Lately I've been contemplating this question. Some instances where I've been met with this delima:
1. Guy hitting on my wife.
I'll be the first to admit that my wife is gorgeous on a completely different level of good-looking than I am. I don't have a self-esteem problem, but lets face the truth, I'm not gracing the cover of any magazines for Men's Health. Not just yet, anyway. Somehow, though, my charm won out.
This causes a problem, however, when you are out together. I have, since Amanda and I've been married, diverted more than a few gentlemen's intentions elsewhere, either by, again, my charm, or in one instance, a verbal...I wouldn't say threat, but more like harsh words. It is my nature to not be offended or jealous, because essentially these guys are saying,"your wife is hot." I agree, but can't these idiots see they are making her uncomfortable? So, when do I punch a guy? I've never felt like it got that far, because I usually buddy up with the guy and make Amanda and my relationship obvious. The guy either goes away or warms up to me. One time I did physically push a guy back, but it was in a somewhat friendly manner if it's possible, and he backed off.
But, when, if ever, does the guy deserve to be decked?
2. Guy is a racist/bigot and offending you on many levels
Occasionally, I get roped into a situation where I am engaged in conversation with someone who is intolerant of other races and or types of people. I'm not just talking about the occasional white guy saying to another white guy that he does, in fact, get nervous when he's in an all-black neighborhood at night, or that he hates rap music, or those who might subconsciously quip that blacks are "looting" while whites are "surviving." To me these things are subconscious and need to be dealt with, but I don't want to punch those people. I want to punch the people who said these things to me: "My daughter can't wait to move to [insert white-flight community here] where it's all white people" "What was wrong with the Nazis?" "Black's skulls are thicker and therefore have smaller brains." "Now, I don't think that we should go back to slavery, but..." Oh, aren't you benevolent!
The guy who commented on the brains of blacks haunted me for a long time. He was a nice looking older man that I struck up a conversation with in an airport one time while waiting for a flight. I can't remember how the conversation steered toward race, but this guy scared me. He said he was a college professor in upstate New York and knew all of these facts about blacks because of scientific evidence. I kept coming back to all the really intelligent black people that I know and he would find a way to refute it. I eventually just got disgusted and walked away.
The guy who mentioned his daughter also offended me, personally, when he told of an instance in New York when he was arrested for killing a wild deer. (To be fair the deer was already dying because of an accidental car encounter, he claims.) He claimed that he couldn't stand "liberal c**ks**kers" that lived up there. I just laughed at that, but his daughter's comment stuck with me. As an educator who deals with igorant students on a daily basis (note the "Nazi" statement), who break everything down into "white people do this, and Mexicans are this way" mentality I really wanted to punch the guy. Or, at least, strike up a debate. Based on the way that all of this guy's stories ended with "...then I beat his ass!" I assumed that he wouldn't really be up for a scholarly debate and it would soon resort to the physical.
I decided with both instances that the best thing to do is to not punch the person in question but deal with the situation diplomatically. I have more success with that anyway.
I decided that the guys hitting on my wife need to be punched out of principle, but was never really angry enough and it wouldn't do any good, anyway. As far as the bigots/racists/idiots of the world, they like to fight and use their fists instead of their brains and that's what makes them a good candidate for an interview with my fist to begin with. Violence perpetuates violence and an eye for an eye just leaves a room full of blind men.
Or at least men with black eyes.