I posted recently about my experiences with bullying and why Christians should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I stand by that post still, but there’s one part of the story I mentioned, but I feel deserves an extended look. Today, I’d like to talk about retaliation (or taking revenge).
I’d like to direct your attention to an episode of VeggieTales. I can’t help seeing the comparison here— I grew up basically addicted to the show (though not understanding the lessons until much later). The episode I’d like to refer to today is Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush.
This episode was a parody of Indiana Jones (obviously) and it even had a theme song performed by THE CHARLIE DANIELS. No joke. https://youtu.be/CVoIkzGMnwM
In the episode, Larry (or Minnesota, I guess) tries to get back at his jerk nemesis, Professor Rattan, by bullying him back. He learns that if you bully a bully, that makes you a bully. When you say something mean back or hurt them back, you’re stooping down to that level. You’re now no better than them. It’s the same reason Batman refuses to kill— it’s crossing a line, and it means you’re just as bad as those persecuting you. It’s pretty meaty stuff for a VeggieTales episode, and I recommend you watch it.
When we’re on the receiving end of abuse, our instinctive reaction is to retaliate. We start shooting back. When kids would pick on me, I’d pick back harder, and then I would get in trouble. Granted, the teachers weren’t doing anything to help the issue (just perpetuating more by turning a blind eye to the cause of the issue), but they were right to get onto me for what I did. I can’t remember where I heard it from, but I learned recently that we can’t control our surroundings or what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things. I’m not victimizing myself here— wrong was done to me, but I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t innocent in the situation, either.
Back when I was being bullied, my hands weren’t clean. I had even been a bully to others who didn’t attack me first. Once you have a mindset of vengeance and retaliation, you begin to just attack everybody. Lines are blurred, and eventually you’re picking fights with people who didn’t really do anything to you. Going back to the Batman analogy, it’s a line you cross. Once you cross the line one time, it gets easier to cross the next time. And then easier the next time. And the next time. You get the picture.
I read recently in Bob Goff’s book Love Does that it’s much easier to get defensive if you live with clenched fists. He offers that we instead lives with our palms up, because it’s much harder to get defensive with your palms up. As Christians, we are supposed to be a light in the darkness. If we use Satan’s tactics and try to get vengeance on those who wrong us, we’re no better than them. What should we do instead, you ask? Kill them with kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
If you react lovingly and nonviolently, your enemies will see that there’s something different about you. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How about we start now? Two wrongs never make a right, but if you choose to do right to those who do you wrong, Christ’s love and light shines through you.