There are moments in life where I really want to control other peoples’ behaviour, even though it is humanly IMPOSSIBLE short of brain washing. (I know, I know, we CAN’T control other people, we can only control ourselves…THAT much I do know!) But there are instances where people say and do things that hurt us and all we want to do is make them apologize, or make them pay, or punish them relentlessly until they cower in a corner and beg for mercy. We WANT to do that, but in reality, we can’t…mostly because it is against the law and any rational, law-abiding person would see the difference.
Now admittedly I am a rather “high-spirited” individual which can be a credit to my personality. I am usually over-the-top when it comes to celebrations and creative ideas, and I have been known to be a time or two, incredibly impetuous. While that can be an admirable quality for the good things, it can also be a very dangerous quality to have when confronted with conflict.
A few years ago I had a situation with a woman who violated my personal life in such a way that I was broken and angry for a long time. I had friends who, very lovingly, offered to help me drive past her house with a baseball bat so we could teach her a lesson. On more than one occasion the offer was made, and while tempting as it may have been, it was also highly illegal and I declined again and again. (Was hilarious to talk about in the moment) I did however resort to very unChristian-like behaviour that involved some very nasty emails and texts. I was unapologetic about it at the time, and I felt very justified in my behaviour. But at the end of it all, it was wrong on every level. As justified as I may have been, it did nothing to alleviate myself of the very real pain and anger I was in. Eventually I had to learn to let it go and move on. The only person I had been hurting was myself, and my reputation.
As a Christian, everything I do has the potential to hurt my reputation, and in turn hurt the church. All negative, sinful actions validate the accusations the world hurls at the church because in all honesty, it makes us look like the hypocrites they accuse us of being. When we retaliate in anger, whether it be through violence, hateful comments on Facebook, stalking people, yelling profanity at other people, sending scathing emails, spreading malicious gossip about another person around town, or maligning someone else’s character it greatly decreases our credibility as representatives of Jesus. There have been moments where I have wanted– DESPERATELY– to lash out at people, or defend a friend who has been treated unjustly by taking on their offence, or send that scathing email, or defend myself when I have had those offences done to me, or spread horrible gossip about someone else, or (and this is extreme) hit someone, but to do so would not only cause me to suffer great personal consequences, it would hurt my testimony as a Christian.
Some would argue that it is because of my sinful nature (inner psychopath) that I need Jesus, and they would be correct. My need of Jesus does NOT validate my willful and selfish destructive behaviour against another person no matter how justified I believe I am.
I have been thinking about this today because a friend has had this behaviour perpetrated upon her. My gut reaction was to rush to her defence, trash the other woman and suggest all sorts of ways that she should retaliate. To my friend’s credit, she turns the other cheek far better than I ever could and she is a great example to me of what it means to endure “hardship” gracefully. I want to defend her. I want to shout from the rooftops the horrible treatment she has endured over the course of a year. I want to write all sorts of scathing things on Facebook and create all sorts of drama…even writing this blog is border-line, passive-aggressive, drama-creating stuff. But writing is my catharsis. I process better when I can get words to paper and think it through. If I were to do the things I described above, I would be no further ahead and I would have accomplished NOTHING. (My inner psychopath still wants to though…I have her tied to a wall in the farthest recesses of my brain and I refuse to feed her) What I would end up doing is damaging my witness as a Christian and damaging my own personal reputation as a human-being. So what I can do is admit that I am human, and I struggle with those demons that we all struggle with…and admit that for these reasons I need Jesus.
What I am finding is that turning the other cheek is not a sign of weakness, but a great act of the will and it requires an enormous amount of strength. But giving in to my weaknesses and exhibiting horrible anti-social behaviour only keeps me locked in a cycle of anger and bitterness. The result of that would rob me of my joy. The hardest thing to do is forgive a person that will never admit they were wrong, and accept that you may never hear “I’m sorry” from someone who has truly hurt you. I don’t think that anyone is able to do that with ease, but when this life is over it is more important to reflect on the people we loved rather than the people who let us down. If I died tomorrow, I would rather people remember me for how I loved them and contributed to their lives. I don’t ever want to be remembered for the people I “hated” or the actions I made as a result of that “hatred”.
With that being said…I never want to live in “hate”, and I pray every day that the person I am becoming reflects the character of Jesus rather than the inner psychopath that threatens to come out of hiding every now and then.