, I would have told them they were nuts. But you really don’t know what you are capable of until you are actually in the situation

I have to add here, that what I did was very stupid, and I am lucky he didn’t decide to hit me back. If he had, I would have been laying in a pool of blood just like my husband was.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@scamp: people sometimes have such an adrenaline rush in their “fight” mode that they exert extraordinary strength- stories of mother’s lifting great weights to get to their children and those in battle who carry the injured for great distances, stuff like that. I have a particular gf who is very delicate, gentle and calm but there have been two instances where a man tried to physically handle me and she stepped right in front and even though her voice remained soft, something made the men back away; well, kind of- the first one she shoved and the second one said later something in her eyes made his mind go blank for an instant. Really cool stuff to know my habiba has superpowers :D

MissAnthrope's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence – I can attest to this. Twice have I demonstrated superhuman strength while in “fight” mode, once swimming a mile in not-so-calm seas, the other was moving several pieces of heavy and bulky furniture by myself. Both times were after a confrontation or conflict with people; I was unbelievably angry both times, fuming, maybe.. smoke coming out of my ears, definitely. I don’t think I’ve ever swum any distance close to a mile before, that kind of amazed me. And moving those pieces of furniture by myself—additionally, I had like no soreness the next day—is freaking incredible. I honestly don’t know how I did that.

Grisaille's avatar

I hate to digress the conversation, but “swum” is a funny word.

That is all.

scamp's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence and @MissAnthrope I agree with you both. I found an article that talks about this topic. The author calls it “tend and befriend” when the response is related to women. She seems to think women use this response first. I found a little more on it here. It’s pretty interesting.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

A few months ago, a drunk driver hit a car carrying my cousin and 4 of his school mates, all were horribly killed excepting his driver and the drunk in the other oncoming car. Mp3’s were available online for us to listen to 911 calls made from kids following in cars behind who came up on the grisly scene, several describing the drunk trying to retrieve a motorcycle from his truck in order to flee the scene. I didn’t feel like I wanted the drunk driver put to death for the accident even though some other family and many friends of the kids killed did. I surprised myself on this.

scamp's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence I’m so sorry for your loss. How horrible for you to know that the death of your loved one was put online. I commend you for wonderfull restraint!

Jack79's avatar

I cannot really answer you, even though I have found myself in this situation.
When the exact thing you mention did happen, my first thought was to protect my child. But killing the perpetrators would not really help, so I had to find the strength to actually control myself, and negotiate with them so that I could get the best deal for her. I managed to find a balance which helped her heal her wounds and get better. Then things got worse, and then I made sure they got better, and then they got a lot worse, and now I’ve lost control of the whole situation. I still have not resorted to violence, but I have been seriously contemplating it since May, and I am close enough right now that I would probably have killed 6 people if I owned a gun and knew how to use it. I would probably kill them with my bare hands if comfronted with them now and was provoked, even mildly provoked.

So on the one hand I could say “it’s true, I’d do it” but then again I still haven’t done it after all this, so maybe I never will.

I think part of it is that violence is not my way of doing things, and I want to do things my way. I have done crazier things than violence, but they are things I’m good at.

wundayatta's avatar

I would never say it unless I actually meant it. Even then, I wouldn’t say it, because I’d want to get away with it.

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