~By: Sylvia Reynolds-Blakely~
I don’t know about you, but I’ve hurt a lot of people in my 58 years on this planet. And, if I’m brutally honest, some of the pain I inflicted was carefully plotted. But, I can truthfully say that the vast majority of my actions were a reaction to being hurt first by the person I hurt back. I justified retaliatory strikes as fair game. As far as ‘street’ wisdom goes, if someone hits you, you hit them back. Generally, the response should be swift and decisive. On occasion you learned to wait for revenge until after school so as not to get into even more trouble. In church I was taught to turn the other cheek, but at home it was a different story. I had to fight back to earn the respect of my family. And so I came to recognize that the immediate respect I got for fighting back was superior to the delayed response I would receive in heaven.
The old adage goes, “hurt people hurt people,” and I am afraid that is most often the case. We unwittingly and sometimes uncaringly perpetuate a vicious cycle of hurt, pain, and fear that often stays with us and the other person for life. As Dr. Martin Luther King put it artfully, “An eye for an eye makes both persons blind.” Our mammalian brains cry out to us to strike back unless we want to become future prey for others. But, our brains are teachable. Our emotional centers can and should be overruled by our logic and spiritual training. Dr. Maya Angelou famously said that we teach people how to treat us.
Many of you reading this have very familiar experiences with the cycle of trauma I am writing about. I know this because I have spoken to countless church members over the years about how their attitudes and actions as adults have been directly shaped by what they’ve been exposed to during their formative years. We stunt our growth as human beings by taking refuge in our past behaviors. The fugitive King David can be seen alternately crying out for revenge on his enemies while also asking God to change his heart—basically grow him up—despite what he may have wrongfully suffered.
Let’s look at how our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ handled a few situations which in today’s context could be construed as hurtful:
He kept His composure when questioned.
He artfully dodged potentially dangerous groups.
He taught those that wrongfully accused Him, and He rightfully accused others. (e.g. eating with sinners, working on the sabbath, sex outside of marriage)
He reminded us that, after correction, we have the power to not sin again in that area. (e.g. the woman accused of adultery who was to be stoned; John 8)
If we are ‘mean’ people because of what we’ve lived through, we now have the choice to change. Who in your sphere of influence would support that change, and who can help you grow into the new person you are called to become? Holy Spirit stands ready to transform you. Seek His counsel prior to reacting to a trigger situation. There will be a godly response to what will confront you on a daily basis. I for one am still learning to listen and not commit the microaggressions so popular (and acceptable) in today’s culture. Holy Spirit can heal you of the snarky, snide comments and snickering that gets justified in this world as well. Learn to trust that He will give you the grace you need to change course from the familiar flesh bound responses you’ve grown accustomed to.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2